J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is without a doubt among the most successful works of literature. Decades after its original release, Frodo and his companions’ journey to destroy the One Ring continues to inspire readers across the world. The critically acclaimed movies based on the trilogy have also tremendously helped increase the popularity of Tolkien’s work. It is only normal for the video gaming industry to attempt to capitalize on such a successful set of novels. Unfortunately, Surreal Software’s video game based on the first book in the trilogy fails to capture the sophistication of the novel, landing squarely in the pile of average games.
Surreal Software’s adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring is not associated with the Lord of the Rings movies. The game attempts a retelling of the story solely based on the book. Starting your adventure in Shire, you will travel with Frodo on his journey to Rivendell, the mines of Moria, and the beautiful forest of Lothlorien. Understandably, the game does not follow the story of the novel to the letter. The developers have taken some liberties with the story and extended certain segments. Modifying the story to better suit an action adventure game is certainly acceptable. However, the adaptation in The Fellowship of the Ring video game definitely lacks the dark and immersive atmosphere created in the novels.
Instead of bringing a new level of depth to the plot, the extensions sometimes feel arbitrary. Rather than driving the story onward, some quests feel like chores only added to increase the length of the game. During many sections of the game, your only task will be to run through an area filled with various monsters. Without challenging puzzles, particularly engaging encounters, or an exciting level design, these sections often end up feeling tedious. When you are not only running from one end of the level to another, you will be charged with fairly uninspired fetch quests. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with a game that is heavy on exploration and combat, the bland environments really take away from the experience.
On the plus side, Fellowship of the Ring does allow you to control three characters from the novel, adding a degree of depth to the game play. You will start the adventure controlling Frodo. While Frodo is the weakest character you control in the game, he can equip the One Ring to turn himself invisible and sneak past his enemies. However, every time Frodo wears the ring, his purity starts draining, preventing players from keeping the ring equipped all the time. Once Frodo reaches Bree, you get to control Aragorn. Switching to Aragorn, or Strider, is like a tremendous upgrade. The enemies that might give Frodo a hard time mean nothing to Aragorn. With his great fighting skills, he can easily take on pack of wolves, a band of orcs, or keep the Ring Wraiths at bay. The last character is Gandalf the Gray. The wizard is not as skilled with the sword as Aragorn, but he does have access to a number of spells to wreak havoc upon his enemies.
While the differences between the three characters are certainly noticeable, the game does not require players to adjust to completely different control schemes each time you play as a new character. The basic controls remain unchanged and the differences are limited to the special abilities of each character. The only noticeable problem with the controls is that Gandalf’s spells could have been more easily accessible. Players are required to bring up the inventory each time they would like to change the active spell. The ability to assign directional button shortcuts to the different spells would have been helpful on the console version.
As the game proceeds, you will get to play as each character multiple times. However, due to the noticeably short length of The Fellowship of the Ring, you will not really get to spend enough time as each character. Players can expect to easily complete the game in about eight hours. Due to a lack of additional game modes and bonus features you can unlock, there will be little incentive to continue playing the game once you beat it for the first time. On the other hand, the game does include certain parts of the novel that were not explored in the movie. Fans of the trilogy might be especially pleased to see the inclusion of Tom Bombadil in the game.
Overall, The Fellowship of the Ring is not necessarily a bad action adventure game. Even though it lacks the mood created by the novels, the retelling of the story still remains entertaining. At the end of the game, players who are not familiar with the trilogy might find themselves curious to find out the rest of the story. The ability to control three characters from the novels makes the game colorful. However, The Fellowship of the Ring video game leaves a lot to be desired. With additional content and better designed quests and levels, The Fellowship of the Ring could have been a wonderful game. Unfortunately, the final product is hard to recommend to anyone except Tolkien fans who must own every game based on the trilogy or action adventure enthusiasts who must play every title in the genre.