The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest

8.0 Overall Score

Written by on November 11, 2010 in

Much of the time, games tend to follow one of two patterns. On the one hand, the story merely serves as a backdrop to the action. The action is the focal point while the plot plays a secondary, and sometimes forgettable role.  In the case of Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest,  from developer Headstrong Games and publisher Warner Bros.  Interactive,  it’s the other way around. The action, while competent, serves the story. The moment-to-moment action is only an interactive element that helps connect one plot point to the next.

Right off the bat, what struck me is the way that the game presented the story to the player. Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest starts off with the opening of a storybook. The premise is that after the events of The Lord of the Rings movies, Sam has settled down in The Shire with his wife Rosie and son Frodo. Aragorn, the new King of Gondor is going to pay them a visit and the whole Shire is making preparations for a lavish festival. The festival itself serves as young Frodo Gamgee’s training as he helps prepare different contests that test swordplay, use of a bow as well as a shield. That training will translate into the player’s actions as Aragorn.

During breaks from the preparations, Sam sits some Shire kids down and tells them the story of the Ring which many of us are already familiar with. At this point, the player gets to take up a sword and play Aragorn himself during whatever part of the story Sam is telling.

The game takes the player through all the major plot points of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. From Weathertop to the Mines of Moria to Helm’s Deep to the battle at Gondor. The only thing missing is Bilbo’s party in the beginning.  Developer Headstrong Games doesn’t cheapen the experience by over-truncating the player’s time in any given locale. If anything, perhaps a little too much time is spent in Rivendell. Other than that, the size and scale of some levels like Helm’s Deep help to make the game feel as epic as the story they’re based on.

Besides battle, there’s plenty to do in Middle Earth. Every location has its own set of side quests given by various NPCs. Many boil down to fetch quests or clearing a particular area of the enemy. The payoff is typically a special item that will boost the ability of Aragorn or one of his traveling companions. Additionally, special items, coins and bits of back story are scattered about in chests or in out-of-the-way places to encourage exploration.

Mechanically, there’s nothing we haven’t seen already in other Wii titles. The nunchuk moves the character around the environment. A downward motion of the Wiimote translates into a downward slash. A forward motion is a thrust; a sideways motion is the sweep of your virtual sword, etc. Buttons on the Wiimote are as logical as they can be with the d-pad to select sword, spear, torch or shield. If playing as Gandalf, the selection replenishes Aragorn’s strength or health, boosts his strength or makes him invulnerable. In other words, playing as Gandalf is to play a supporting role to the titular hero.

Graphics get the job done. Characters are done in a deformed, cartoony style that’s neither distractingly bad nor notably remarkable. Aragorn’s Quest, for better or worse, is decidedly middle-of-the-road. To its credit, the framerate doesn’t seem to take any noticeable dips and the environments are free from screen-tearing or any other graphical defects that might take the player out of the moment.

One thing that helps to keep me in the moment is the music. Whether the score is taken directly from the movie soundtrack or if it was created just for the game, I can’t be sure. Whatever the origin, the musical accompaniment has a sweeping, orchestral quality to it that’s very reminiscent of the movies. The voices, however, are an odd mix. For instance, the silver screen actors that play Samwise Gamgee and Gimli reprise their roles for the game, lending a bit if authenticity to the experience. What’s odd is that many parts of voice work are clips taken straight from the films. There’s something about the quality of the samplings that make them stick out from the rest of the game. At its worst, it sounds cheap and tinny. It’s a small complaint, but I have to admit it can be distracting.

Video games based on movies usually don’t fare well. There’s always something that feels rushed and cheap about them that make a movie tie-in seem like a transparent money-grab. This is not the case with Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest. It helps that there’s some time between the game and the release of the last movie in the trilogy. It also helps that Headstrong Games picks its battle wisely. The story, we already know. The action is neither deep nor revolutionary. But when all is said and done, it’s the style of the storytelling that takes the player through a familiar set of events in a way that makes revisiting Middle Earth both charming and memorable.

A copy of Lord of the Rings Aragorn’s Quest was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

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Author: John Catuira View all posts by

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