Monday, December 9, 2013

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

First it was a book by J. R. R. Tolkien, then it was a cartoon, then it was a blockbuster motion picture the likes the world has never seen, and then it was a video game! In honor of the Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug coming out that same week, I thought it would be the perfect time to look at The Lord of the Rings game developed by Stormfront Studios and Hypnos Entertainment and published by EA Games for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, and Game Boy Advance. I'll be looking at the PS2 version.

The game takes scenes from the Fellowship of the Ring movie and then leads into events from the second movie that came out the same year. It starts right off with the opening monologue from the first film and transitions into the gameplay. If you want to set your options or go to the main title screen you'll have to pause the game and make your choices from there.

The Two Towers starts off at the beginning of the first movie during the final battle against Sauron on Mount Doom in Mordor, where you take control of Prince Isildur. On the second stage you take control of his heir, Aragorn, armed with nothing but a sword and a torch protecting Frodo against the Nazg├╗l (black cloaked figures working for Sauron). It's not until the third level you get your choice of Aragorn, Legolas, or Gimli. Each character has their weapons of choice, style, and a level system So, it's kind of like an RPG, except not really.

Aside from their archive footage from the movies, Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Elijah Wood (Frodo), and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) all reprise their roles for the game. We know they didn't have to considering they're big movie stars and they're probably already making millions off the movies on its own, but we love them all the more for it.

In case you couldn't figure it out yet, the narrative follows our favorite Lord of the Rings trio through their journey from one to two with only a few of the other characters being seen during the earlier levels, Sam only presence being a voice and the other Hobbits not even being mentioned. Although, you can also unlock Prince Isildur. Other than that, not much else going on in term of characters.

The game does a good job of following the events of the movies, which as far as I'm aware followed the books, so everything is following everything else. Why am I taking the time to praise this? Because you'd be amazed at how many adaptions of other mediums into video games developers have gotten wrong over the years. The game begins with the battle of Mordor, introduces Aragorn to Frodo, forms the Fellowship and goes through the Caves of Moria, sees the Fellowship disbanded and eventually makes its end to Helm Deep getting progressively harder and harder with each stage. There is also some original content in the game that shows themselves in Plains of Rohan, Westfold, and the Gap of Rohan level. The rest follows the movies with a few minor changes that are to be expected if you want to adapt a scene into a level.

The Skill Meter is where experience and upgrade points are gathered as you play. It reminds me a little bit of the Cool Meter in Devil May Cry. Ratings are set as Fair, Good, Excellent, and Perfect. The higher the skill, the better the kill and the more points you earn as a result. This will also allow you to cause more damage to your enemies. To fill this up just avoid being hit and kill all those who stand in your way! You already know that's going to be easier said than done, unless you're a bawse. Then hats off to you.

The main drawback with this game is how it chooses to only follow the narrative of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli instead of following any of the other characters and what they were doing at the time. Something that they would come back and rectify with the release of Return of the King one year later. Another thing, that again they would rectify with the sequel, was the lack of multiplayer. The only version of the game you could play with a friend was the Game Boy Advance version, and that's a shame as they could have easily added a multiplayer to this even in the first two stages. Just add Elrond to the first stage, and have the second player play Frodo in the second. There's no reason this game should be single-player. In some stages your traveling companions can be seen right there with you on screen! The enemies can also get reptitive rather quickly with very little variety.

If you're a hardcore fan of the movies and don't care for multiplayer, then I'd recommend the game. Overall it's not a bad action game and requires some amount of thought. It stays true to the theme of the franchise, has the kickass music to go with it, and a fair amount of stuff to unlock. Although, the exclusive movie content isn't as much of a treat now since you can easily get all three movies if you haven't already. If not, it's still a fun action game and tells the story well enough for someone who hasn't seen or heard anything LOTR related to follow, but it's primarily a game for fans.

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