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‘Destiny!’ And ‘Fate’

New ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Game Is Nerdy — Surprise, Surprise

January 25, 2009
By Doug Elfman, The Game Dork

There are things that are stupid but I like them anyway. Fruit Loops - stupid, but my tummy rolls out the red carpet for them. Microsoft - idiotic, but I'm a hesitant fan. This week, I find out "Lord of the Rings: Conquest" could barely be dumber, but I enjoy playing it online. Attention me: Forgive me.

''Lord of the Rings: Conquest'' is inane for reasons other than the fact that it's another nerdy ''Lord of the Rings'' adventure mired in ''health orbs''; and broad themes like ''Destiny!,'' ''Fate!'' and ''Middle Earth''; not to mention narrative overkill along the lines of, ''They dwindle in number. The day is ours!''

No, the really moronic thing about ''Conquest'' is the way it plays. The goal of the game is essentially just to kill people. To do this, you move around joysticks to make your Middle Earth warrior guy turn around to shove a sword in a bad guy's belly, but by the time you turn around, he's gone.

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That sort of ha-ha-psyche-we-fooled-you method of gaming is expected in games (when fast villains make you game harder). But in ''Conquest,'' this anti-fluidity is caused less by design than by a slowness of your own movement. Traveling on battlegrounds is like running on pillows. That is not fun.

Then, you press the buttons on your hand controller to swing a sword, or shoot a bow's arrow, or cast a magic spell. But the buttons don't seem to be super responsive. So you end up shooting arrows at a guy, but then he moves, then the arrows come out, then they land where the bad guy was standing sometime ago. These bad guys could go to Starbucks in the time it takes to arrow them down.

OK, that's an exaggeration, but you get the picture. What else is dumb? Often, your mission is to capture flag areas, another gaming standard. You stand in these big circles drawn around flags for enough seconds, or minutes, to be deemed a flag capturer.

Fact Box

Top Ten New Games

Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Blockbuster. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

1. ''Super Mario Galaxy'' (Nintendo) for Wii; rated ''E'' (mild violence)

2. ''Army of Two'' (EA) or Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated ''M'' (strong language, blood, intense violence)

3. ''Army of Two'' for PS 3

4. ''Mario Party DS'' (Nintendo) for DS; rated ''E'' (comic mischief)

5. ''Mario Kart'' (Nintendo) for Wii; also available for DS; rated ''E'' (comic mischief)

6. ''Imagine: Party Babyz'' (Ubisoft) for Wii; rated ''E'' (comic mischief)

7. ''Wii Fit'' (Nintendo) for Wii; rated ''E'' (comic mischief)

8. ''Super Smash Bros. Brawl'' (Nintendo) for Wii; rated ''T'' (cartoon violence, crude humor)

9. Wii Zapper with ''Link's Crossbow Training'' (Nintendo) for Wii; rated ''E''

10. ''New Super Mario Brothers'' (Nintendo) for DS; rated ''E'' for comic mischief

(Ratings: ''E'' for ''Everyone''; ''T'' for ''Teen''; ''M'' for ''Mature 17+'')

When you play offline, the problem with this goal is that hundreds of bad guys are shooting at you with poison arrows from afar, while other bad guys slightly closer cast magic spells on your head, and other bad guy use a cloak of invisibility to sneak up behind you and stab you in the kidneys.

That's redundant and lame offline. But online, all this stupidity is almost cool. Almost. When you play online, you're not trying to slaughter a zillion computer-generated villains. You're matching wits against a handful of other gamers.

In other words, it's more fun online (at least for a weekend rental) to choose to be any of those nerdy but interesting characters - the warrior sword guy, the bow-and-arrow guy, the magician, or the knife-wielding invisible guy.

Why? Because, one minute, you could play as the invisible guy and succeed in knifing unsuspecting bad guys. But the next minute, the other team wises up and switches their characters to be, say, magic guys who zap you to death while you're invisible.

So, playing ''Conquest'' online, real gamers keep you on your toes, which is good old-fashioned stupid fun. Although, offline, "Conquest" just makes you feel like a dolt with a penchant for constantly dying in a lame, shakily illustrated ''Lord of the Rings'' product. Is that what you want to be your ''Destiny!''?

(''Lord of the Rings: Conquest'' by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $30 for DS; $50 for PC - Plays dumb and lame offline, but merely dumb and sort of fun online. Looks somewhat sketchy. Challenging. Rated ''T'' for violence, though on DS it's ''E 10+'' for fantasy violence and mild language. Two and one-half stars out of four.)

Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at



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