Aragorn’s Quest is a retelling of Lord of the Rings which, oddly enough, starts at the end – the battle at the Black Gates of Mordor. You take control of Aragorn right in the heat of battle, slashing right away with the Wii Remote. It’s a fairly short scene where you battle through a few waves of orcs, trolls. Then it’s boss time, and the Balrog steps through the Black Gates, ready for battle.
LotR fans may notice something wrong there, but don’t worry – Aragorn’s quest doesn’t mess around with the franchise that much. The scene cuts to Frodo Gamgee, son of Samwise Gamgee, stating that the Balrog was never at the Black Gates. Part of Aragorn’s Quest takes part in the Shire, fifteen years after the events of Return of the King. Samwise is getting a party ready for King Elessar and you help out as Frodo, wielding a wooden sword and shield, and can explore the shire completing quests and playing games with other young hobbits.
The shire is only a small part of the game – it serves as a tutorial for the combat, and you can take a break in between missions to complete more optional quests, which serves as a nice break from the main story. Aragorn’s Quest is a simplified tale of Strider’s role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as told by Samwise Gamgee (and actor Sean Astin). There are eight missions set throughout the events of the films, with a mixture of combat missions and fetch quests – with the beginning of the game containing a tiring amount of fetch quests before they completely vanish towards the end, leaving only combat.
Developers Headstrong Games (who you may know from Battalion Wars 2 and HotD: Overkill) have put a lot of effort into the combat system. Basic sword attacks are performed by swinging the Wii Remote in one of for directions or thrusting it forward. Unlike a lot of hack-n-slash games on the Wii, Aragorn’s Quest rarely misinterprits your actions – the moves perform on screen are exactly what you want. The nunchuck takes care of your shield, and shaking it performs a shield bash, similar to Twilight Princess. As you progress, you unlock extra weapons to replace your shield: a torch, a spear and a bow. The bow works wonderfully – when you select it you point the Wii Remote at the screen to aim and use B to fire. Most of the time the camera shows the targets you want so using the bow never interrupts the gameplay.
Along with special attacks, pick-ups and horseback combat, the fighting is a well-thought-out system that works beautifully. Alas, there is one main problem: as it’s aimed towards kids, the difficulty (even on the highest settings) means that the full depth of the brilliant combat system is rarely used. For most of the game flailing your arms wildly will work, but it’s more fun to use the advanced moves.
While some closed areas, such as Moria, look rather bland, Aragorn’s Quests graphics literally shine in outdoor levels. Lots of long, flowing grass, plenty of foliage and rays of sunlight make for some gorgeous levels – riding through Rohan on horseback is a particular highlight. The stylised look (which reminds me of The Hobbit back on the GameCube) lets the game take advantage of the Wii’s hardware. The engine can also manage hundreds of enemies on screen at once without any slowdown, enabling some massive and busy fights later on.
The main quests can take between 8 and 10 hours to complete. It can get a bit repetitive at times, but the game paces out new items and enemies so there’s always something new to look forward to. In the unlikely event that you’re still eager for more after completing the game, you can explore the rest of the shire, complete side-quests in the story mode and find all the collectibles – some of which require a bit of exploration.
Aragorn’s Quest is a bit of an oddball – and in a surprising way. On the surface it seems like a short re-telling of Lord of the Rings for kids, and due to that you would expect the developers would be able to churn out any old rubbish. Despite this, Headstrong Games have put a lot of work into the graphics and in creating excellent controls and a great combat system – it’s just a shame that the nature of the game makes these go to waste. Aragorn’s Quest is a fun and entertaining romp through Lord of the Rings, and is perfect for playing over a rainy weekend.
- Looks lovely at times
- Great combat system
- Responsive controls
- Too easy.
- Not much desire to return upon completion.
Headstrong Games have gone beyond the call of duty to create a satisfying combat system, and a very entertaining way to experience LotR in a new way.