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Developer:
Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: GameCube
Release Date: November 5, 2003

by Nicholas Bale




It's a game based on the epic movie, Return of the King, which was based on Tolkien's literature classic, Lord of the Rings. A game based on the movie that recently won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture! If you've played The Two Towers, don't expect too much innovation though.


Return of the King starts off, not at the beginning of the third movie, but at the end of the second. The game begins, literally, at the battle of Helm's Deep, just as Gandalf rides in to save the day. Without even seeing a menu screen, when you first load the game, you are treated to a short cinematic. Then battle commences.


The first battle successfully sums up the hectic nature of ROTK, as you, Gandalf, must fight through a never-ending throng of enemies, scale a wall, help out your allies, and use some ballistae to destroy a box of explosives. It's fast paced, never giving a moment's rest, and this definately appeals to some.


The game is very much like the Two Towers, with the addition of co-op mode, and so therefore it seems like it's the same game, which is annoying because if I shell out $50+ dollars for it, I don't feel like playing Two Towers. However, to it's credit, it has a co-op mode, as mentioned before, as well as a slew of new characters to play as.


The game is short, make no mistake of that though, and can probably be beaten on a quiet day. There are three different "paths" to take, that of the King, the Wizard, and the Hobbits, and each symbolizes the different paths that the characters took in the movie. The Hobbit and the Wizard paths are shorter than the King path, but all three must be completed in order to face the evil of Mount Doom.


The combat in the game is relatively simplistic. You have quick, fierce, and physical attacks, the latter being one which knocks enemies to the ground. Quick attacks are okay, but some enemies have shields that will automaticallly block attacks. Using a fierce attack, however, will shatter the shield, leaving them open to any attack. I found this incredibly annoying. Most of the time, you can't distinguish whether or not an enemy has a shield, and since combat is so frantic, you rarely have time to. When they block your attack, you are stunned for half a second, but that's just enough time for an enemy to attack you and deplete your precious health. Over and over again.


An aspect of the game that definitely sets it apart from a button masher is the addition of 'fair', 'good', 'excellent', and 'perfect' kills, which are received after every kill depending on the finesse. The better the kill, the more experience you get. When you get enough experience, you level up, enabling new abilities and combos. ROTK has more higher-level moves than Two Towers did, which adds more replayability to the game. However, I found that many of the best combos and moves were in the lowest levels, such as my most-used combo, the orc hewer, at level one. While other combos may do a little more damage, they are tougher to get off, and open yourself much more to attack, making them pretty useless. This definitely should have been noticed and altered.


With the nine characters available in the game, one would expect nine different styles of fighting combos, etc. Well..... one would be wrong. The characters, except maybe being a little weaker than another, have the same moves and fighting styles. This shouldn't be, because it is implausible to see Samwise Gamgee slaughtering Uruk-Hai on par with the future king of Men. And I see no reason as to why Legolas can't fire his arrows faster or more powerful than Aragorn. However, each character does have one ability that is either unique to them or one other as well. Aragorn and Legolas, for example, can power up their attacks for a short time. Sam can become invisible under his cloak. And Gandalf can erect a barrier around him that deflects enemies and their attacks.


The co-op mode is definitely enjoyable. Me and a friend battled the hordes (and I really do mean HORDES) of enemies as Legolas and Aragorn, back to back, helping the other when needed. This mode of play makes the game incredibly easy, as two are always better than one. For example, as I drew arrow fire from a stomping Oliphaunt, my friend fired arrow after arrow into its thick hide. However, I found one problem. While in single player, the camera angle is good enough. However, when two people are on...well, it creates problems. Often the angle is wrong entirely, blocking off one character, or one might be in the distance and one in the foreground, etc. Many game overs were brought upon my friend and I because of these camera woes.


With lots and lots of unlockable specials in the game, including interviews with the cast, still shots, and three extra characters, Return of the King can keep players going for longer than a normal hack-n-slash. Not much longer, but longer nonetheless. It's a game that will appeal to those who long for quick action, but calling it an RPG is like calling Jax 2 a First-Person Shooter. While there are elements of an RPG in it, it's basically an action game at heart. Pure action.


Final Grade: 87%


Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Website




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