The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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Content at a glance:


Computer Platform: PlayStation 2 (Sony)
Produced by: EA Games
Price Range: $11-20
Learning curve time: 1-30 min.
Age level: Children (Older)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Reviewed By: Theophilus

Overall Rating: ★★★★½
Genre: Action
Rating: 5 of 5 (excellent)
Gameplay: 5 of 5 (excellent)
Violence: 3 of 5 (mild)
Adult Content: 5 of 5 (none)


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Illustration copyrighted.

For fans of “The Lord of the Rings” and/or good action games, this game will be highly enjoyable.

(This review pertains to the version of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” that was released for PC, PS2, Gamecube, and XBOX).

Following the release of the “The Lord of the Rings” movies (which were based on the books by author J.R.R. Tolkien) three video games were released to try to encapsulate the great story, action, and adventure of those movies and books. The newest game in this series, entitled “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is clearly the best, offering great control, action, co-op support, artistic graphics, and integration of movie material.

Game Plot Summary:

The game actually follows parts of the story in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. It begins at Helms Deep, where the people of Rohan are making their stand against a onslaught of orc troops. Clearly outnumbered, things are looking badly for the people until Gandalf (who is the first character you control) comes in and, using his powers and blaring light, helps immensely in warding off the remaining orcs. After winning this battle, you can follow either Aragorn, Gandalf, or the hobbits as they venture to end “The War of the Ring”. Each stage is introduced with footage from the movies that does marvels to further the story. Also the transition from the movie material to the gameplay (and vice versa) is pretty seamless, helping to give you the feeling that you actually are playing the movie and are being the hero.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Illustration copyrighted.


The Return of the King, like the games before it, has great video game art. As you battle through the game you’ll be treated to great details in the surroundings. Character designs are good as well. Spectacular explosions cause dynamic changes to the environments as well, making the battles feel immensely immersive and “in your face”.


Return of the King plays out very arcade-like. You go through stage after stage using attack combos, ranged attacks, parries, and weapons in the environment to take down hordes of orcs, spiders, living dead, bosses, and other enemies. Some characters have special abilities (Sam, for example, can turn invisible for a short amount of time). It’s generally a fast-paced romp of eliminating orcs and freeing Middle Earth from the evil forces under Saurumon and Sauron’s power (i.e “being the hero”). In between there’s the chance to purchase power ups, watch movie footage that gives each battle some context in the story, and earn bonus characters and material, which gives you incentive to complete every stage and do well in them. What’s also nice is that there is the occasional change of pace and objectives, like finding and freeing Frodo, defending the citizens of Gondor, and fighting the King of the Dead.

Some stages though can be really tough compared to others and will require a lot of trial and error to complete. In the end though you will find it rewarding that it requires a decent amount of skill amidst the great amount of button mashing.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Illustration copyrighted.

Offensive material:

Magic is used but is in the context of “high-fantasy” material. I don’t find this to be offensive, and neither did the author of the books.

There’s quite a bit of violence, however it is bloodless/goreless and is only directed towards the forces of evil; in the case of Frodo it’s done basically in self-defense. Players should be at least of the age of teen or pre-teen (10-12) to be able to handle this and the disturbing images.

Commendable material:

As fans of the movies and books can attest, The story of The Lord of the Rings is very much about self-sacrifice, bearing the burdens of others, reconciliation and redemption, and defeating the evil forces that threaten to destroy humankind. Some have thought that certain characters are Christ-like: Frodo, who has to carry the pride and greed of men (in the form of the Ring) to the pits of Mount Doom to destroy it; Gandalf, after battling a Balrog, is thought to be dead until he returns in dazzling white cloths (symbolizing a sort of Resurrection/Transfiguration). Tolkien however never intended the story to be a allegory, however I find that it does carry quite a bit of themes and messages. These messages don’t come through as strong in the games but they can be seen to contain them if played after seeing the movies/reading the books.


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a game that I highly recommend to any gamer of the age of 10 or above. It’s very enjoyable and does everything that it sets out to do very well.

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Year of Release — 2003

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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