The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

TheTwoTowersTitleSince I have reviewed two subpar LOTR games in the past, I figured it time to cover a good one. Developed by Stormfront Studios and published by Electronic Arts, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a hack-and-slash game mostly about the second movie but some Fellowship content as well. Why wouldn’t EA give both movies their own game? Either because another company was adapting the original or just the fact that The Two Towers was about to hit theaters. Take your pick.

Although EA is possibly the most successful third party developer in the business, many don’t care for it. They say that the company is super-corporate and soulless, recycling the same things over and over again. This is particularly true of the company’s sports series, each of which gets a sequel every year, even though there’s not always much of an improvement besides a roster update. Despite that, EA does maintain a consistent standard of competence, and we definitely see that here.

Plot: 6 out of 10

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See these characters? They’re the ones you play as.

For they are the choices. Despite its title, this game does not in fact start you in The Two Towers but instead The Fellowship of the Ring. Fellowship gets five levels: the opening battle in Fellowship, Aragorn defending the hobbits from nazgul, finding the entrance to the mines of Moria, battling orcs and a troll in Moria, and finally, fighting uruk-hai right after the fellowship breaks up. It should be noted that the first two of these levels are short warm-ups that leave one to wonder why they are counted as individual levels.

Most of the game is taken up by the Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli portion of the second movie. Everything stays true to the story, except of course that we see little of Frodo, who you might recall as being the centerpiece of the story. You protect him for a few levels, then never see him again. This is probably because EA had seen The Two Towers and concluded that The Battle of Helms Deep would end up being the biggest selling point. And it was. Despite the giant flaw of Frodo not getting much game time, the story we get is told well.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

If you saw the movies, you’ll have no trouble recognizing everybody and everything. The character models and environments may not be quite up to par with Final Fantasy X, but they’re still pretty good.

One nice touch is something that is now rarely seen: footage from the actual material. Cutscenes use movie clips and they’re actually DVD quality. Why don’t we still see this kind of thing? Probably because it brings up bad memories of the full motion video games of the 1990s that were either “tap left, tap right” games or movies interrupted occasionally by limited gameplay. Still, they’re a great touch here.

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Sound: 8 out of 10

Some levels have environmental sounds, some have music from the movies. Don’t worry, there’s no law against plagiarizing work that you have the game rights to. Besides, we all know how great the soundtracks are. It was great to listen to them again.

Voice acting? Everybody’s back playing their old roles and up to snuff. Except that new actors seem to be playing Lurtz (the guy who kills Boromir) and Sharku (leader of the warg-riders) and do terrible jobs. Especially Sharku. He takes occasional breaks to send a common enemy and letting out a hilariously off-key “kill that one.” You’ve really got to hear it to know how bad it is talking about. But since neither of these actors get much work, I can forgive. The game, that is.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10

Other than a flawed camera that has a tendency to jerk about too much when the map makes you do a loop-around turn, The Two Towers also handles well. Each level asks you to choose either Aragorn, Legolas, or Gimli, but because there’s an experience system, you should pick one of them when the choice first comes and stick with him.

This is a hack-and-slash game, but involves a lot of strategy for that category. You have a quick but weak attack,  strong but slow attack, block, shoving back of enemies, coup de grace on downed foes, backwards hop (there is no conventional jumping because this is a pure swordplay game), and arrow or throwing axe to strike from afar. You can also earn experience points to purchase abilities and strike combos that make the game easier. So plan on playing strategically in this game.

A neat concept. Good controls would be necessary in a strategic game. And they are quite responsive. Even the bad camera isn’t that big of an issue because you’re usually moving on a straightforward path.

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Of course, forest levels lose something without any chance of getting lost

Challenge: 9 out of 10

A pretty tough game. If my point about strategy isn’t clear, do not try to adreanaline rush it. No, you have to be defensive but not without a sense of opportunity. Also, most of the bosses require a specific trick to win. There is frustration, but it’s good frustration — the kind that makes you keep coming back.

Overall: 8 out of 10

It may be an incomplete adaptation of the movies, but as a game, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers does it’s job with flying colors! The sense of strategy serves it well, and you’ll have a good time killing orcs. Definitely recommend this one.

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