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Graphics : 7.5

Surreal Software used their proprietary PlayStation 2 engine for "The Fellowship Of The Ring", the same used in "Drakan II: The Ancients' Gates", which remains one of the best looking games on any next-generation system. "The Fellowship Of The Ring", mainly because of poor character models and some clipping and pop-up issues, is not as good-looking as Drakan II.

Anyhow, many areas look extremely beautiful. The mysterious Old Forest, the eerie Barrow-lands, the obscure depths of Moria, the country surrounding the river Anduin are finely recreated into the game. Middle-Earth can have the yellow colors of the autumn or the pallor of a strange moon, while trembling stars shine upon the Fellowship Of The Ring. In the depths of Moria, you can actually see the dreadful heights and the endless abysses of the caves, and all is illuminated by the watery light of the rare ray of lights coming from the outside. Environmental objects like trees, rocks, ruins are well realized, and show some really polished textures for the system. Even the few interiors, like The Prancing Pony in Bree and Baggins' End, show an attention to details that fans of "The Lord Of The Ring" will love.

On the other hand, character design is very poor. Frodo looks just ugly, Aragorn has the same expressiveness of Steven Seagal, Gandalf is your classic old-mage-with-long-beard; non playable characters like Legolas, Gimli, and even the funny Sam look more believable. Even the number of animations for the playable characters is very limited: Aragorn, Frodo, and Gandalf just have a few basic moves repeated throughout the game. And strangely, the in-game characters look completely different from those in the CG movies: why?

Enemies come in a limited variety, but they look good. Orcs, forest trolls, and fierce cave trolls are all built with thousands of polygons and animated with great care. On the other hand, creatures like wolves and giant spiders look stolen from some classic below-the-average RPG and then thrown into the game to fill the places where it was not possible to put orcs. But with all those great looking orcs and trolls, who cares about a few mangy dogs?

The framerate remains constant throughout the game, even when a dozen of characters is fighting on the screen. Anyhow, pop-up issues are frequent in the game, and draw distance is short. Clipping issues abound in the first part of the game, but they become very rare in the final levels.

Sound : 8.0

The soundtrack composed for the game offers a solid background to the adventures of Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf ant the Fellowship of the Ring. The themes are not exactly memorable - leaving aside the main theme, I can't remember any of them - but it's evident they were composed with the good and sole purpose of enriching the game; and from this point of view, they are a complete success. Each location has its own particular theme, and the music changes dynamically according to the on-screen action.

Sound effects are extremely good, and the developers used them in a creative way. Certain areas show some fine example of brilliant sound design, with an interesting tissue of background sounds that can really set the mood of the moment. An example of this can be found at the beginning of the game, in the section where Frodo must explore the Old Forest; Surreal made good use of their graphics engine to render the breathing, menacing forest described in the book, but the sinister sound effects seem even more able to recreate the sense of anguish conveyed by the book.

Voice acting is only in the average, but it's worthy of notice that while Jackson's movies completely ignored all the songs written in the book (and that Tolkien considered extremely important), the game features a couple of them. You will hear Tom Bombadil singing his song, and you will hear Frodo singing a part of one of Bilbo's songs at the Prancing Pony in Bree.

"The Fellowship Of The Ring" is a short game. Players used to action titles should need about 6 hours to complete it. Fans of the "Lord Of The Rings" books might want to revisit the most beautiful locations in the game, but overall, the game is a very straightforward action title that, once completed, offers no other reasons to be played again.

Overall Score ( not an average ) : 6.5

Despite its glaring limits, "The Fellowship Of The Ring" is a game that fans of "The Lord Of The Rings" could love and enjoy. As a fan myself, I just couldn't stop playing the game. Graphics are pretty, and sound effects add a lot to the overall atmosphere of the game.

But trying to forget the "The Lord Of The Rings" license for one moment, it's easy to see that Surreal's game is just a poor, unrefined action title with little depth, a poor presentation, and a very limited replay value. The game doesn't have the interesting structure of Surreal's Drakan II, a mixture of action, adventure, and RPG, nor it has the cool extras often included in nowadays action games, like tons of weapons or a dozen of cool moves.

And it's not that "The Fellowship Of The Ring" completely lacks good ideas: but they all stay there, in an embryo state, waiting to be developed. This game could and should have been much, much better.



Page 1: Gameplay

- Carlito (10 Dec, 2002)


Scores
Gameplay
6.5
Graphics
7.5
Sound
8.0
Replay Value
5.0
Overall Score
6.5



Developer
Surreal Software
Publisher
Universal Interactive
Origin
U.S.
Genre
Adventure
Action
Players
1
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Release Date
North America
October 16th, 2002
Europe
December 6th, 2002
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More screenshots of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring



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