The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest Wii Review
Publisher – Warner Bros. Interactive – Developer – Headstrong Games – Genre – Action Adventure – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3, Wii, DS, PSP, PS2
For many, the greatest strength of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings is its rich storytelling of which brings Middle-earth to life, though for some it’s all a bit too long drawn out and boring, but The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest is a condensed version of the entire story, focusing on the grand battles ahead of plot exposition.
With its bright, cheerful hues, cartoon art style and simplistic nature, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest is predominantly aimed at children. It’s essentially a combination of RPG and action, though the focus is on the latter and thankfully the engine can cope with a fair number of characters on screen at one time, allowing the game to make a reasonable effort of replicating the gigantic battles of the films.
The story, narrated by Samwise Gamgee, is being retold to his son Frodo and his friends. It’s a fairly interesting manner of telling the story, though some fans will find that it’s lacking in depth to truly absorb them, whilst those who appreciate Tolkien’s universe but feel that there’s usually too much talking and such, may very well enjoy Aragorn’s Quest brisk take on the famous tale.
It takes its inspiration from the film trilogy, so characters possess the likenesses of the actors that portrayed them, albeit in cartoon fashion. The only actors to lend their voices to the game, though, are Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davis, who play the same roles of Samwise Gamgee and Gimli that they do in the films, and they do it effectively too, whilst the sound-alike’s that take the roles of the rest of the characters by and large do a respectable and authentic job. The music on the other hand is largely the same score used in the films; very rousing it is too, so this is a good thing.
Upon starting the game you’re thrown right into the thick of things, with a glimpse into the game’s final battle, allowing you to take charge of Aragorn and wipe out enemies with a few swings of the Wii remote, but the perspective quickly shifts to Frodo Gamgee, the son of Samwise and the game then goes into tutorial territory. Whilst you’ll spend most of your time as Aragorn, occasionally during the course of the game it will return to Frodo Gamgee, though these sections are usually so uneventful that many will be wanting to quickly get back to playing Aragorn and in turn to the more exciting and familiar events.
Combat, whilst very simple, is never less than enjoyable and it certainly helps that the game more often than not interprets your Wii remote motions – even subtle movements are picked up, so at least by the end of the game, it won’t have to feel that your arms are going to drop off at any second.
Swinging the remote from side to side will result in Aragorn attacking widely, whilst swinging it up will allow you to knock smaller enemies into the air. Swinging down will perform a downward slash and finally moving it forward will activate a sword thrust. By shaking the nunchuk, Aragorn can also use a shield bash (in spite of the fact that amongst fans, it’s a well known fact that the character never uses a shield) to break through the defence of his enemies.
Some additional abilities will be picked up throughout the game, though it never comes anywhere close to complex, whilst even on the hardest level of difficulty, your abilities are rarely tested. Largely you can just haphazardly swing your Wii remote about to assure victory in even the largest scale of battles. A larger contrast between the three difficulties would certainly have been preferred.
Much of Aragorn’s Quest can be played in co-op, with the second player taking on the role of Gandalf and utilizing his spells. It’s hardly an ideal way to play the game though – the camera, in its good intentions of trying to keep sight of both players, often pulls out a too great distance for either player to get a good view of the action.
Structurally, Aragorn’s quest is split into sizable levels, each of which usually has a fair number of optional side quests on top of your primary objectives. There’s not a great deal of imagination here though: most often you’ll just find yourself partaking in fetch quests or being tasked with killing a certain amount of enemies and ultimately they begin to feel as if they merely exist to pad out the hours, rather than to enrich the game. Even doing everything there is to do doesn’t result in a particularly long game, either.
The wide open nature of many of the levels allows for a great degree of exploration. Each area usually has plenty to find: there’s tokens that will enhance the defence of one of the fellowship and other items to find. However once a level is completed, you’re not able to return to it to seek out missed items, not until you conquer the entire game anyway. This is a strange and unnecessary restriction to say the least.
More positively, its pleasant artistic direction makes for a rendition of Middle-Earth that is a pleasure to explore, though invisible barriers and an occasionally sluggish framerate dulls this somewhat, whilst the vastness of the levels will make many yearn for a true open world Lord of the Rings experience.
Aragorn’s Quest is a likable enough and fairly fresh take on The Lord of the Rings, but whilst it occasionally flirts with greatness, its problems are too critical to ever maintain that level of quality for a sustained period of time. So it’s left as an above average game then, which is worth a play, but one with some issues that are hard to ignore.