The Lord of the Rings franchise seems to be following the Star Wars path, in that new games will continuously be made years after the movie saga has concluded. Previous LotR titles have followed the films and books closely, reenacting the massive battles and brutal combat of the cinematic incarnations. Aragorn’s Quest— the first LotR title to be made by Warner Bros. Interactive–takes the series in a different direction, presenting the story of the trilogy in a way that even younger gamers can enjoy. Aragorn’s Quest brightens the mood, makes the hobbits cuter than ever, and tones down the violent nature of the combat, offering a game that parents won’t be afraid to buy for their kids. After going hands-on with the DS version of this upcoming slash-em-up, I was left with one question kicking around in my head: who knew that slaughtering orcs could be so family-friendly?
The gameplay of Aragorn’s Quest is fairly similar to the LotR console games that came out several years back. You wander around the 3D environments slashing at enemies and looting whatever you can find. You can also pull out your bow and arrow for some long-range shooting fun. This became key during a sequence where I was pinned down by archers, forcing me to duck behind a wall and pick them all off. There is also some light puzzle solving, though nothing that will keep you away from sword-flailing for too long. The combat system is fun, combining simple sword slashes and melee attacks that helped me demolish all that stood in Aragorn’s path. Visually, the DS version looked surprisingly great, mirroring many of the same environments that I could see in the close-by Wii version. The game seems to play very similarly in both versions, so those worried about the DS edition being significantly dumbed down need not fret. Aragorn’s Quest‘s engine is fully 3D, and features detailed character models, smooth animation, and a brisk framerate. The color palette is a lot brighter than the older LotR titles and the violence isn’t nearly as brutal, so parents won’t have to worry about the grim setting of the Peter Jackson films upsetting the younger ones.
While some might be a bit peeved at the levity, Aragorn’s Quest should be a decent action title for fans of all ages to enjoy. The Wii version seems to be the best option as it contains an exclusive two player coop mode that allows a second player to play as Gandalf and cast spells using the Wii Remote, but those who want to bring Middle Earth with them on a car ride will find that the DS version of Aragorn’s Quest is well worth checking out.
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest is set to launch on the Wii, DS, PlayStation 2, and PSP this fall.