Recapturing the sense of heroic adventure that made the Lord of the Rings films such a huge success is no easy task. But in Aragorn's Quest, Headstrong Games has managed to do just that, crafting a game that feels like a reverent tribute to the source material while managing to be enjoyable on its own. Though its motion-control combat leaves something to be desired, Aragorn's Quest is an epic journey that does a fine job of putting you in the boots of the scruffy ranger who would be king.
Aragorn's Quest opens as the king of Gondor and his faithful companions stand at the Black Gate of Mordor and are about to fight a desperate battle against the vast host of Sauron. After a brief bit of swordplay, things take a shocking turn that's completely out of keeping with both Tolkien's books and Jackson's films; it seems for a moment that this game is going to play fast and loose with the mythology of Middle-earth. But then the truth is revealed: This isn't actually the battle at the Black Gate we're seeing but a reenactment by some imaginative hobbit children in the Shire, some years after the War of the Ring has come to a close. These are none other than the children of Sam Gamgee, and as the Shire prepares for a grand party in honor of a visit from the king and queen, Sam tells his children the tale of Aragorn's adventures, from his first meeting with the hobbits in the rainy village of Bree to that final clash at the gates of Mordor. Aided by a fine voice performance by Sean Astin, reprising his role of Sam from the films, this charming storytelling device makes Aragorn's Quest feel like a minor follow-up to the events of the epic trilogy.
6275865NoneThere weren't any Balrogs at the black gate!
As Sam recounts Aragorn's journeys with the hobbits and beyond, you take control of the titular hero in eight vast levels that do a surprisingly good job of evoking the atmosphere of those locations from the films. These areas include the lush, autumnal Rivendell and its surroundings; the wide-open plains of Rohan; and the grim fortress of Helm's Deep. As you progress through each location, you're presented with various quests--both mandatory and optional--and you must fend off attacks from orcs, trolls, wargs or other evil creatures. The combat in Aragorn's Quest is a motion-controlled affair; waving the Wii Remote in various directions will result in Aragorn swinging his sword horizontally or vertically or thrusting with it. It's a bit imprecise--you might make a thrusting motion with the remote only to see Aragorn swing his sword from left to right, for instance. But it rarely matters because the combat is also very easy.
Onscreen prompts encourage you to use specific attacks at certain times to stun enemies, and in those particular moments, it can be frustrating to have your movement misread and have Aragorn perform the wrong action, but you're almost certain to make short work of your enemies regardless. As you advance through the story, you also frequently acquire tokens that make you and your computer-controlled companions more powerful, as well as new abilities that can embolden your comrades and strike fear into your opponents. All of this creates a rewarding sense of growth but also makes the already-easy combat even easier. This lack of challenge certainly makes the game more accessible to younger players, but it also means that those looking for some intense swordplay will be disappointed. Still, there is a certain satisfaction in swinging the remote and seeing Aragorn cut down three orcs in one fell swoop or in mounting a horse and effortlessly charging through a row of imposing uruk-hai. With the constant unlocking of new abilities and equipment, as well as the need to periodically switch to a bow and take out enemies from a distance, there's a fair amount of variety to the combat, even if there isn't much challenge.
Trolls may look dangerous, but there isn't a monster in Middle-earth that's a match for you.