The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Review
It's a relatively simple action game at heart, but a solid combat system and some extremely intense and cinematic levels make The Return of the King deserving of its name.
It's a good bet that the forthcoming movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is going to be pretty good. Peter Jackson's cinematic trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's seminal series of fantasy novels, is, by all accounts, a huge success, and since the three films were shot back to back to back, we can expect the same kinds of dramatic performances, wondrous scenery, and sheer excitement from the final chapter of this saga that we saw in The Fellowship of the Ring and last year's The Two Towers. This movie series is uncommonly good, which is certainly, in part, why Electronic Arts, the company that nabbed the rights to produce games based on these films, is going all-out for its game adaptations. The new Return of the King game follows closely in the footsteps of last year's hack-and-slash action game, The Two Towers, but picks up at the fever pitch where The Two Towers left off, and it's considerably better overall. It's still a relatively simple and short action game at heart, but a solid combat system, some extremely intense and cinematic levels, cool extras that fans of the movies will enjoy, and the option to play cooperatively with a friend all add up to make The Return of the King deserving of its name.
Last year's The Two Towers game included sequences based on The Fellowship of the Ring as well as its sequel. The Return of the King is similar and begins, literally, with the climactic battle of Helm's Deep from The Two Towers. As if to make sure you get a grand first impression, the first level begins automatically when you first load the game--after a brief introductory cutscene that sets the stage for the wizard Gandalf's arrival at the break of dawn with the Riders of Rohan. The defenders of Helm's Deep are being overrun by the evil forces of Sauron, but Gandalf's perfectly timed intervention swings the momentum of the battle in favor of the forces of good, putting Sauron's armies into full retreat. As Gandalf, you'll smash through legions of the villainous uruk-hai, scale the castle walls to assist Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, and rupture the enemy's supply lines, all while war wages all around you. This first level suitably captures the chaos and frenetic pacing of the battle from The Two Towers, and, aside from the fact that you can't actually lose here, it's par for the course in The Return of the King: All the levels in the game are as spectacular as they are frantic.
Once you've won the battle of Helm's Deep, you're presented with the nicely done stage select screen, from which you'll also be able to access the game's various bonus features, as you unlock them. The game primarily consists of three sets of levels, which are modeled after the separate paths taken in The Return of the King by Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo, the ring bearer. The "path of the wizard" and the "path of the hobbit" are shorter than Aragon's "path of the king," but to finish Aragorn's path, you'll first need to finish the other two. This structure properly reflects how these characters are forced to go their separate ways in The Return of the King, but it also reflects how their efforts are for a common cause: the destruction of the One Ring and, with it, the elimination of Sauron, his general, Saruman, and their terrifying armies. Each of the three paths can be attempted in any order, but, as you'd expect, you need to finish the missions of each path in order.
Also as you'd expect, The Return of the King reveals much of the plot of the forthcoming film, though without being too specific. The game's storyline, in and of itself, is actually quite disjointed and assumes players' familiarity with the material. That is, if you didn't know anything about the story of The Return of the King, then the story of the game may be hard to follow, though you'll still get the gist of it. Many people already basically know how this story ends from having read Tolkien's trilogy of novels, but in case you don't want any aspect of the movie spoiled for you, it'd be wise to hold off on playing The Return of the King until after you've seen the movie. For what it's worth, The Return of the King actually includes very few video sequences from the movie on which it's based. The full-motion video is used pretty sparsely, in general, and most of it comes from The Two Towers.
- Player Reviews: 65
- Game Universe:
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (XBOX, GBA, PS2, PC),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PS2, GBA, XBOX, GC),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (PS2, XBOX, GC, PC, GBA),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (PS2, GC, XBOX, GBA),
- The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II (PC, X360),
- The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (X360, PS3, PC, DS),
- The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest (WII, DS, PSP, PS2, PS3),
- The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (PS3, X360, PC),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (MOBILE),
- The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard (PC)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: