Developer(s) – WXP Games & Surreal Software
Publisher(s) – Black Label Game, Universal Interactive & Sierra Entertainment
Designer – Todd Clineschmidt
Producer – Nick Radovich
Released around the same time as the Peter Jackson film trilogy, and when the franchise was the subject of a great many licensed games, WXP Games’ Lord of the Rings interpretation was a 3D platforming adventure title, with an emphasis on side quests, and to a degree exploration. Surpassing my expectations, this is in fact a fairly enjoyable title, and it’s a pity that the planned sequels were cancelled, since I believe there were many ways in which the developers could possibly expanded upon what they had created with this game.
Graphics – 7/10
Though the majority of the conceptual design of this game is based on the film trilogy, there are certain elements that make it stand out from it, such as the re-imagining of locations such as Barad-Dur and the Mines of Moria. The location that fails to stand out the most is the Shire, since it is more or less identical to that of the films. But there are also other locations included, such as the forest in which Tom Bombadil dwells, as unlike the films, he also makes an appearance.
Gameplay – 7/10
As I pointed out, the game revolves around adventure; elements of exploration, combat and the occasional puzzle solving. Players control Frodo, Gandalf and Aragorn, and each character has their own set of abilities and purposes throughout the game, giving it a fair amount of variety. For example, there are many side quests to be completed throughout the first part of the game whilst playing as Frodo, whereas Aragorn and Gandalf’s roles are much more combat-oriented. The gripe I have with it is that the side quests virtually stop after the first part of the game, and I think the developers could easily have added a few more beyond that.
Controls – 10/10
Not only are there no problems with the game’s control scheme, but with the facility to control three different characters, the game is also kept interesting with players having to adapt to multiple styles of play, which are all easy enough to get to grips with, and fast.
Lifespan – 6/10
For a game based on such a long book as even the first chapter of the trilogy, the game lasts a fair amount of time, at around 6 to 7 hours. But as I alluded to before, I cant help but think that if the developers had added a few more side quests to both Aragorn and Gandalf’s sequences in the game, then it could easily have been made to last much longer.
Storyline – 9/10
Having read the books and watched the films, I was captivated by the story of the Lord of the Rings long before I started playing this game. For those who may not know the basic plot, Frodo Baggins is a hobbit living in the Shire, when he inherits a magic ring from his uncle Bilbo. His friend Gandalf arrives to inform that the ring is in fact that of the dark lord Sauron, who attempted to rule Middle-Earth with the power of the ring thousands of years prior to the start of the story. Frodo resolves to destroy it by journeying to Mt Doom, the only place where it can be destroyed, along with a company of friends and warriors from across the land. The manner in which it is portrayed in the game is very much akin to that of the book, but the only downside to it is the character of Frodo. Unlike Elijah Wood or even Christopher Guard’s portrayal of him, he seems far too jolly for the most part to me, and doesn’t seem to fully realize the gravity of the situation.
Originality – 6/10
At this time, gamers were rightfully in the mindset that licensed games were generally of much lesser quality than unlicensed games were. For the most part, this was true, and it wasn’t until Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009 that this trend was broken, but this game wasn’t too bad compared to most others in my opinion. Even though it follows many different trends that had already been established by other developers beforehand, every element of gameplay comes together well, and plays out adequately, despite the fact that there was indeed room for improvement.
In summation, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was a fairly commendable attempt to bring the license to the gaming industry, and excelled above many other licensed games at that time. I think the sequels would most probably have been better if they ever saw the light of day, but this would have been an sufficient starting point.