Lord of the Rings: War in the North Review
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An enjoyable action-RPG with solid Middle Earth inspiration, Lord of the Rings: War in the North is best played with others and its flaws aren't enough to ruin the experience.
- Enjoyable co-operative gameplay
- RPG leveling, looting, and customization
- Solid Lord of the Rings atmosphere
- Managing A.I. partners is cumbersome
- Repetitive combat and enemies
- Narrative falls a bit short
Chances are if you grew up playing videogames with friends after long school days, and you long for a time when a couch served as a fortress for hours upon hours of gaming goodness, you are going to appreciate Snowblind Studio’s latest co-op offering. Set in the Lord of the Rings universe, this game doesn’t follow the same story from the books or movies, but instead it runs alongside that main narrative in what feels like a much, much less important quest. But, that is of course no fault to the developer as Frodo and company had one of the most epic adventures ever created for the fantasy genre. Lord of the Rings: War in the North brings us back to those after-school sessions of gaming with your buddies, but that’s not to say this mature-rated game is at all for kids. It’s an action-RPG that features relatively simplistic, yet enjoyable gameplay, character development and progression, and a narrative that is enough to satisfy the part of us still stuck in our childhoods.
Since War in the North carries that Lord of the Rings title, there are tremendous expectations as Middle Earth is one of the most beloved fantasy settings. The Peter Jackson films painted an appropriately epic portrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece collection of books about a Hobbit, a fellowship, and a journey that still gets us excited to relive every step. The characters were incredibly deep, each with their own approach to the adventure, their own personal struggles and fears, and they all generally wanted the same thing: that little ring destroyed once and for all. While we wait for Jackson’s retelling of the Hobbit, we are given the chance to re-enter Middle Earth through War in the North.
Even if you don’t like the Lord of the Rings (and really, what’s not to like?), War in the North has plenty of things going for it, even beyond the fact you can fill your fellowship with friends offline or online. Some may dislike the relatively simplistic combat—featuring the standard melee, range, an magical abilities—and others may bore of fighting the same enemies at virtually every turn, but if you are like us and miss good old fashioned buddy-style games, then you’re going to enjoy War in the North, for the most part.
War in the North follows a small three-party member fellowship, including a human, dwarf, and elf, on the hunt for on one of Sauron’s warlords. This journey takes them to familiar settings like Barrow Downs and Rivendell, along with some new surprises. The trio doesn’t run through their quest completely alone. They are joined by other characters from the Lord of the Rings universe, including the great eagle Belleram. Everyone needs a friend like Belleram. In addition to adding some life into an otherwise slightly dull cast of characters, Belleram can provide some assistance in battle, where at the press of the button, he’ll swoop into outdoor battles and topple any enemy of your liking.
The game looks and sounds quite good, considering there was very little hype surrounding War in the North, and while it never exactly oozes stark LotR style, it does provide plenty of fantasy-inspired ambiences that even Bilbo Baggins would appreciate. In many ways the game looks like it’s a direct spin-off of a Peter Jackson film, but it’s important to understand this doesn’t follow the story of any of the three films; instead, it takes the very difficult task of creating a unique story to run alongside the existing narrative.
War in the North technically has RPG elements, but this is really a combat-heavy game, meaning about 80-90 percent of your in-game activities involve slaying hordes of orcs, trolls, goblins, spiders, and other creepers. The combat is generally simplistic. The ranger is better at - you guessed it - ranged combat, while the champion is best throwing around his two-handed axe in the heat of battle. The magic user has some helpful spells, including the ability to provide protective cover from incoming arrows or bolts. There is a basic system to chain attacks together that lead to a bloody takedown. It feels great to finally see the head of an orc lopped off, or a goblin’s legs ripped apart. Yes, this is a ... (continued on next page)
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