But the greatest strength of Aragorn's Quest comes not from its diverting but unspectacular combat, but the way it so accurately captures the atmosphere of the locations in the films and the resulting pleasure that comes from adventuring in these memorable Middle-earth locales. If you stick to the main quests, you can rush through each area rather quickly, but there's plenty of incentive to take your time doing the numerous side quests and exploring the nooks and crannies of these realms. That incentive comes in the form of collectible lore items that flesh out the characters and history a bit, money to buy artifacts that bestow various bonuses, and the like. For fans of the films, the chance to wander through faithfully re-created versions of places like the Mines of Moria and the Pelennor Fields is its own reward. And while Aragorn's Quest is a family-oriented game, that doesn't mean that it entirely eliminates the sense of dread and fear that gave the darker moments of the films their power. The shrieks of the Nazgul are still bone chilling, and the battle at Helm's Deep feels like a hopeless stand against impossible odds.
Periodic interludes take you back to the idyllic Shire, where you play as Sam's young son, Frodo Gamgee through a series of tutorial sequences, and these, along with Sean Astin's warm narration, help keep the overall tone of the game light even when you're traveling through darkness. Should any younger players feel daunted by the prospect of taking on the servants of Mordor alone, a second player can join in at any time as Gandalf. Gandalf is a powerful support character who can hurl devastating fireballs and heal Aragorn, making this a very good way for parents or older siblings to offer a helping hand on Aragorn's journey.
The environments impress with their variety, attention to detail, and the way they so faithfully reflect the visual style of the films. The Shire's vibrant green fields, little gardens, and blue rivers make it a joy to frolic in, while the massive scale of the Dwarven city of Dwarrowdelf inspires awe. Other aspects of the visuals are a bit less impressive, though. The enemies you battle are often vast in number but lacking in detail, and figures are sometimes seen passing right through each other or standing in midair.
Gimli likes to help out by sticking his axe in the nearest servant of Saruman.
The game's score makes use of occasional snippets of music from the movies, but it's mostly original music that's in the spirit of the compositions from the films and swells up dramatically whenever enemies approach. (This is sometimes your only way of knowing that orcs are approaching you from behind.) While Sean Astin's voice is a constant presence and John Rhys-Davies supplies a few new lines of gruff banter as Gimli, for the most part, the dialogue is lifted straight from the films. And this works fine, at least until the game's final scene, which uses existing dialogue to recycle one of the emotional high points of the films in a way that feels clumsy and hollow here.
Aragorn's Quest is a game that's clearly designed to give families and younger players a chance to share a Lord of the Rings experience, but it would be a mistake for anyone to write this game off as something that can only be enjoyed by kids. On the contrary, this is a good adventure for would-be Aragorns of any age. It does a particularly fine job of evoking the memorable locations of Middle-earth, so those with a deep appreciation for Tolkien's books or Jackson's films may have an easier time overlooking the game's faults. But even those adventurers who go in with no knowledge of the War of the Ring will enjoy taking up the mantle of Aragorn and hearing his tale told by a simple hobbit.