Many years ago J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a series of books that created a tremendous fan base over the years, known as: The Lord of the Rings. When the movie, based on the novel, was released in December of 2001, it made the popularity of the series explode. When a movie like this hits it big, there are sure to be games modeled after it. This time around there are two different games based off the same series. EA’s Lord of the Rings games are modeled after the movies, while Surreal game’s are based on the books. Will Surreal’s game follow closely to the book, and will it retain the sense of adventure the books had? Read on to find out!

Although many people know the storyline, with the help of the recent movies, here is a recap of what happens. Eons ago there were rings given to each race: Elves, dwarfs, and humans, to help them rule and keep control. The Dark Lord Sauron made another ring in the volcano of Mordor, one that will rule all the other rings. A great war ensued trying to overthrow Sauron, and after a fierce battle the people of Middle Earth accomplished their mission. Time has passed and now the Dark Lord has risen again, looking for his ring, so that he may complete his body with his soul. The only thing that prevents him from accomplishing this is a fellowship of people. Three of the most distinguished, characters in the game are: Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandalf. The only way to defeat Sauron is to cast the ring into the fires in which it was created. The constant reminder of impending evil is written on the ring: “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.”

Each character has a different set of weapons. Frodo’s weapons are a walking stick, a westernesse dagger, and sting. The walking stick is a wooden stick, mostly used for walking, and is a weak weapon. The Westernesse dagger is a short dagger made by the mortal’s humans of Earth. Sting is a great weapon forged by the Gondolin black smiths, and it will glow blue when Orcs are present. Aragorn has a long sword, which is commonly used by many people in the land. He also has the Anduril, which was originally called the Narshil, but was broken in the fight with Sauron. Later on, it was reforged by the Elves and is a very powerful sword. Gandalf has a long sword called Galmdring that glows when enemies are near.

Besides all of the melee weapons, each character has projectiles they can use. Frodo will throw rocks at his opponents. Aragorn will use his trusty bow and arrow to make his presence known. Gandalf uses offensive and defensive magic such as fire, lighting, heal, attack, and staff strike. Fire Blast will create a fiery projectile which is hurled towards the enemies. The Chain lighting will strike many enemies at once, causing horrendous damage. Gandalf is able to heal himself with a healing magic spell. Arrack will grant him the power to strike fear in the hearts of all enemies in close range, and they will begin attacking one of their own members. Staff Strike occurs when he hurls his staff to the ground knocking enemies off balance, making it easier for players to kill enemies when they are off guard.

The controls for the game are as follows: Left analog stick will move the characters around, while the right one will move the camera. X button is for kicking or jumping, and the triangle is the action button. Square is a melee attack, and circle is a projectile attack. Moving the D-pad to the left or right will choose a different item or weapon; up and down will change the item categories. L1 is block, L2 will make players go into first person mode, R1 is a target lock, and R2 will give players a quick access to the inventory.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is rated T for Teen due to blood and violence. The game will take 250kb on your memory card.

Gameplay: 7.3
The game plays very similar to The Legend of Zelda, or more recently, Dark Cloud. The only bad thing about this game is that it is set in Middle Earth, and is not as fun as the other two games. The control for the characters feels a little stiff at times, but it will not hinder the gameplay in any sense. The ability to play as three different characters, with completely different ways of getting things accomplished is really fun. Frodo is the weakest of the three because he is not able to use magic or bows and arrows; and instead he throws rocks. Since he is the holder of the ring, he can use that in battle. It will make him turn invisible, but he can only use it for a limited time before he might be in serious danger. Gandalf is a blast to play. Not only can he fight with swords, but since he is a powerful wizard, magic is at his disposal. Aragorn is all about hand-to-hand combat, he is excellent with the sword and has an infinite amount of arrows at his disposal. In other words, he is the ultimate fighter.

Unfortunately, the game can get repetitive and mundane quickly. The combat is too simple, and takes the fun out of killing the hordes of demons sent to take the ring back to Sauron. The missions themselves are redundant, for example, it seems that Frodo always has to look for his idiotic hobbit friends. Another one of my “favorite” mission types is what I call “telephone search.” What this means is that players talk to one NPC, and they give him an objective. To finally complete this first objective you will have to talk to at least 3 more people to help them out before they give you what you need. This gets extremely boring fast. It is such a shame because the game has a lot of potential, but a few gameplay quirks ruin it.

Graphics: 7.9
The game looks pretty nice. It offers huge levels that are nicely detailed. With all the fog that is hidden within the levels, players might think that the developers are trying to hide in the draw in distance, and prevent popup. Seeing as this game is set is in a dark mystical world, it works out perfectly. The character models are nice and have a high polygonal count. The only problem with this game is that since the release of the movie, players will always associate Frodo Baggins as Elijah Wood and no other character will be the same. This is one aspect, which is not the developer’s fault, but the fact that the movies were released before the games.

Sound: 7.0
The sound effects and music are nice throughout the game. Again, what kills the score is that the movie came out first. Therefore there are certain tracks people expect to hear in specific areas, (like in the beginning of the game, in Frodo’s village). The music sounds similar, but it just isn’t the same as the film’s soundtrack. The voice acting is mediocre, but at times, some of the characters voices do not match up to the actual characters. Overall Surreal did a decent job in this department.

Difficulty: Easy
The Fellowship of the Ring, was a little on the easy side. The missions were too repetitive, and not challenging. The fighting engine itself seems like it was dumbed down for the lowest common dominator.

Concept: 7.7
The game mechanics give off this “been there, done that” feeling. The game itself feels like a poor rehash of Zelda, which is not entirely a bad thing. There are many things that Surreal could have done to improve the game, and make it seem less simplistic.

Overall: 7.4
Seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring will ruin this game for you. Even though this game offers many things that are important to the story, those things are not in the movie. I have become a victim of brand recognition. Therefore it is extremely difficult to distinguish any other character model, voice, or anything else that is associated with the game, other than what was in the movie. This game does follow the book closely, and players will see certain things that have been omitted, which will answer a few questions. All of the brand recognition would not be a huge deal if the game was not over simplified and extremely short to play. This game will only suit hardcore fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien series.