Before I get started, I'm going to explain a few things. This game, developed by WXP Inc. and published by Black Label Games, is based on the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien. So in other words, this is based on the book rather than the movie, and thus the things within will look a little bit different than the stuff you saw in the movie. Why are there two different versions, you ask? Apparently the LORD OF THE RINGS books and the LORD OF THE RINGS movies are two different properties, with each being owned by a different group.
For those of you wondering how much different this game can be from Electronic Art's THE TWO TOWERS, which is based on the movie, there is plenty. You must remember that not everything will fit into a movie that is based on a book, and this is the case. So, in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, you will come across scenes and characters that were not in the movies. But will gamers flock to a game based on the book instead of the movie? Possibly.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING covers everything that happened in the first book of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. I won't bother to go into detail over the storyline, as it would take up more space than I have for this review. Let's just say it has something to do with a ring and the end of the world. The game is an action/adventure, with a lot of emphasis on the action. There is no gaining levels or item gathering; it's just straight action. You begin the game with Frodo as the character you control, but later in the game you will take control of Gandalf and Aragorn. The controls don't take too long to get used to, and each character's control scheme is the same. With each character you will start off with the same "type" of weapons: a melee weapon and a projectile weapon. You can charge up your melee weapon (ala THE LEGEND OF ZELDA), but it just doesn't seem to work too well. Most enemies attack with projectile weapons, and the enemies who do fight with melee weapons, by the time you get charged up, they've already hit you.
One of the problems I've found is the boss battles. In most RPGs, you have more than one character with you, even though you control one character. In boss battles, all 9 members of the Fellowship are with you. Problem is, they mainly just stand around and watch you fight. They don't attack, and the boss doesn't even attack them! So basically, it's up to you.
Since the game plays somewhat like an RPG, I thought that there would be some sort of replay value. I mean, you can interact with non-player characters (NPCs) and they ask you questions and such. But it seems that no matter what answer you give them, it is always the same outcome. But then again, the game does follow a strict storyline, so I guess you can't change the story. The game feels to be basically on rails, because even when you are able to explore, there are places you cannot go.
A big problem I've had with the game is load times. You can walk across large plots of land with no slowdown whatsoever. But enter a house, and be prepared to sit for a while waiting for the game to load.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING also seems to cut down on certain parts of the story. The whole Council of Elrond scene, which plays a big part in the story, is cut down to almost nothing. Actually, most of the scenes are cut down in dialog, and just left to the basic "this is the outline, we'll leave it at that".
At first glance, the graphics look pretty good. But when you really start playing the game, you begin to notice that a lot of things look similar. Like for starters, why do all the hobbits look exactly alike? And what's with those eyes? They look like something out of a horror movie. Also, when exploring forests, or even the Shire, it is very easy to get lost because everything looks similar. I've spent too much time wondering where I am, and how to get out of a place. One thing I do like about the graphics are the little additions added to the level. Seeing animals scamper across the woods while you're walking through adds some realism.
The sound is a bright spot on the game too. When walking through the woods, you'll hear things in the background, and it really is a realistic effect I like hearing in games. When you're in towns, go outside of some type of building. Normally, you can hear the people within laughing or talking. The voice actors aren't really that bad, but why do some of them seem like they're trying just a little too hard? And also worth mentioning, we have the inclusion of singing in this game. Yes, singing. If you've read the books, you know Hobbits enjoy the spirit of song. The songs are really bad, though; so bad that they are humorous. The only real reason I can think that these were included was to once again show that this is from the book and not the movie.
In the end, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING doesn't really stand out. Most people will probably look towards EA Games' THE TWO TOWERS anyway. But if you were one of those few people who didn't care for the path that the movie took, or you are just really a fan of LORD OF THE RINGS, give this one a shot.