The idea of gaming remaining it’s own insular platform is something which many gamers probably wish was a reality however gaming seems to have gone through stages of being bastardised by studios just wanting to make a quick buck or two off a pre-established film franchise and by doing so they sweat out another turd of a licensed game which not only disappoints fans of the original film but it utterly destroys those who are stupid enough to be swindled into buying these titles. Thankfully some franchises have been left to graze in the paddocks of solitude where they remain untouched or others have been dragged to purgatory only to make it out the other side with the kind helpful hand of a production studio who actually gave half a shit about the user experience. So in this new series I’ll be taking a look at some of the most disgraceful pieces of cartridge, disc or DLC to see where it all went horribly wrong.
Now for any patriot of New Zealand Lord of the Rings is considered the pinnacle of cinematic achievement in our country on a blockbuster scale and by that I mean it was directed by the uber talented kiwi Peter Jackson who made one of the most iconic tales translate onto the big screen. Therefore it was always going to be a hard task to accurately portray the well crafted characters and creatures of Tolkien however Jackson bloody well did it and with great attention to detail created what many consider a very accurate adaptation with a lot of heart. Although this was the case for the film universe, the gaming universe didn’t come out as unscathed with blatant cash grabs and utterly terrible titles amongst some absolute gems which I would give my left nut to play again.
The Hobbit Gamecube, Xbox, PS2 & PC (2003)
A game which was a blatant rushed attempt at trying to capitalise on the eventual success of the original trilogy developed by Jackson this game ultimately is the result of Vivendi’s poor decision to not only make this title a game aimed at younger children but also due to the short length of the original Hobbit novel they took creative license to try and stretch the source material in a manner that just felt forced (Sounds sort of familiar). The resulting game ended up being a complete and utter knock off of Zelda which makes the whole experience all the more frustrating, the gameplay is far too easy for any older fans of the series to appreciate with younger fans probably finding a similar experience. It should be noted that this game was made in close association with Tolkien enterprises who own the rights to the series which would’ve made the whole experience all the more difficult due to aspects of the game being culled to please the higher ups. It was an utter shame that this legendary novel didn’t get the video game counterpart it so desperately deserves.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I SNES (1994)
When I think of a LOTR game it just seems natural to have this illustrious series be translated into the format of an RPG due to the elaborate range of characters and lore within Mordor. Although provided with a wealth of material to bring the table, LOTR Vol 1 for SNES is a very far cry from what many Tolkien nerds were creaming themselves over when it was first announced. The pacing was horrendously slow with many missions being overly dragged out for the sake of game time and the difficulty left a lot to be desired, which is disappointing because the progression in this game is such a slog that it would’ve made more sense to cut down on the terribly boring item finding quests and just amp up the difficulty a tad more. I will also note that this was an ambitious move for any studio to attempt an RPG within the LOTR universe especially with technology being ever so limited but it doesn’t make the experience any less depressing.
Lord of The Rings: Conquest : PS3, Xbox 360 & PC (2009)
Pandemic studios how could you betray us so… for those not in the know the very accomplished dev studio Pandemic has had a rather great back catalogue of classic titles such as Mercenaries, Destroy All Humans and finally the original Star Wars Battlefront series (The only one in my eyes) yet this LOTR game that they forged in the fires of Mount Doom was such an absolute toilet of a game that sadly after this fateful release Pandemic was no more. Lord of The Rings: Conquest was built off the rotting flesh that was the Star Wars Battlefront series of games with the whole game engine and mechanics being torn off by ravenous vultures to be re-skinned to fit within the realms of Middle-earth and somehow they thought this was going to work. Even with the use of the successful elements of an old engine and it’s mechanics this game had no forethought or love with the game being crippled by terrible gameplay, awful AI and horrendously unbalanced characters. I had the displeasure of playing this a few years back and it honestly was nothing more than just a frustrating mess which left me almost hurling my controller through my TV due to the sheer stupidity of the situation because I basically wasted my time playing a very basic hack and slash, for the love of all things holy don’t play this game.
Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002)
Thankfully I wasn’t an absolute sucker and didn’t fall for the Tolkien seal of approval on this train wreck because this was a stinker as well and it was only the beginning of the journey for the fellowship. The Fellowship of the Ring game was intended solely as an independent release mimicking the books rather than the films which were being released by Jackson around the same time with this particular game being released after the first film but before the Twin towers… Vivendi you sneaky rat bastards. Obviously trying to capitalise on the renewed interest in the series this was a rather bleak attempt at them trying to release their own trilogy of games however the game was universally panned which almost seems like a given with it being criticised for not following the dark tone conveyed in the films but also for the very basic gameplay which caused many players to get ultimately frustrated binning the bloody thing. It was only 2 months later that EA ended up releasing their cracker the Twin Towers movie tie in game which ultimately shot this game in a back alley like it deserved. I definitely knew I had made the right decision when I spotted a plethora of copies of the game being sold for peanuts in the local department store bargain bin.. good riddance.