Based on the literary work of J.R.R. Tolkien, as opposed to last year’s movie, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” offers a slightly different perspective than most of us may be used to. By utilizing plots and characters seemingly at random, with some less important characters making a debut while other more notable characters are left completely out, the game appeals to neither the hard-core Tolkienite, nor the casual “Lord of the Rings” fan.

The highlights of the game include the simplistic character control. The player commands are easy to use and memorize. The controls also feel very smooth and flow well when a lot of action is taking place within the game. The ability to switch and move around the camera angle is also very fluid. It even goes so far as to temporarily blind you when the camera is facing directly into the bright sun, a cool little effect.

Another positive aspect of the game is the graphics. The levels appear very life-like and are designed to look almost exactly as they are described in the book. From the lush, fertile fields of The Shire, to the dark and forbidding dungeons in the Mines of Moria, you feel as if you are really living out the visions created by Tolkein. The cut-scenes in the game, while few and far between, are richly detailed, and highlight the more important aspects of the story. While the graphics in the game aren’t groundbreaking, they definitely add to the overall quality of the game.

Unfortunately, the more negative aspects of the game generally outnumber these highlights. The combat system within the game can only be described as horrible. The players can slash-slash-slash with no alternative. It would have been nice to see some sort of up gradable combat techniques, where a player could develop some sort of special move. Couple this with the below-average AI, where the enemies run straight at you, and the player can get pretty bored, pretty quick. The game also features multitudes of the idiotic bad guys. You’ll eventually just get into a routine of sidestepping and slashing until they’re dead. Also, the occasional boss fights just involve finding the simple trick, then standing still until they’re dead.

In addition to the overall poor gameplay, the background music is also a negative feature. With the same beat playing throughout the entire game and only minor variations, you will find yourself setting the music volume to zero, as the grating tones drive you to near insanity.

Finally, the replay value of the game is almost non-existent. With no secrets to unlock, or changes in story line, once you go through the game once, you’ve done it all. The entire experience takes less than 10 hours to complete, which also detracts from the already disappointing replay-ability.

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