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Game ReviewsThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by Eonwe-(Valar)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Eonwe-(Valar)
July 21st, 2006
System: XBox, Playstation 2
Developer: EA Games
Publisher: -

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is an action game released by Electronic Arts in 2003. The game is based on the movie of the same name, which is based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Return of the King takes you from the charge of Gandalf and Eomer at Helm's Deep to the destruction of the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. There are three paths you follow: Gandalf's, Aragorn's (with Legolas and Gimli) and Frodo's (with Sam). You can play any of the maps except the very first (Helm's Deep) as either one-player or two-player co-op. The list of characters consists of the entire Fellowship, minus Boromir, plus one hidden character (I leave that for you to find out). While playing through, you will unlock many features, most of them cast interviews, but also including codes (invulnerability, unlimited ammo, etc) and a particularly difficult round of battles which I shall once again let you find out about.

The gameplay is fun. You level up by gaining experience, and the amount of experience you get is affected by how well and how fast you kill enemies. There are many combat moves and upgrades available to players as you level up, purchasable via the amount of experience you get. If you use these moves to great affect, you get better kills, ranging from "good" to "perfect." When you activate "perfect" mode, you gain more experience per kill. There are few healing items in each map, but you are fully healed for the next, so this is not a problem once you’ve got the hang of the combat system. Many of the moves require good timing, which can be a challenge depending on the situation. Besides, who wouldn't have fun skewering a Nazgul with a burning brand?

There are some problems, however. All characters have a ranged attack, but Legolas makes deadly use of his bow and his knives, making him more versatile than any of the other characters. This makes little difference in single-player, but you'll notice the difference when in two-player mode. The list of purchaseable skills ends at level 10 but for some reason you can get up to 20. Since leveling serves no real purpose (I've never noticed a larger health pool or less damage taken due to leveling) this seems to be a bug that EA decided would do as a "feature." The save and DVD features are also glitchy. Sometimes your characters can lose some levels if you're playing in co-op mode, and some of the unlockable DVD commentaries won't play right, usually by the sound and video getting offset. It seems a good portion of the copies have these problems, as I've tried taking back the game for a replacement a couple of times and still ended up having the same problems with the new ones. Since this isn't the only EA game I've played with such serious problems, it leads me to question EA's Quality Assurance team.

The game is a fun game, and even includes some events that can only be seen in the extended version of the movie. The problems with the game get annoying though, and drag down an otherwise good experience.

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