Although the Lord of the Rings movies have come and gone from theaters and have already spawned a number of video games, it seems that there's always room for one more. We headed over to the Warner Bros booth on the E3 2009 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 that the games feature the likenesses of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf, John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, and so on. Although WBIE wouldn't comment on the voice actors, we did hear a bit of Gandalf's dialogue that sounded distinctly McKellen-esque (keep in mind that this was on the cacophonous E3 show floor).
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. The characters are clearly recognizable as their movie counterparts, but they, their enemies, and the world around them all have more solid colors and polygonal edges than realism would dictate. Cartoony effects such as green health orbs and blue flares on powerful attacks round out the thoroughly game-y presentation.
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 visit. As such, you'll be following the plot of the movie (and books) pretty closely, highlighting the particularly dramatic sections across 13 levels of gameplay. Though you play as Aragorn throughout the adventure, you are accompanied by however many party members are appropriate in the given scenario. These characters will fight alongside you, but it's up to you to do most of the heavy lifting.
How the Game Is Played:
With a remote and Nunchuk. The analog stick controls your movement, and you shake the remote to attack. Holding the B trigger while attacking will draw on your stored energy to unleash a deadly flurry of blows. Aragorn can also acquire a shield, a spear, and a bow. The shield can be used for knock-back attacks by shaking the Nunchuk, whereas the spear and bow replace the sword and use remote controls. To fire the bow, you must plant your feet and target your enemy by pointing the remote, and unlockable upgrades will allow Aragorn the ability to target multiple enemies at a time, or to use fire arrows. Weapons and other items can be acquired by completing quests, or they can be purchased with gold found in treasure chests scattered throughout the world.
There is also a drop-in/drop-out two-player cooperative mode that allows one remote-wielding friend to play as Gandalf. Although the second player cannot control Gandalf's movements, he or she can use powerful magical attacks to kill enemies and heal Aragorn.
What We Didn't See:
We played a level in the forests outside of Rivendell, and delved into the Mines of Moria. We hope that most of the larger-scale battles will be playable in the game, but we didn't get to see anything as large as the defense of Helm's Deep, or the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
What They Say:
Gamers take on the role of Aragorn and learn the great tale of the War of the Ring in way that is accessible for younger audiences, unlike 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 from 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. The linear level design and clearly marked waypoints will help younger players stay on track, whereas older players will appreciate the seemingly abundant nooks and crannies that they can explore (not to mention the treasure they may find). 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.