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Sometimes the disappointing big console releases can get a better slimmed down version on the DS. But awkward controls and a depressing visual means that Conquest falls foul just as badly as the console version did. The lack of any narrative to the main campaign meant that the game felt like a boring sequence of maps barely strung together. With the highlight of the game being the orchestral score, there was nothing I or my son found redeeming about this release.
From the very start it failed to be anywhere near accessible. Giving this to my son resulted in him handing it back to me a few seconds later. After touching the option to play the single player campaign all that appeared was the map of Middle-Earth. No cinematic or text introduction, no reason to start hacking and slashing, just a map with seemingly random battles to choose from. How you make a Lord of the Rings game with no narrative is a little beyond me. This proved instantly disappointing for me and my son and I can't help but wonder why this was absent.
Once we managed to get past this omission the actual tutorial was a lot better. The introduction to each fighting class was easy to grasp and understand, especially when put into the context of the battlefield. What wasn't easy to grasp were the combat controls. Moving around was fine but trying to achieve different attacks with the warrior was a mess. Too often my precise stylus slashes were interpreted no better than if I had just roughly scribbled on the screen.
The worst moment came when I was surrounded by Orcs and my attempt to deal them a swinging blow resulted in less than pleasing results. Instead of laying all before him to waste, my mighty warrior just waltzed off in a different direction and got himself killed. This wasn't an isolated case as I found the controls behaving erratically - sometimes becoming intuitive and then falling off the deep end at important moments. Even after many hours of play I couldn't guarantee what was going to happen when I tried certain moves. There's nothing like sucking fun out of game than having basic mechanics playing up.
How you make a Lord of the Rings game with no narrative is a little beyond me.
This led me to concentrate on the other classes and out of these; the archer is by far the most rewarding. Tapping enemies to unleash volleys of arrows was so visually rewarding and helped me get through some of the bland levels. Somewhere in this version of Middle-Earth someone forgot to add in colour, so the majority of the battles take place in a sludgy brown-green mess of a landscape. With so little to distinguish between them it felt as if I was constantly playing the same battle again and again.
The few high points come when you take over the hero characters. Swashing orcs as an Ent or taking on enemies as Aragorn is always a fun experience. Sadly the fun does not last long. The most annoying trait of this game and one that broke it completely in my son's experience was the lack fo checkpoints. Each level of the game has to be completed in one go. No matter how far I got if I ran out of lives it was straight back to the beginning of the level. Even my son's Super Mario World on the Game Boy has mid-level checkpoints so this unfriendly approach is unforgivable.
As fans of the movies and the books both my son and I were disappointed in Conquest. I wasn't as offended as I was when I played the 360 version. The liberties and disgraceful approach of that game has been lessened by the DS platform. But I wouldn't recommend this game even to those who just want a hack and slash time-waster - there are better examples of that elsewhere.
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