Review: The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest (Wii)
What is it?
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest is s new game from HEADSTRONG Games and Warner Bros, a licensed game with the franchise backing of the now classic film trilogy of a decade ago. This game has two key distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from the other games under this brand. One is that it’s designed to be family friendly, which means while you’re butchering countless vicious and snarling goblins, orcs, and Uruk’hai, they won’t bleed. The other is that it follows the story of The Lord of the Rings movies from the perspective of Aragorn, also known as Strider, Elessar, Estel, Heir of Isildur, or as his pastor called him, Mikey.
What’s the story?
The idea here is that it’s been fifteen years since the events at the end of Return of the King. Frodo, Bilbo, and the rest have sailed away with the elves. Samwise Gamgee now has a family with that blond hobbit with the long curly hair. This batch of children are sitting on the floor of his home while he reads to them from a book about the adventures of Aragorn. Mixed in between the Aragorn’s Quest chapters are largely optional sections where one of Samwise’s sons, named Frodo of course, runs around a hobbit festival grounds which is being prepared for a visit from the king. This serves as a tutorial area, and the few required portions here are designed to teach you skills you’ll be using in the next chapter of Aragorn’s Quest.
How does it play?
The Wii and PS3 versions of this game are supposed to be the same, except that the PS3 version can use a DualShock controller or Move controller, while the Wii version is stuck with Wii Remote and Nunchuk. I played the Wii version. Moving is done using the Nunchuk controller, melee attacks are done by waving or jabbing the Wii Remote, missile attacks are done using a combination of the pointer, the B-button, and the c button and stick on the Nunchuk (for looking around, and it’s every bit as clumsy as it sounds.)
The controls are passable early in the game. What happens is, while fighting enemies, you’ll occasionally see an opening where they’ll be overlaid with a kind of a hint. If it’s an image of a shield, wave the Nunchuk (assuming you have the shield selected) to hit him with the shield. If it’s an arrow, wave the Wii Remote in that direction. It goes on from there with other weapons like the spear, for example. Some enemies can only be effectively fought using these techniques, and they’re sometimes hard to pull off, especially in a crowd when you’re being hit from all sides. This was very, very frustrating at the very end of the game where the battlefield is covered with enemies who are off camera, but nothing compares to the frustration of trying to line up a shot with your bow in that scenario.
Until you get to the endgame though, it works well enough. The enemies are far enough apart, and the areas are pretty huge. Most of the enemies, even the hulking trolls, can be spammed with hits and dodges and taken down quickly.
Beyond combat, running around the game world is handled well enough. Stomping around the surprisingly roomy plains surrounding Edoras was a pleasure, as was defending Helm’s Deep. I liked earning money and using it to buy equipment that upgraded my damage and defense.
There is drop-in drop-out multiplayer here, where a second Wii Remote and Nunchuk can be used to bring a second player in as Gandalf. Unfortunately, this slowed the game world to a crawl when I tried it, so I can’t recommend it.
Missions within the chapters fall under two categories: gold and silver. Those marked with a gold star advance the story, those marked silver are optional, but the rewards for finishing missions make them completely worth it. I skipped most of the silver missions in my play through, but would suggest gamers hits as many silver stars as they can find. The missions in the game are varied. Sometimes you’ll kill all the orcs. Sometimes you’ll turn a wheel to close a door. Sometimes you’ll use Aragorn’s ranger abilities to track your quarry by holding down the A button while standing in the blue cloud rising from the grass that has the footprints swirling around in it. There are also escort missions. There’s really a lot to do in this game.
How does it look and sound?
Everything is done in a nice kind of a cartoon style, but the animations could have used a little more attention to clipping. I found it very frustrating trying to move around the environments that weren’t open, though, as large gaps between stones would often turn out to be invisible walls. Aside from these smallish issues, the game has a very unique look to it. The characters from the movie, in particular, are very nicely done. It’s obvious, for example, that Legolas is Legolas.
The music is great. Most of it is lifted straight from the films, and I’m not going to even consider complaining about that. At least some of the music in The Shire sounded original, and it worked with the pre-existing score. The key voice work is sampled right from the movies as well, which is great. Actors Sean Astin (Samwise) and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) recorded new dialog for the game, which means Gimli has some amount of new dialog recorded that makes him very chatty, especially in the Mines of Moria chapter. I’m not sure why they didn’t use Rhys-Davies for the ent’s voice, though, since he did Treebeard’s voice in the movies.
How’s the replay value?
Once you’ve played the game and covered all the silver missions both in the main quest and in The Shire, you’re done. The multiplayer is limited to the one provided campaign, so there’s nothing else to do.
Is it worth it?
I had a surprising amount of fun playing this game, considering its quirks and the frustrating controls. It’s hard to quantify that, in fact. It’s obvious to me that a lot of time went into making the game have a certain look, and packing it full of content, though the main quest won’t take an experienced player in a hurry more than a half dozen hours to rip through. I really would have liked the precision of a classic controller option, I think it would have gone a long way to remedying the game’s issues.
Three out of five.
Tags: headstrong games, lord of the rings: aragorn's quest, warner brothers interactive entertainment