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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.6    CPU: G4 @ 800 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 2000 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
May 27, 2004 | Greg Turner

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Letís say youíre a Lord of the Rings fan. Letís say you cheered Return of the King as it won Oscar after Oscar at this yearís academy awards. Letís say, since the movie ended its box-office run, youíve taught yourself to speak Elvish, read runes, and have fashioned your own precious ring out of old soda tabs and some gold paint. Whatís next? Wait around for the trilogyís boxed set to be released? Wander aimlessly around the isles of your local geek store asking about the final release of special editions? How about taking up Aspyr Media's recently released Mac port of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (ROTK) and playing through the movie yourself?

Originally released as a console game and soon ported to the PC, ROTK has been brought to the Mac by the good people of EA Games and Aspyr Media. The game, like its predecessors, Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, is an action-packed hackfest that pits you against wave after wave of orcs, ghost armies, and other strange and nasty beasts. The gameplay is fast and furious (at times infuriating), the graphics and sound are superb, and the inherent geek factor is high. Yet, for all it brings to the table, does Return of the King really deliver?

The game starts by dropping you right into the action at Helmís Deep, the final battle that ended The Two Towers. To help with the immersive experience, the game treats you to a lengthy, DVD-quality clip in which things look bleak for Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the army of men hiding in Helmís Deep. Just as they believe all hope is lost, Gandalf leads a second army over the hills to the east, and attacks while the orcs are blinded by the rising sun. When the scene approaches its climax, the screen fades briefly, and you suddenly find yourself in control of Gandalf, the white wizard, plowing your way through the orc hordes that have laid siege to the keep. Thus begins the final journey to save Middle Earth.

During the course of play, the game takes you through the major plot lines of the movie. After you finish a level, you can choose the path you want to conquer next. Playing as Gandalf, once youíve helped vanquish the foes at Helmís Deep, you must journey to Minas Tirith and defend it against Sauronís armies. Playing as either Aragorn, Gimli, or Legolas, you must journey into the forgotten mountain and recruit the army of the dead who will eventually help at Minas Tirith. Finally, playing as either Frodo or Sam, you must escape from the clutches of men and then journey to Mount Doom in the heart of Mordor to destroy the ring of power.

Overall, the characters are fairly balanced. Aragorn and Gimli provide you with fierce fighters, though theyíre a little slow. Playing as either Frodo or Sam provides you with lots of speed, though youíll sacrifice some strength. And in the game, Gandalf seems less like a wizened wizard and more like a fluid kung fu master of old. Each character has his own set of strengths and special abilities, and you are able to buy additional ability upgrades between levels based on your performance during that level.


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