Old Man Willow is a Mean Ole Tree.... - Universal Interactive's Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring for PC and PS2

I had NO idea that Old Man Willow was such a murderous and bloodthirsty tree. I've had nightmares about Balrogs and Nazgul for many, many years; now you can add Old Man Willow to my list of personal demons. I have Universal Interactive to thank for my new terror dream. Thanks, guys.

But, I get ahead of myself...

In my previous journey to Middle Earth, courtesy of Universal Interactive's Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring XBox game, I was both elated and highly disappointed. I was thrilled to see Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, Lobelia Sacksville-Baggins,and the Barrow Downs...but I was disappointed in the 8 hours or so of gameplay. I was also a wee bit annoyed that (GAME SPOILER ALERT) Sam was hijacked by a Nazgul and his Winged Beast. I mean, Universal Interactive has been touting for months about how their games are based exclusively on the books and how much strength is in that; and then they go and have Sam kidnapped? That's worse than anything Peter Jackson has dreamed up, (yet; although I have my worries about the upcoming TTT movie.)

So, I began gameplay with the PC version of LOTR:FOTR with a bit of trepidation. My nephew played the PS2 version with me concurrently. We compared notes. We drew the following conclusions:

We like the PS2 and PC versions much better than the XBox game. Now, this could be due to the fact that I prefer PC games and he prefers PS2 games; BUT, I do think that the PS2 and PC games are better. Why?

Getting out of the Shire is much faster and more simple. As my nephew said, "You didn't have to kills rats and stuff in the Shire." The Shire sidequests in the XBox game are, frankly, redundant and boring. With PS2 and PC, you're facing Black Riders well before you become annoyed or bored. (However, in all fairness to UI, if you've no experience in gaming, the Shire serves as an excellent setting to learn how to play the game.)

Sidekicks in Moria: The Fellowship no longer abandons you to face the depths of Moria alone. Gimli is your salvation! He is a major help to both Frodo and Gandalf and it's much more realistic, I think, and true to the books (as much as it can be in a gameplay setting)

Difficulty has been adjusted: Some of the encounters in the XBox version were enough to turn you into an angry and uncontrollable Cave Troll. In the PS2 and PC, UI made the encounters very playable without being too simple or insanely hard.

Did we still have complaints? Yes, the gameplay is still too short. I can't imagine anyone spending more than ten hours on either platform. Diversions from the books: Don't tell us how these games are based on the books and how you've used book experts to help you design it and THEN divert so blatantly from them.

PC Technical problems: I've read on the UI website, www.lotr.com, that many PC gamers have had technical difficulties with the game. I experienced no problems until Amon Hen, and I admit that I became rather annoyed with the game continuously crashing to desktop and then refusing to load my game. I have a GEForce 2 vid card and 640 meg of RAM, so I wasn't lacking in any "oomph". UI, PLEASE fix this before the MMORPG is released!

Old Man Willow: He is one MEAN tree! A lot of players (per the game boards at UI) had difficulty in this encounter. He's too mean. Too bloodthirsty. He is, as I said before, nightmare material.

On the bright side of things, I couldn't help but wander as far as I could within the game and investigate the settings. Universal Interactive is designing a Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game, (MMORPG), that will be set in (reportedly) 3rd Age Middle Earth. We are in for a treat, mellyn, in this instance. The armor, weapons, and landscape are all VERY nice and very, very Middle Earth. I have my eye on the MMORPG with high expectations.

Should you get the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and play it? Yes, by all means, if you're a gamer and a Middle Earth fan, don't miss this game. If you have the ability to make a choice between the three platforms: PC, PS2, or XBox, I preferred the PC graphics.

For parents, there's some blood in this game, not a lot, and no flying appendages. The death move in these games is pretty gruesome, but did not draw the squeals of protest from my sister that the Bane moves did in EA's The Two Towers game. For the record, my sister, (who is a Middle Earth fan--longtime), preferred the UI game from a parent's perspective.

To read my previous reviews of the XBox game, please go here:

Down Along Under Hill, Shining in the Sunlight

There and Back Again....Too Soon

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