While the Lord of the Rings movies have come and gone from theaters and have already spawned a number of video games, it seems there's always room for one more. We headed over to the Warner Bros. booth on the E3 show floor to take a look at Aragorn's Quest, a new spin on the epic adventure that is targeted at younger gamers.
Who's Making This Game:
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has acquired the rights to make games based on New Line Cinema's Lord of the Rings movies. That means the game features the likenesses of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf, John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, and so on (though most of these likenesses only appear as cartoon thumbnails).
What the Game Looks Like
Aragorn's Quest is a third-person action game that has a cartoon aesthetic rather than a realistic movie look. Aragorn and his enemies are quasi-recognizable as their movie counterparts, and the levels manage to evoke iconic locations despite their animated look. Cartoony effects, such as green health orbs and blue flares on powerful attacks, round out the thoroughly game-y presentation. The action plays out on the bottom screen, while the top screen shows an elegantly drawn parchment map of the current area.
What There Is to Do:
The premise is that King Aragorn is traveling to the Shire to bestow an honor on Sam Gamgee for his role in the War of the Ring, and Sam is telling his children the story of his adventure in anticipation of the King's arrival. As such, you'll be following the plot of the movie (and books) pretty closely, highlighting the particularly dramatic sections throughout 17 levels of gameplay. You play as Aragorn throughout the adventure, but your unseen companions will regularly comment on the action and update your current goals. These communications appear as text boxes that feature the cartoon likeness of the appropriate character
How the Game Is Played:
The game is predominantly played with the D pad and face buttons. The buttons activate your light, heavy, and ranged attacks, as well as your block. Stringing together melee attacks will create powerful combos, while holding down the ranged attack button will charge up your shot. Blocking actually seems to be an important tactic because enemies are a bit fiercer than you might expect. In the Mines of Moria level we played, orcs were able to dispatch Aragorn with one flurry of blows. Fortunately, holding the L button will modify the face buttons and allow you access to your ever-growing arsenal of special attacks. These include area attacks, leaping strikes, health regeneration, strength boosts, and many more. Special attacks are earned as Aragorn levels up. With each slain enemy and completed quest, Aragorn will earn experience points. Eventually, he will learn more special attacks than can be mapped to the face buttons, and you'll get to tweak your attack loadout to reflect your play style.
What We Didn't See:
Aragorn will be able to pick up such materials as iron, mithril, and gems, and then take them to dwarven forges to transform these raw materials into new items. How exactly this works and how effective these items are, we don't know.
What They Say:
Gamers take on the role of Aragorn and learn the great tale of the War of the Ring in a way that is accessible for younger audiences, unlike The Lord of the Rings games in the past.
What We Say:
Aragorn's Quest is well on its way to capturing the dramatic action and iconic locales form the Lord of the Rings saga. The look will no doubt appeal to younger fans and the cartoony violence will likely make this game more appealing to gore-wary parents, but the difficulty level seemed a bit more challenging than the presentation might suggest. The linear level design will help younger players stay on track, but even they will have to consult the map screen from time to time to see when new passages have opened up. It's definitely a game-y, youth-oriented take on the Lord of the Rings, but it seems to be executed with a solid respect for the source material and a good dedication to capturing the exciting adventure that has thrilled so many over the years.