As a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and of Pandemic's Battlefront games, I followed the development of LOTR: Conquest with great interest. I thought the demo was fun, and after playing through the training a few times and several online matches, I decided to part with some cash and buy the full game. Was I disappointed? Well, yes and no. Allow me to explain.

First, let me focus on the positive.

It's a fun game. Whether playing solo, split-screen with a friend, or online with strangers, there is nothing more satisfying than introducing an orc to the business end of your sword. Of course, for the more malicious player, there is always the option of playing as the bad guy, slaying all of the men, elves, and hobbits you come across. Regardless of which side you choose, you have the choice between four classes – warrior, archer, scout, and mage, each with their own advantages and pitfalls. At times you are given the opportunity to play as one of Middle Earth's many heroes or villains, including Gandalf, Aragorn, The Witch King, and even Sauron himself.

Essentially there are four game modes, which can all be done solo, split-screen multiplayer, or online multiplayer. The campaign takes you through Middle Earth as you battle to either save or destroy it. The campaign objectives are varied enough to keep each mission interesting, and usually include defending a particular area for a given amount of time, capturing a command post, destroying a war machine, or defeating a particular individual. It's in the campaign mode that you really get to feel like a powerhouse since many of the enemies are the weaker variety that can be killed in one or two strikes. The Conquest mode involves capturing territories, while Capture the Ring mode is basically capture the flag, and team death match is self-explanatory. All of the modes are fun to play, but really shine with online multiplayer.

The graphics are good, though not the best out there, and some of the character designs are a little drab. It would be nice if you could tell Gandalf and Saruman apart at a distance (Gandalf should be in his gray costume.) But overall, the graphics make the game nice to look at, and the looks of the characters and locations are true to the recent movies.

The sound in the game is great. Howard Shore's score is used masterfully to create an epic feel. When you start swinging your sword and that familiar music wells up in the background, you can't help but feel like you're really taking part in the battle for Middle Earth. The sound effects are pretty good, too. During battles you can hear the sounds of arrows whizzing by and of swords clanking together. When completing the campaigns, you do tend to hear the same instructions shouted at you over and over ("We must defend the bridge" or something like that) but it's easily overlooked. Also, apart from Hugo Weaving (Elrond), no one from the movies does any voice acting for the game, and while some voices are passable (Aragorn and Gandalf), some are just terribly jarring (Gimli).

Now, onto the negatives, and I do wish this portion of the review didn't have to be as long as it's going to be, but as I've stated, the game is far from perfect and it has its faults.

One thing I would have liked to see was some sort of ranking or scoring system for the single player campaign mode. This would have drastically increased the replay value. I'd imagine it would have been fairly easy to give the player a score based on things like number of enemies slain, time taken to complete each objective, number of deaths, etc. As it is, the only indication that a campaign stage has been completed is that the next one is unlocked. There are three levels of difficulty, but absolutely no record of which stages have been completed on what difficulty setting. It makes playing on a higher difficulty setting completely unrewarding.

Another thing that is frustrating is the scoring system for the multiplayer modes. Basically you get 10 points for killing an enemy and 100 points for either capturing a territory (in Conquest mode) or delivering the One Ring to the enemy base (in Capture the Ring mode.) This sounds all well and good in theory, but in practice makes for some annoying moments. Being a game based mainly on teamwork, it seems unfair to only give points to the player that scores the final blow, when another player might have caused the majority of the damage. The same situation occurs in Capture the Ring mode. A player could carry the ring 99% of the way to the enemy base before getting killed where a teammate could grab it and claim the points. It's a little better when capturing the territories, where the first two people at the flag get the points for the capture, but it's still possible to be killed at the last minute and get nothing, even if you had been the first one there. This could have all been fixed if points were awarded for damage done to an enemy rather than just for the killing blow. Or if points were awarded for the time spent carrying the ring rather than just delivering it to the base.

The biggest complaint, though, has to be the camera. It sometimes seems to flail around without any kind of overall focus. Often you find it in front of you so you can't see what you're fighting. Occasionally it zooms in so close all you can see is your own head. And on some stages like Rivendell and The Shire, the leaves on the trees will completely block your view of what's going on. Of course the controls allow you to reposition the camera at will, but having to do so will often cause missed opportunities. It would have been nice if it was possible to lock the camera behind you so regardless of where you move or turn, you can always see what you're facing.

But for me, the positives of this game far out-weigh the negatives. The game has flaws and faults to be sure, and a lot of missed potential that keeps it from being top-notch, but it's a solid game for fans of LOTR or for those looking for a non-FPS multiplayer experience. Overall, it is a lot of fun, and that's what games should be about in the first place.

i give it 6.5.