Lord Of The Rings
For most people, the Lord Of The Rings books represent the birth of fantasy, so it's no surprise then that they are often the subject of computer FRPs. This latest re-telling of Tolkien's trilogy takes the form of an Ultima-style (i.e. view from above with just a hint of 3D) scrolling adventure. For the three people out there who aren't familiar with the storyline, sorry - I don't have the space here to explain it. Go buy the books (they're actually rather good, and ideal for these long winter evenings!).
The game then. Before the main section there's a fairly whizzy (if a mite slow - yawn) introduction sequence which manages to summarize the first few chapters of the book, and includes some stirring Sergio Leone-style music into the bargain. The game itself is a largely icon-driven affair, which includes one of the neatest command systems around. In any given situation the player can simply click on a command and an audible beep signals if it's not really feasible. It's a remarkably simple and direct method, and it makes perfect sense - far better than mucking around with full sentence input or pull-down menus, that's for sure.
Visually the game is fine too. The landscape graphics are more than adequate (if not outstanding) and the little cameos which appear at the bottom are good - very reminiscent of the Lord Of The Rings animated film in fact.
Apart from a slight problem of scale, then, this would be a bit of a minor classic if it wasn't for one small thing - speed. Put simply, it hasn't got any. I know that the game is trying to recreate several thousand pages of text, but it doesn't have to be that slow! The lack of speed really does have to be endured to be believed, and it becomes the game's downfall. Even the most patient RPG players shouldn't have to suffer a program that seems determined to give the impression that it's going to grind to a halt at any time. It's a shame, but I guess we'll have to wait a little longer for the definitive Lord Of The Rings computer game.
The Bottom Line
It's been written by Tolkien enthusiasts rather than expert programmers, and it shows. There are some great ideas in there, but the game just over-stretches itself. A shame.