The lights are on
Let me be the first to say, I am a total Lord of the Rings nerd. From the strategy of tabletop games to the epic trilogy Jackson conjured up, Lord of the Rings captures the raw essence of high fantasy. Snowblind's efforts are welcoming. The darker, much more mature direction the game follows is a true mix up. While I don't pressure games to be graphic, I found this extremely refreshing and strongly attaching to the books detail.
Decapitations and dismemberment's galor! This game features a smooth Hack and Slash combat system. I was extremely worried about the combat flow, while this isn't as strong as Arkham City, this is possibly one of the easiest to handle when new to the genre. I was hoping for a stronger system of magic and combat techniques, but it works well enough.
Snowblind's graphic engine is showing age, but the environments are familiar and humbling. From the rainy streets of Bree to the Beauty of Rivendell, the development team stays true to the source. Facial animations are a bit on the bland side, but creature designs (outside Orcs) are awesome. Emphasis on eagle detail is outstanding. While there are many gems in the game, there's the possibility it would've been stronger in another developer's hands.
The soundtrack is a bit washed out. I expected a stronger, heavier, epic soundtrack, but the compositions regularly take backseat to the action. Grunts, yells and yelps overall blanket the sound category. While this is reasonable, I expected more from a license that had the likes of Howard Shore. Voice work is hit or miss, I thoroughly enjoyed the Eagle dialogue, I wish I could teach a parrot how to speak like that.
Overall, gameplay is average, nothing groundbreaking, but enough to satisfy the Lord of the Rings itch. Co-Op is occasionally buggy and can lead to total freezes (this might be the patches fault), AI is well done (Friendly and Foe) and the RPG element, while not the strongest the world ever saw is easy to pick up. The RPG element is also so user friendly non-RPG fans may find some interest in this title. For die-hard fans this is a must. For everybody else, this might be worth skipping. I enjoyed my time in middle earth so far, I can only hope future patches will clean out the bugs and DLC might expand the world even bigger.
I might have been hoping for a deeper, much more immersive experience, but it's worth the journey.
"I might have been hoping for a deeper, much more immersive experience, but it's worth the journey." I agree 100%. No, it's not Arkham City but compared to some of the other Middle Earth games that have come out recently it's a major improvement. Even though you couldn't fully explore the landscape a lot of the backdrop was just jaw dropping. Up in the mountains, looking down on the army of Gundabad? For a Tolkien fan seeing such images realized in such detail alone made the journey worth it.