Battling from Mordor to Helm's Deep... - Electronic Arts' LOTR: The Two Towers for PS2 Game Review, Entry Two
One of my fantasies since first reading Lord of the Rings has been to be a part of the Fellowship: The glorious thrill of having Elrond choose ME to accompany the Ringbearer and defend him against the Dark Lord's minions...or perhaps I am with Strider in Bree when we find Frodo and together we dare the wilds to find our way to Rivendell. Ah, the fantasies of how to weave one's self into the pages of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
Mellyn, with the Electronic Arts' Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I feel that I've finally done it. I have been a member of the Fellowship; I have defended Frodo and saved him from the Ringwraiths; I have fought in Balin's Tomb; I have slain orc upon orc at Amon Hen....
The game opens exactly as the New Line movie does with the prologue and Galadriel's narration. As always, it is a thrill to see the images traverse across the screen as Middle Earth comes to life. In fact, I was so mesmerised, (the prologue of the movie is one of my favorite parts, if not THE favorite), that I failed to realise that the movie had somehow seamlessly transformed into the game and I was now Isildur in the Last Alliance! Yes! You get to fight in the Last Alliance! And...there's Elrond! Fighting beside you as orc after orc after orc after orc keeps coming at you! THIS is the tutorial for the game folks! As Isildur, you slay the orcs while the game gives you advice on what attacks to use: Fierce attack against shielded orcs; speed attack against non-shielded orcs, etc.
And then the game transforms BACK into the movie, (again, catching me off guard), and you watch as Sauron enters the battlefield. I jest you not: At this point, I was covered in a slight sweat and breathing faster than normal. I had just fought in the Last Alliance!
The game does this throughout your gameplay experience and yes, it is quite thrilling. Electronic Arts definitely knows how to create an exciting game experience. Emphasis on "exciting". The first two nights that I played the game I was up WAAAYYY past my bedtime until about 1 AM. I was fascinated with the advancement of my characters, (I have played all three, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn), and how each new upgrade of battle movements improves my chances for survival. (Not to mention that the visual of character battle movements is nothing short of gorgeous!) Legolas and Aragorn's "Killing Moves" are breathtaking. Legolas and his two knives are simply a gorgeous site for battle-happy Tolkien fans. Aragorn and his battle movements with Anduril are absolutely phenomenal. Of course, Legolas and his bow will have you shouting as you slay the enemy and feeling like you are invincible! Aragorn, too, is pretty handy with the bow, but Legolas takes the lembas cake on this one. I could shoot the bow all day long as Legolas and forever be content.
The game takes full advantage of Peter Jackson's amazing camera angles; many of the cut scenes AND play scenes are viewed from the same angle, giving you the eerie (but wonderful!) feeling that you have just stepped into Middle Earth and unless you master the bow, axe, or sword pretty quickly, you aren't going to live for very long.
Having the actors' voices is also a major plus. Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Sir Ian McKellen, and Elijah Wood are VERY prominently in your game. I'm not sure if that's Mirando Otto that you hear once you get to Rohan, and I haven't watched the credits yet to find out, but you definitely hear the others and yes, it enhances your gameplay up yet another notch. In fact, the entire game, (up until Helm's Deep), is a flashback of what Aragorn and the Fellowship have been through as he relays it to Eowyn. Yes, you see scenes from The Two Towers that you have seen already and some that you have not! If the gameplay in Rohan is any indication of what will actually happen to our three Hunters, then there's going to be quite a bit of deviation from the book pre-Helm's Deep. As a book fan, I'm not yet sure how I feel about that, to be honest. It makes for fantastic gaming, but how will it make me feel when I see it on screen? I'll let you know in about two months.
Okay, so you know that I'm thrilled with the game and yes, (oh YES!), it takes you to Middle Earth. I've stayed up late playing the game and even have sore fingers and thumbs from utilizing my amazing fierce attacks, speed attacks, killing moves, and more. What else about the gameplay alone?
The game advances through missions. Each mission is a battle, in sequence, that eventually gets you to Helm's Deep. The missions are logical and very well put-together. The "boss" encounters require some very clever tactics and quick thinking; you're not going to defeat them by rushing in and overpowering them with sword, axe, or bow. Personally, I LOVED that!
Weathertop: Here you will be Aragorn and face the Nazgul with sword and torch. A very good first mission where you quickly realise that it's not JUST the might of the sword that's going to bring you success!
Moria entrance: Scout out the path ahead and eventually meet the Watcher in the Water. Pay attention to what happens when the Watcher arises from the lake!
Balin's Tomb: VERY exciting battle! All of the Fellowship is there, fighting together, shouting, swords clanging.....this one really got my adrenaline pumping!
Amon Hen: A race against the "clock" to help Frodo escape the Uruk Hai. You hear the Horn of Gondor blowing in the distance and that only adds to your anxiety about this whole battle sequence! I LOVED Amon Hen and applaud EA's use of the race agianst time to enhance your enjoyment!
Lurtz Boss Battle: This is part of the Amon Hen battle, but I have to mention it separately as I really enjoyed (again) the fact that might and weapon alone are not enough to defeat Lurtz. This was probably my favorite "boss" battle!
Fangorn: Here you get to see the Fangorn movie scenes and travel the forest itself! ENTS! Keep your eyes open here, mellyn and you WILL see Ents!
Rohan Battles: There are three (I think) battles that take place upon the plains of Rohan before you ever get to Helm's Deep. I don't know if these battles are actually in the movie , but if they are, it WILL make sense and probably be a tool to show how dangerous the Uruk Hai are to Man, (and how serious they are about the genocide of Man). You have another of the "race against time" missions which I really, really enjoyed.
Helm's Deep Battles: Here is where it gets really tough, mellyn. And I mean TOUGH. The Helm's Deep battles are fierce, long, and draining. You most definitely feel that you have accomplished something MAJOR when you complete this series of missions. Make sure that you get some Ent draught and celebrate when you do!
Okay, is it all so very perfect? I have one complaint:
You cannot control or adjust the camera angle. A couple of times that left me blind to my character and that really annoyed me.
Yes, honestly, that's my only complaint.
What other accolades can I list?
Soundtrack: Of course, it's the movie soundtrack and once again Howard Shore's music raises your Middle Earth experience to the sky.
Visuals: The graphics are stunning and the constant use of movie-to-game is amazing.
Parental Plus: The game is not gory with lots of blood. It's tastefully done, visually, without lots of limbs and appendages flying across the screen. Applause to EA for it takes nothing away from the excitement and adrenaline flow of the game.
Difficulty: The game is challenging without making you want to throw your controller at the screen.
Cheats: I LOVE that none of the "cheat codes" will work until you've beaten the game with at least one of your characters, (I saw this on the EA message boards). However, DO register your game and get the "cheat code" for restoring health. You'll need it.
Take the time to view the interviews and other special features of the CD; they are very nice additions to the game disc.
So far, I've had over 10 hours of gameplay and that's gotten Aragorn and Legolas to levels 6 and 7 respectively and both are at Helm's Deep. Gimli is level 2 and still back in Moria. I guesstimate that I've probably got at least another 10 hours left with leveling Gimli up, the remaining Helm's Deep missions and secret mission and secret character. More than your money's worth, if you ask me.
So, I'm off now to enter Middle Earth again and defend Helm's Deep. If you haven't gotten this game, GET IT! If you don't own a Playstation 2; RENT ONE! Don't miss this opportunity to enter Middle Earth and be a part of the Fellowship of the Ring. Nuff said.