Lord of the Rings: Tactics

The battle for Middle-earth comes to the PSP, and we take on the forces of evil in this preview.

The epic battle over the fate of Middle-earth has been waged across many a venue in the video game realm, and now the fight comes to the PSP in the form of Lord of the Rings: Tactics. Covering the events of the entire trilogy, this turn-based strategy game brings back all the familiar faces and places for some tactical action. We ran through both the single-player and multiplayer games to see how the old enemies duke it out in the small-screen realm.

Lord of the Rings: TacticsThe single-player game in Tactics lets you choose to play on the side of Middle-earth's conflict--as the Fellowship with Aragorn, Frodo and crew--or as the Host of Mordor, with Sauron, Saruman, and other villains like Grima and the Witch-King. Cutscenes and narrative from the three movies cover the story leading up to your battles, and the particular scenes you see depend on whether you happen to be playing as good or evil. Whichever alignment you choose, you'll still end up fighting through the same battles with both factions--you'll just be playing on the opposite side, and you'll obviously have different objectives set to achieve victory. While the battles on the Fellowship side follow movie canon, fights on the Mordor side tend to be a little bit more free with character inclusions, doing things like including the Witch-King in the fight deep in the mines of Moria. The majority of the battles already have their participants set, so you'll be able to pretty much just dive into the fray.

Action plays out as a kind of team-oriented turn-based system, which entails you queuing up orders for all your characters, and then setting your grand plan into motion. There are two phases during battle: the movement phase, where you position your characters on the grid-based map, and the battle phase, where you'll launch your attacks. Properly setting yourself up during the movement phase can be a little tricky, as characters move as a set and it can be difficult to anticipate your enemies' actions. The game includes two ways to help cope with that issue. Firstly, if there's an enemy character in your unit's movement range, you can move an icon over him or her and choose to "pursue" that enemy, and then close the space between the two of you. The other feature is that each character, of a melee-focused class or not, is largely equipped with ranged weapons of some kind, whether they're bows or stones. So even if you didn't manage to brush up right against your foe, you're still able to pull off some sort of attack.

Lord of the Rings: TacticsThe combat phase lets you actually attack your enemies, and as mentioned, in addition to a number of melee attacks, just about every character has some sort of ranged ability. These abilities have a fairly large range, so you can often strike over large distances. The wrinkles to this are that the terrains on the battle map will vary, which means that characters standing on a higher elevation will have stronger ranged attacks than those that are lower. If you're standing behind some sort of obstacle that prevents line of sight, you won't be able to perform a ranged attack at all. There are a lot of subtle combat situations and bonuses that you'll have to be aware of as you proceed. For example, a character standing face-to-face with an enemy is said to be in that enemy's "zone of control." The zone of control will stop your character from moving around, and it will prevent ranged attacks. For example, if you're faced with a foe, you won't be able to shoot off your bow to help a friend a few squares over. Units that are adjacent will provide an armor bonus to each other that's helpful when up against tough opponents. There aren't really any visual cues as to when you benefit from these bonuses aside from small icons, and you'll only be aware you're in an enemy's zone of control when you first move into it. Therefore, you'll need to pay attention to where your characters are standing and plan accordingly.

By Bethany Massimilla
Posted Oct 25, 2005 5:51 pm PT

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