The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest Review

By Morgan Webb - Posted Sep 28, 2010

Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest is a hack and slash/RPG hybrid that does the absolute bare minimum it needs to call itself a game, perhaps hoping we will be so mesmerized by the motion control that we won't notice the complete lack of nuance, strategy, or technique.

The Pros
  • Makes you want to turn the game off and watch the movie or read the book
  • Crappy graphics provide nostalgic memories of gaming systems gone by
  • Drop-in drop-out co-op exists as advertised
  • Motion controls work
The Cons
  • Lacks any type of nuance or strategy
  • Seems to be made for very young kids, despite the T rating
  • Makes you really angry when you think of how awesome a LOTR hack and slash RPG could be
  • Traditional controls are overly complicated

Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest Review:

Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest is a hack and slash/RPG hybrid that does the absolute bare minimum it needs to call itself a game, perhaps hoping we will be so mesmerized by the motion control that we won't notice the complete lack of nuance, strategy, or technique.



Who Am I????

If you asked me what kind of game Aragorn's Quest is, I don't know if I could tell you. In some parts, it's sort of an RPG. You talk to people with markers over their heads, and they give you quests -- like destroy 6 spider egg sacs -- and then you return and claim your reward. However, there are no levels or experience points, but you find tokens around the world that basically amount to a stat boost for you or a party member. You don't even have to search for the tokens. Once you stare in to a Palantir, every token on the map is revealed, you just have to walk over and pick it up. There is no strategy involved in assigning skill points to party members, you never choose between different types of equipment, you don't even have to decide how to spend your money -- you can pretty much buy every trinket on offer.

Later in the game, the quest system is just used as a path finding mechanism, as you hack and slash your way through the major battles. So it starts out as an anorexic RPG, and ends up as Dynasty Warriors.

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The One Time I'll Tell You Motion Control is a Good Thing

Aragorn's Quest is meant to be a motion controlled experience. When, on the PS3 version,  they say "optimized for Move," what they really mean is "for the love of God please don't use the DualShock to play this game because the controls are so complicated even we don't understand them." For example, first use L1 to go to first person and look at your target while a goblin is wailing on you, then you hold down and release R2...or is it shoot an arrow, but only if your bow is selected on your D-pad. But every other item on your D-pad is used by clicking L3. Then you want to do a rallying cry so you hold down X and then press R2...or is it R1? Or if you hold down X and then click L3 you can do a different kind of rallying cry, which is odd because L3 of course does something different the rest of the time.  Whoever came up with the control scheme for the DualShock should be fired. Don't even get me started about the incredibly stupid and unintuitive way you navigate the menus - we'd be here all week. Suffice it to say, use the motion control. You can swipe up, down, across, or jab, and you are called upon to use different strokes in different situations. The motion control works as you would expect, and fortunately you can get away with small wiggle motions instead of broad sword strokes. As this is a hack and slasher you will still get a bit tired of all the waggle and will yearn for the simpler days of the button masher, but at least the controls work as advertised.

You play the game with a varying number of AI companions, and at any time they can be replaced with your friends and family. Drop-in drop-out co-op is definitely the best part of the game, especially because your AI friends are completely useless you convince your little brother/spouse to come and play as Gandalf.



The Terrible T's

The most unfortunate thing about Aragorn's Quest -- the thing that really sinks it -- is the T rating. Everything about the game says that it was intended for kids. Not pre-teens mind you, but children. The art style is saccharine, and the game play lacks any difficulty or nuance. The conceit of the game is you are young Frodo Gamgee (son of Samwise) and you are listening to your father's tale of Aragorn's Quest. Between Aragorn's levels you see four young hobbit kids (probably 6-8 in age) listening in rapt attention, complete with oooohs and aaaahs and obnoxiously precocious comments. For part of the time you actually do play as young Frodo, slaying imaginary beasts with your wooden sword, or shooting crows with your bow. When the protagonist of a game is a child, the game is intended for an even younger child. You will be hard pressed to find a 13+ kid who is interested in this game. I'm not trying to say the rating is wrong, there are swords and spears and villagers fleeing for their lives, but it seems apparent that the game was intended for a very young audience.

Unfortunately they are selling kids short. Kids are smart. We played games when we were kids that we would find impossible today. Have you gone back and played some of those old school RPGs and platformers recently? Those games were hard! Even the modern kid's games we sometimes make fun of - like Pokemon and YuGiOh - take strategy, a good memory, and yes, even math. Give kids a little credit, they will rise to the occasion.



Do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands.

This isn't the worst game I've ever played. It honestly has some sort of easy charm that I sometimes felt myself succumbing to, but then I would get angry. Lord of the Rings is an awesome franchise. Even though Aragorn's Quest tells the story of all three books in the most extreme Cliff Notes version imaginable, it will still get any LOTR fan a little excited. However, we deserve better, because even though the game is tolerable, it does the absolute dumbed down bare minimum in every respect, from horrible QA (glitches and framerate issues, anyone?) to the same quest ad infinitium (one thing I learned, Aragorn really *$^%@#% hates crows), to the complete lack of any need to use your brain.  It's the light fluffy equivalent of a Facebook game for your console. I would have been kinder to this game if it were rated E. I would have especially been kinder if this marshmallow of a game were a budget title, but it's a full retail game. So if you absolutely have to check it out, please, for me, just rent it or borrow it. Or better yet, go read the book. I guarantee you won't regret it.


Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?