RPG Index: Single player Role Playing Games

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Lord of the Rings: War in the North

This game is quite difficult for me to review. I have a great love for Lord of the Rings, yet I have a strong aversion to mediocre games. War in the North is definitely a mediocre title at its best. It has a lackluster skill tree that's less diverse than any game I can remember playing. The combat is fun, for 10 minutes. Oh, and the graphics aren't anything special either. Well, they are special- just not the kind of special you want in a game.

I think the grain effect is intentional.

Genre: RPG, Adventure, Action
Release Date: 25th November, 2011
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Score: 4/10
Similar Titles: Borderlands, Dead Island, Lord of the Rings

War in the North is another of those games that takes place alongside the main events in the books and films (yes, there's been others). You are a motley band of three heroes, Dwarf, Elf, and Human. Their job is to take on one of Sauron's leaders, and save the north from a bunch of smelly Orcs. I would tell you more about the storyline, but I honestly don't remember. It's dull, and you certainly won't find yourself invested or sympathizing with any of the characters. Except maybe the giant eagle. That dude's a boss.

Yeah, all that blood is from one Goblin.

Before you start playing this game, remember to grab a friend or two. Because two friends playing with you will make that jump from bland to entertaining. Throw in some beer, and you might actually have fun. Without the extra people, it can get a little annoying when your party members fail to heal you, or just plain screw up an easy fight with their sometimes silly programming. Not to mention their gear is unchangeable unless a real person is behind the wheel. Hell, I didn't really notice half the prevalent bugs and annoyances when me and my friends were screaming 'FOR GONDOR' down the microphones. Hey, Gondor is cool.

Gameplay in Lord of the Rings: War in the North
Is it bad that I found charging up these stairs in an epic manner more fun than the game?

The combat starts out very intriguing, slicing up people is jolly good entertainment. It's bloody, brutal, and the third person lets you watch your character fend off decent amounts of enemies. It's brimming with potential. Such a shame said potential wasn't seized upon by the design team. You will quickly learn the combo system is incredibly basic. Shooting things with your bow or staff is just shooting things, it's not captivating or cool at all. The fact that you can roll to dodge attacks and maneuver yourself is good, because without it I would of dropped an entire point off of my review score. Anyway, it's a shame the slicing up bad guys is lacking any real complexity. From your first 10 minutes playing to 30 hours in you will be performing the same moves, there isn't a finesse you will mature into after practicing enough.

Blasting enemies with a staff in War in the North
Pew pew.

This brings me onto the RPG aspect, which includes the leveling up, the gear farming and skill tree. Killing enemies grant you experience. Big surprise. Leveling up grants you a point to play into your talent tree and a few points to place on whichever attribute you choose. One of my main gripes is the lack of variety to choose from when you pick new skills. They are all solid choices, but there aren't many cool options either. Having to specialize into dual wielding is something that should be in World of Warcraft, not Lord of the Rings. Hell, half the people in Middle Earth have dual wield imprinted into their DNA. Finally, the gear side of War in the North is actually a saving grace. The armor and weapons you pick up have an assortment of different stats. It's still fairly easy to pick out the definitive 'best gear' for your character, but it's nice to have options.

The talent tree from Lord of the Rings: War in the North
The skill tree even looks kind of boring.

As for the graphics, they aren't bad. You get to see some nice visuals using the flair and epic proportions that made Lord of the Rings great. But it's no Final Fantasy. There's noticeable amounts of screen tear and blood seems to just appear out of nowhere. Regardless, it's a pretty game but nothing above what you would expect. And if you haven't noticed already, that is my problem with War in the North. Nothing is unexpected. Someone with a reasonable imagination could probably play for a couple of hours and then create a better version of the game using their mind. Maybe you should do that.

Fighting an ogre boss in the PC version of War in the North
An ogre, never killed one of those before.

Now anyone with a die hard attitude and unwavering loyalty to the LotR franchise can and will enjoy this game. But only a foolish took wouldn't acknowledge the lack of originality and new mechanics in War in the North. Nothing really catches your attention as new and exciting. It's all the same old tried and tested content that worked in other games. And it works in this one. To a degree. The only way to make this game surpass others in any sense is to play with two wonderful friends, and only then is it actually something you should buy.

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