The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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a game by Griptonite Games, Black Isle Studios, and Universal Interactive
Genre: Adventure/RPG
Platforms: XBox, PC (2002), Playstation 2, GBA
Editor Rating: 6.7/10, based on 6 reviews, 8 reviews are shown
User Rating: 7.6/10 - 16 votes
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See also: Action Adventure Games, Action Games, RPGs, Games Like Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, The Lord of the Rings Games

Let the battle commence. In the red corner we have Electronic Arts and numerous games based on Peter Jackson’s senes of films, although according to our information they may never see the light of day on the PC. In the blue corner we have Vivendi and its game of Tolkien’s literary masterpiece. These two publishing giants are about to stand toe to toe in a battle that's likely to be unrivalled in the annals of marketing misinformation and propaganda. First up, Vivendi and its book-based effort.

Piping Hot

As far as Surreal Software, the developers of Vivendi’s game, is concerned, a game based on the book, the whole book, and nothing but the book far outweighs any game based on a bastardised version of Tolkien's original work. "By using the book as a base you have a lot more freedom," claims Alan Patmore, president of Surreal. "You can include characters such as Tom Bombadil and things that are alluded to by Tolkien. Don’t get me wrong, EA’s game looks great, but from a development standpoint it’s detail that will differentiate our game from theirs."

And detailed it most certainly is. As far as third-person action games go, LOTR: The Fellowship Of The Ring is looking like it might be worth sacrificing a night down the cinema for. Surreal has focused upon creating different styles of play depending on which of the main three characters you control. If you want to see Gandalf throwing a few lightning bolts around and banging his staff on the ground, you will not be disappointed. If you want to see Aragorn slicing open Orcs and Wargs, then happy as a Hobbit with a big bag of pipeweed you shall be.

Dead Ringer

If, however, you want to see Frodo steaming his way through hordes of Nazgul then take a step back... If you’ve read the book you'll know that Frodo runs from virtually every encounter he has. Therefore, in keeping with the whole Middle Earth vibe, Frodo is a stealth character. When you control Frodo the aim is to avoid detection - which is where the ring comes into play. Frodo can wear the ring to increase his stealth ability. However in doing so he decreases his 'purity' stat. When purity reaches zero the Black Riders catch up with him and it’s straight off to Mordor with no second breakfast.

Changing Faces

The character you play is not a straight choice at the beginning of the game either. Each character has their moment of glory, so as you progress the lead character changes. Aragorn leads the way across Weathertop, Gandalf takes charge in Moria, and Frodo does his sneaky stealth stuff in the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs. In total there are 27 levels covering all the chapters of The Fellowship Of The Ring with each of the main characters starring in nine levels each.

LOTR: TFOTR also features computer-controlled non-player characters such as Gimli and Legolas. While not directly under your control these Al fighters will work with you to slaughter all that stand in your way.

Don't expect any multiplayer action though. Although on the surface the whole fellowship concept looks like it could be tailor-made for some kind of co-operative slaying, LOTR: TFOTR is strictly single-player.

Book It Now

Considering The Fellowship Of The Ring is the first part of a trilogy, the chances are that at some point the next two books will be appearing in game form. Being the naturally inquisitive folk that we are here at ZONE, we asked Patmore whether Surreal would be carrying on as a LOTR developer.

"The engine’s in place. The characters are being built. The core mechanics are set up. So, make the logical jump..." So, jumping as we are prone to do into future hypothesis, it looks as though Surreal are set to be the ring bearer of this particular licence for a while yet. One thing’s for sure anyway: the Eye of ZONE will keep very close tabs on how the ring travels. In the meantime, you'll have to wait until September before you can start fingering your own.

Download The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Playstation 2

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

The Lord of the Rings is serious business right now and all thanks to Peter Jackson. But it could have been so different. If his films had flopped like a big pile of Orc faeces, LOTR would have remained in the slightly geeky, cultish domain of beardy goblin lovers. Instead, we have two films (and a third on the way) which are so universally appealing, this definitive fantasy adventure now challenges Star Wars in terms of merchandising spin-offs and money making potential.

Book 'Em Pete

Odd then that Vivendi should go to great pains to stress that The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is based on JRR Tolkien's book and is nothing to do with the film.

Legally, we have no doubt this is true - Electronic Arts is the sole owner of the licence to develop games based on the films. Yet, could it be possible that this game only appeared because the temptation to cash i in on the film's success proved too much to resist? Surely not. a Despite Vivendi's vehement disclaimer, the characters in this third-person action/adventure look and sound remarkably like their film counterparts. Developer Surreal Software claims that because the book is so descriptive, similarities are unavoidable.

After all, Jackson's film and this PC game derive from the same works. Well that's fair enough then -we never realised Tolkien stipulated in the text that all versions of Gandalf, celluloid or digital, must sound like Sir Ian McKellen.

Twist And Shout

Ironically, the PC incarnation of The Fellowship Of The Ring is a very loose interpretation of the first book. Surreal has made full use of its right to use artistic license to pep up the more pedestrian parts of the plot. This is not necessarily a bad thing and occasionally works well; collecting items in Bree to make dummies of the hobbits is acceptable; we have no problem with that. All the developer has done is read between the lines of the book to create a perfectly plausible scenario.

On the other hand, some sections of the game are so far removed from anything you've read it's barely recognisable as the same story. Samwise Gamgee being kidnapped by a winged Nazgul for example is just plain ridiculous. Any self-respecting fan will balk at such blatant disregard for the plot - not to mention Sam's wellbeing. More importantly, if contriving action sequences means twisting the story out of all proportion then surely it's not worth making the game in the first place? It's a shame that such outrageous tactics had to be employed because on the evidence of a couple of early levels, stealth could easily have replaced action. The stage where Frodo has to sneak away from some Black Riders by throwing stones to distract them is one of the most tense and enjoyable moments of the game. If the same amount of creativity had been employed for another 20 levels or so, gameplay could have been vastly improved. Instead, Frodo's role is rpdurnd to running away from spiders, wolves, orcs and Uruk-hai, along with the odd bit of flower picking and searching for lost hobbits in the Old Forest.

Even The Ring is useless -running away from your enemies proves just as effective as becoming invisible. Honestly, what is the point of making a LOTR game when The Ring isn't even an integral part of it? It just makes a mockery of the whole story.

Fly You Fools

Thankfully, you are not restricted to fleeing through Middle Earth as Frodo - you can also flee as Aragorn or Gandalf depending on what level you're on. It defies belief, but even playing as the two main combat-orientated characters you can sprint through most levels, avoiding all combat and still get to the end of the stage.

If you do stop to fight, don't expect heavy resistance. By using the WASD keys to move around and then repeatedly hitting the left mouse button to swing either Aragorn or Gandalf's sword, you can quickly dispatch your foes. The ranger can also use a bow to attack. However, it's not needed and it's difficult to aim even in first-person mode.

Ultimately, there's little variation in the way you kill your enemies. The only real combat challenge comes when protecting Frodo from the nine Ringwraiths at Weathertop. In this battle you actually have to keep moving from one wraith to another as they take turns edging towards the prone Frodo. Despite not being able to kill them outright, you can eventually dnve them away after a few well placed prods with a flaming log.

Apart from that welcome respite, it's a case of left-click to continue. If you're into simple and mindless hack 'n' slash games then you might possibly forgive this monotony, but compared to the skilled cut and thrust of something like Severance: Blade of Darkness, the combat here is woefully basic.

To make your job even easier, the Al for the NPCs Gimli, Boromir and Legolas is impressive. They will eagerly surge into battle and dispatch easily as many enemies as you can. This rowdy trio is also indestructible; so in keeping with the whole lazy gameplay philosophy, you can just sit back and let them do the dirty work for you.

Wall To Wall

Graphically TFOTR is a mixed bag. Some of the environments look spectacular especially latter levels such as the Mines of Moria and the River Anduin. Others, like the Old Forest, are just a generic mix of rocks and trees that do no justice to Tolkien's epic imagination.

The camera doesn't help matters. Some of its positioning is so appalling you can't even see your character. The problem is particularly evident in Moria where the low ceilings and narrow tunnels mean you spend most of the time looking at nothing but rocks.

Character models for both enemies and fellowship members are also dour. Trolls look like big grey lumps of rock, and the attack animation for Aragorn consists of about four basic swings of the sword. Gandalf suffers a similar fate, with a meagre, uninspiring five spells that look like damp squibs on fireworks night and do little to promote the wizard's almighty reputation.

Pure Irrelevance

At least the music and use of sound goes some way towards making up for other inadequacies. Voice acting during the cut-scenes is professional, although accents that haven't been directly based on the film are a tad strange to say the least. Merry and Pippin sound like Dorset farmers who have spent too much time in the States and the actor responsible for Aragom's brooding tones obviously feels he should be playing Hamlet in the West End.

The dialogue can go on a bit too. Some of the cut-scenes near the start of the game are full of drivel relating to optional sub-quests. These petty distractions are not in the slightest bit relevant to the main quest and serve only to provide Frodo with the opportunity to do a few good deeds for the local hobbits of Bywater and Hobbiton and thus increase his purity' rating. All this effectively does is allow young Baggins to wear The Ring for longer before succumbing to the will of Sauron. It's a hollow gesture and one that's not worth wasting your time on, because like we said, there's no need to put the ring on anyway.

Thankfully, you can hit escape to ignore the ramblings of these diminutive madmen and the pointless errands they set for you, and get on with the serious business of running away from monsters.

Oi, Shorty!

As a final insult, TFOTR, like the hobbits, is guilty of being too short. There is a maximum of ten hours game time here - and that's if you find it extremely tough going, which is unlikely. Competent third-person action/adventurers are more likely to clock it in about three hours - around the same amount of time it takes to watch the film.

So, what would you rather do? Spend 30 quid on a mediocre game that you'll complete once and then cast into a river? Or spend the same amount of money on a special edition DVD with 30 minutes extra footage that will entertain you time and time again well into the next decade?

If you play a lot of action games and have this old-fashioned theory that they should at least present the player with some kind of challenge then it's an easy decision - buy the DVD.

However, if you are new to this type of game, have cash to throw away and just want to charge through what is after all the only Lord of the Rings game on the PC thus far, then give it a whirl. You never know - if you are the forgiving type, you may just squeeze some fun out of this.

Booked Up

Did Anyone At Surreal Software Actually Read The Book?

When it comes to remaining faithful to the book there are inconsistencies in LOTR that are hard to fathom. On one hand, the game makes an effort to relay the events in the Old Forest as accurately as possible. It even brings Tom Bombadil and Old Man Willow into the action, and this is something the film couldn't manage. It's an admirable achievement as some might argue this is far from the most exciting part of the book.

On the flip side, there are some bizarre occurrences; Frodo gets attacked by wolves just outside Bywater, orcs shooting flaming arrows guard Weathertop, trolls appear on virtually every level, and the most ridiculous of them all - Sam gets kidnapped by a flying Nazgul.

It's surprising that Surreal had the nerve to fiddle with the plot so much. But what's even more surprising is that Tolkien Enterprises let them do it..

Bash Me With A Sword And Call Me Sauron

Where do we start? Firstly, the battles should have been far more complex. You only have to play Severance: Blade Of Darkness to realise that sword combat doesn't have to revolve around repeatedly hitting the left mouse button until your adversary dies. Secondly, Gandalf's selection of spells should have been bigger - five is not enough for a wizard of his stature.

Finally, stealth should have played a much greater part in the game. More to the point, The Ring should have been woven into the gameplay far more successfully than it has. To have a Lord Of The Rings game where wearing The Ring isn't even essential is just unforgivable.

Once in a while, you'll play a game with a really cool story. But only one game can honestly boast having the best story...ever. Universal's The Fellowship of the Ring holds exclusive rights to ).R.R. Tolkien's "The Book of the Century." Sure, EA's LOTR game might be based on the hit movie (see sidebar), but this one stuffs in all the Tolkientacular details that the film grossly omitted.

Fans of the book will know precisely what to expect, as the game truly mirrors the plot of the beloved tome. You're playing the part of Frodo Baggins, the brave yet diminutive hero who must dispose of the all-powerful One Ring. The developers borrow a few pages from the Nintendo 64 Zelda games in terms of presentation and gameplay, but hey, we're not complaining. Since Middle-earth is so huge, Fellowship divides it into 24 more manageable chunks. Even so, some of these stages contain half a mile of terrain to explore. That means that Frodo and friends won't always have to fight their way through every situation. The option of avoision (it's a word, look it up) is always there.

As you progress through the narrative, you'll amass the titular Fellowship of the Ring. While you can't actually impale ores as Aragorn or summon lightning bolts as Gandalf, you can call upon your comrades to aid you in combat. Actually, lil' Frodo himself might surprise you in the combat department. Hobbits appear timid, but this furry-footed fury really does a number on the monsters in the game. Who knew he had it in him? Hardcore LOTR fans are a picky lot. They want no detail spared in the transition from page to screen, and in this game, they'll get it. Tom Bombadil, the merry, all-powerful man of the woods, shows up to save the hapless hobbits. Frodo and Co. deftly escape being devoured by Old Man Willow. Crusty Gandalf even slices some fools with Glorfindel.

Also, the original text serves as inspiration for the game's visual style. Tolkien's dense description painted a verbal picture of his realm, and developer WXP has faithfully transferred that imagination to the graphics. The whole spectrum of super-high-tech Xbox visual effects combine to make one hell of a pretty game.

With both Universal's and EA's Rings games slated for release this fall, we may be in for some hot hobbit-on-hobbit action in the pages of EGM. Development of this version has been under way for well over a year now. It was actually demoed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in 2001. In fact, when Elijah Wood, the actor who portrays Frodo in the film, first played Universal Interactive's game last year, he gave it this glowing one-word review: "wicked!" Whether or not Universal's LOTR game ends up being the best of the litter remains to be seen, but its adamant reliance to the source material is admirable.

Frodo, Aragorn and Gandalf will all be playable in this action-adventure take on the latest geeky craze. Each of Tolkien's characters uses "Spirit Points," which work a little like magic, to perform attacks and special actions. Players can also use a separate bank of runes for healing and to aid in combat. To keep the game rooted in the original story, party members join up with you at locations and in ways consistent with the book. Fans can expect lots of familiar references, but the vast, richly detailed environments also provide for lots of exploration and non-scripted gameplay.

Lord of the Rings is perhaps one of the greatest fantasy stories of the twentieth century. It's been made into numerous films, inspired countless stories, and finally made its way to the Playstation 2. Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the LotR trilogy, is an adventure game that allows you to take on the role of Frodo the Hobbit, Gandalf the Wizard, and Aragorn the Ranger, on their quest to take the One Ring of Power to Mordor and destroy it in fires of Mount Doom.

Most adaptations of the Fellowship of the Ring leave out a few pieces of the story, or switch things around in the name of creative license. It happened in the original animated films made by Rankin Bass and Ralph Bakshi, as well as the new film directed by Peter Jackson. In their effort to make a fully detailed experience, the developers of Fellowship have aspired to include each and every part of the book in their game experience. The story unfolds just like the book, and you'll even find scenes with Old Man Willow that have as of yet failed to appear in any films.

Visually and aurally, Fellowship is a good, if uninspired experience. The poorer qualities of the game are revealed in the detailing of the Hobbiton and its inhabitants, which is essentially the visual equivalent of War and Peace; long and boring. Control wise, this game takes a long while to get used to, and even when you're adjusted, it doesn't perform very well. Even still, with all of the detail that the designers put into the game (story wise), you'll still fight both the Nazgul and the Balrog and in a completely un-book like manner.

Once I was finished playing Fellowship, I was happy to be done with it. It's got respect for the series that created it, but between the issues that I mentioned earlier, and a horrendous load time issue, it's definitely not what I'd call a good game.

You've probably read the books and/or seen the movie, now play the game. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the official game based on J.R.R. Tolkien's novel. Join up with Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, and crew on their quest to destroy the One Ring and stop Lord Sauron's evil plan of Middle-Earth domination.

This is a simplistic classic-style RPG that works well on the GBA. The first two things I noticed were the spongy controls and how large the world is. This is one of those games where you'll get a blister on your thumb from button mashing to make your character move due to the momentum you have to build to get going. At times when I pushed in a particular direction, the character wouldn't seem to respond and kept moving the original direction. This was most noticeable when up against any sort of wall. Fortunately the control not being the best isn't as major an issue as it could've been. When walking around Middle-Earth you're primarily in exploration mode where it seems nothing can really hurt you. Go ahead and call yourself Magellan or Columbus because exploring is no small task ' Middle-earth is huge! While broken up into many different sections, each section itself is fairly large and can take a while to fully explore.

Although you can't be hurt in exploration mode, when you come up against an enemy the game will switch to turn-based combat. Enemies always seem to get first attack but hopefully you've equipped yourself properly before the battle begins. Once in combat you cannot equip, so be prepared. The interface is simple enough for anyone that's ever played an RPG before and not terribly daunting for novices. For that matter, all of the interfaces such as inventory or switching characters are reasonably simple once you get used to them. That's right, you also get to switch characters in game whenever you like after they've joined your fellowship. Each character can use certain items, weapons, or spells.

The graphics are superb but because of the small and dark GBA screen, it is sometimes hard to make out what certain items are until you become familiar them. For instance, at the beginning of the game I frequently mistook lamps for people. The music is very nice also but it doesn't play all the time.

With over 20 hours of gameplay, numerous items to obtain, puzzles to solve, and enemies to battle, this is a game that I think would satisfy the portable RPG needs of any gamer out there despite it's squirrelly control.

The Lord of the Rings: arguably the greatest fantasy epic of modern times. Tolkien's novels have inspired generations of fantasy readers and enthusiasts combined. The recent success of blockbuster movies based on the series, combined with a monstrous advertising and marketing strategy, have made Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo Baggins almost household names. But even with all the hype and popular sentiment in its favor, not to mention the fact that this title is the only Tolkien approved title on the market, the PC version of the console game, like its predecessor, fails to be even mildly entertaining.

In the game's favor, FOTR the game adheres much more to the original book than do the recent films, with several neglected characters making an appearance in the game. Graphics are excellent, with well-textured maps, character skins, and overall aesthetics. Audio is a mixed bag, since some voice acting is better than others. I liked the Gandalf character, and a few others, but the hobbits were just plain annoying. I also like my Glamdring trading card (every box has a different card inside).

However, aside from cosmetics, the game brings little to the genre, either in gameplay or even imagination. Game play is, as expected, extremely linear, with almost no meaningful dialogue outside of the original script. There is very little interaction with the world, in that only items that flash or glow can be manipulated. While easy to maneuver and easier still in combat, action sequences seem to be few and far between, at least early on. Only three characters are controlled directly by the player: Aragorn, Frodo, and Gandalf. However, even with the obvious differences in the abilities of these characters, differences in strategy while playing each character is negligible. What it comes down to is a game devoid of the spirit that fueled the novels, with little to no replay value.

I could go on for hours on how disappointed I am in this title. Fans of the books will probably feel the same. If you're a complete Tolkienophile, or your only exposure to Lord of the Rings is through the films and console-style gaming, you might be the narrow niche that will actually enjoy this title. For the rest of you, caveat emptor.

Just because a good movie is made from an epic story, does not necessarily mean it should be made into a game. Case in point, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring sets out to be an ambitious romp through the Tolkien world where good battles evil. Instead, we get a subpar RPG/adventure game that handles badly, loads far too long and starts out simply too' err, well, simple.

Taking base elements (light on the base), players assume the roles of Frodo the Hobbit, Gandolf the Wizard and Aragorn, the would-be king in what is essentially an adventure game. Disturbingly, the game misfires on many cylinders. While the game looks pretty snappy and the rendering seems to have been done with skill, the game takes TOO DAMN LONG to load whenever new areas are found. Initially you wouldn't think is a problem, but think of it this way' Frodo enters a house (5 second load time), opens a chest and retrieves an item and exits the house (5 second load time), goes next door and enters that house (5 second load time) hands item to fellow hobbit and leaves house (5 second load time). See what I mean? It really is way too much, and don't even get me started on when you leave a major area where load times can top 20-25 seconds. God forbid you have to turn right back around. Considering the Xbox has a hard drive one would hope game makers would utilize this piece of hardware and have major game sections loaded on to it.

Next, the game has really unfriendly controls and even after playing a couple of hours I just couldn't get into a comfortable groove. Both analog sticks are used, one to control the character, the other to control the chase camera. The chase camera seems to be inverted and is way too squirrelly for it to be really effective. I have played some oddly controlled games in my time, and this one ranks near the top of the list.

Finally, I think it appropriate to mention that the game starts out too simplistically, and by simplistic I mean C follows B follows A simple. Mini quests are completed in mere moments while your quest log is constantly updated with new and dull tasks. As the game goes on, things do start to pick up, but the real challenge is fighting your way through the mediocre parts just to see some of the better things the game has to offer, like the monsters that start to appear, and the cool light sourcing. A hat tip to the voice actors in the game'they did a good job putting in accents and other Tolkien-esque style.

This game is really borderline between fans only and not recommended. I debated which side of the fence fall on, but had to go with the not based on the silly controls and the eventually unbearable load times. Rent it if you don't believe me, but don't buy unless you collect The Lord of the Rings memorabilia.

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