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November 11, 2010
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
27/10/2010WB GamesWB GamesTT Fusion1-2None
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Visuals in Fangorn Forest are decent.
Say what you like about The Lord of the Rings, but it is one of most enduring fantasy tales of all time. The novel was originally released back in 1954 and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more popular or critically-acclaimed fantasy novel anywhere. The book was turned into three movies back in 2001-2003 and between them they grossed nearly $US3 billion, with all three sitting in the Top 21 highest-grossing movies of all time. With such success behind it, it's a little surprising that no Lord of the Rings videogame has ever hit the heights of greatness. TT Fusion is looking to change that with Aragorn's Quest, a game aimed at a younger audience with its cartoon-style graphics and straightforward gameplay. Is this a game worthy of the Lord of the Rings name?

Aragorn's Quest takes place some years after the events of the Lord of the Rings books and movies. Aragorn, now better known as King Elessar, is coming to the Shire to pay Sam Gamgee and the rest of the hobbits a visit. Nowadays Sam has kids of his own, including Frodo Gamgee, who is the oldest of his children. Frodo and his friends daydream about the events of Sam's past often and frequently act out their daydreams in the games they play. While the Shire prepares for the king's arrival Sam finds himself recounting his adventures with Frodo and the ring of power to his kids.

This is where you come in, thrust into some of the Lord of the Rings' most well-known moments as Aragorn himself. Starting with the hobbit's flight to Bree, followed by a trip to Rivendell, the journey through the mines of Moria, Fangorn Forest, the battle of Helm's Deep, the ensuing battle on Pelennor Fields and finally Aragorn's challenge to Sauron himself at the Black Gate. The game does a fine job of portraying almost all of the key moments from the movie trilogy. Sam, played again by Sean Astin who was Sam in the movies, fills in many of the gaps with his narration.

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LOTR: Aragorn's Quest was developed by TT Fusion.
Aragorn's Quest is a third-person hack and slash game with plenty of fetch-quests and hidden items to find as well. Controlling Aragorn is a breeze, whether you use the dual-shock controller or the Move. Aragorn basically has five attacks, one for each direction up, down, left and right as well as a thrust, done by pushing the circle button or lunging at the TV with your Move controller. To perform the directed slashes with the dual-shock you simply hold the left-analog stick in the direction you want to slash, and with the Move you swing the Move as if it is Aragorn's sword. Occasionally you will be prompted to hit an enemy with a specific attack in order to deal major damage and it is here that the Move struggles. Quite often the Move will interpret a swing to the right as one to the left, and an upwards attack as a down strike and vice-versa. For the most part this is not a problem, but it's frustrating (particularly on the last level) when you miss an opportunity to deal major damage because of it. After a few levels Aragorn gains the ability to pound enemies with heavy attacks via a strength meter. When you attack and kill enemies they drop strength orbs which fill up the meter. Provided you have some strength you can unload heavy attacks on your enemies by holding down R2.

You start the game with a sword and shield, but as you progress further you will gain access to a fire torch, a spear and a bow. The flame torch works well against beasts such as spiders and wolves, as well as ringwraiths. It will also burn down spiders webs, which block many hidden areas in the game. The bow is at its best taking out enemy archers and can also be used to destroy enemy structures such as siege towers once flame arrows have been unlocked. Using the bow is as simple as holding down the trigger and directing the target over what you want to shoot. The auto-lock feature ensures that few, if any, of your targets will survive your volley. The spear is best used on mounted enemies and taking out oliphaunts later in the game. About half-way through you're given a horse to ride, which is certainly appreciated in the wide open spaces of Rohan and the Pelennor Fields. Riding is as easy as pushing the direction you want to go. You can run down an enemy by charging them (which requires strength) or slash at them from horseback.

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Aragorn's Quest is a pretty decent game.
Just like the movies Aragorn is not left to travel through the adventure on his own. For the majority of the game Gimli and Legolas are with you, whilst some or all of the four hobbits pop up intermittently as well. Gandalf is automatically there in some chapters,but anytime a second player wants to join the game they take control of Gandalf. The second player can pop in and out at any time by pressing start on a second controller. The game changes from its normal third-person perspective when the second player joins in, instead panning back to give you a broader view. Aragorn and Gandalf can't stray too far from each other though, as they run into an invisible barrier at a certain distance. Gandalf comes equipped with a staff and sword which are used the same way as Aragorn's weapons, but he can also cast healing magic on Aragorn provided he has some magic. Other spells are unlocked as you play through the game. Your other fellow travellers will help you tackle your enemies, though they are mostly ineffective, which is probably just as well because Aragorn's Quest is not a hard game by any measure.

In each level there are a bunch of collectibles to find. There are three character tokens for each of the four main characters (Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli and Legolas) which improve their attack and defence. You'll also find a variable number of ‘lore' items in each level which provide Sam an opportunity to talk further about Aragorn. Treasure chests are also scattered about, some of which are protected by a magical barrier and require Gandalf, and thus a second player, to open. Treasure chests abound and contain either money or lost artefacts which enhance the base stats or weapons of one the main four characters. You'll come across herbs which restore health or strength, as do breakables like barrels, buckets and vases, though these contain money or nothing just as often. The money you find can be used to purchase items that provide various boosts like increased damage and defence against trolls or orcs. You're given a rundown of how many of items you collected and missed at the end of the level, and given many of the collectibles cannot be obtained on the first run through there is a reason to replay the game once you're finished.

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LOTR: Aragorn's Quest on PS3.
Aside from the inaccurate Move controls there are a couple of other issues with the game. Firstly, the camera cannot be manually controlled; rather it permanently looks over Aragorn's shoulder. Aside from being simply annoying this also makes it hard to target enemies at times, forcing you to run away and come back at a different angle for a better view. Another issue is that members of your fellowship often stand around doing nothing while you face off against a group of enemies. Although the game is not hard, it's still frustrating, and personally I think if AI-characters aren't going to help they shouldn't be there with you. And finally, there are plenty of times when your path will be blocked by an invisible wall outside of the two-player game, forcing you to walk around the unseen obstruction. Admittedly this is a minor frustration, but it's still something you'd prefer not to see in the finished game.

I have to say that I liked the visuals of Aragorn's Quest from start to finish. For the most part the graphics are simple; objects don't have great detail or texturing, but they're colourful and well-presented. Most of the main characters look like their movie counterparts, and the majority of other characters are clearly recognisable too. Ringwraiths, Uruk-Hai, ents and orcs all look as they should, though the goblins look unreasonably squashed rather than just short, and the Balrog didn't look spot-on to me either. The cutscenes where Sam is reading to his kids look good too, though we're not talking cutting edge technology here. Unfortunately there are a number of graphical glitches present – there's a fair bit of screen-tearing, the aforementioned invisible walls blocking your path, and there are times when characters in cutscenes are standing on nothing, or fall off an edge only to re-appear elsewhere on-screen. Another strange phenomenon is in the mines of Moria where in the space of one step you go from being able to see far in front of you, to being in pitch black. Areas that you could see just fine a moment ago disappear before your eyes rather than gradually. It's jarring and should have been fixed up prior to release.

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Aragorn's Quest on PS3 uses the Playstation Move.
The music and voice-acting is a bit of a mixed bag, though that may be because of expectations rather than anything else. The music in the movies was always epic, and when battles were fought you could really get caught up in the action. This is not so in the game, which fails to deliver any goose bump moments. That's not to say the music is bad, it's just not as good, or the same as, the movie trilogy. Some music is quite familiar though, for example the cheerful music as you explore the Shire, and the string instrument tunes of Rivendell. The voice-acting is mixed too. Sean Astin reprises the role of Sam Gamgee adding some authenticity to the tale. The only other characters who sound authentic are Gimli and Aragorn – the other characters don't sound like their movie counterparts, nor do they stand up well against them. Legolas, Gandalf, Arwen and many other character voices fall flat, at least to me. The sound effects are fine, with nothing either good or bad about them. They do the job which is good enough for me.

Aragorn's Quest is not a game for everyone. There's nothing here you haven't played before, the story is starting to get too familiar and it's rather easy. On the plus side younger audiences may get a lot more out of it. The graphics are quite good, if a little simple, whilst the combat is straightforward enough for younger players to pick up quickly. There is no sign of blood or gore, which is surely a plus for diligent parents, and there are no brain-teasing or frustrating challenges here to stymie the kids. If you look at it in that light, Aragorn's Quest is a thoroughly worthwhile title. It's well presented, fun to play and allows a second player to pop in and out whenever they like. There are a few technical glitches, and the Move support is not well implemented, but that can't stop it from being a good deal of fun. It's one for the younger crowd then, with older players better off looking elsewhere.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSBright and colourful, with the majority of characters and environments recognisable from the movie. Has a few technical issues though.
SOUNDSean Astin reprises his role as Sam very well, but the rest of the characters are a bit bland. Some of the music hits the right notes but there's nothing truly epic in here, unlike the movies.
GAMEPLAYStraightforward hack and slash but with enough attacks and new weapons thrown in to keep things interesting. It's an easy game to play, which makes it ideal for younger players.
VALUEIt will take around nine hours to complete, and with hidden items to find in every level you may be tempted to play it through more than once. It's cheap-ish too, which gets it some extra points here.
OVERALLAragorn's Quest is a fun game that is well-suited to a younger, less demanding audience. It's family-friendly despite the hack and slash action, and despite a few glitches it's well worth checking out

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