Previews// Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Posted 4 Nov 2011 16:22 by
How do you make another adaptation of a fantasy series when you?ve pretty much covered everything there is to cover in both the books and the films? You do what Warner Bros and Snowblind Studios are doing with Lord of the Rings - create a whole new tale that?s inspired by the original text.

Enter Lord of the Rings: War in the North, a game loosely based on the adventure told in the Tolkien books and Jackson films. It tells the story of three unlikely warriors, each of different races and abilities, who are forced to fight together to save their homes from the ongoing attack by Sauron?s evil horde of Orcs and nasties.

Eradan is a ranger who?s also a bit nifty with a sword, Farin is a dwarf with the ability to fight off plenty of foes close up, and Andriel is an elf capable of casting magic. Together, with their powers combined, they make a lean mean monster-killing machine.

While the Lord of the Rings books and films largely focused on the struggle in Middle Earth, Snowblind has chosen to explore the other regions of Tolkien?s fantasy world. Although you do battle in familiar settings in Bree and Rivendell, you do get to travel to Radegast as well - a location only mentioned in the books.

In fact there?s a fair amount of crossover between the plight of the trio of characters and the events that take place in the main Lord of the Rings storyline. When you start the game, the heroes must travel to the same bar that Frodo initially meets Aragorn in after he leaves the Shire. It appears that their conversation with Aragorn takes place just before Frodo arrives - it?s an interesting way to add depth to the proceedings.

Like previous Lord of the Rings games, War in the North is a third-person action game which sees you traveling through various stages and hacking up as many grim-looking monsters and beasts as possible. It?s clearly developed with multiplayer in mind, as each of the three warriors have weaknesses and strengths that must be combined tactfully to succeed in battle.

With his all-round capabilities, the Ranger works well as a crowd control measure, weakening multiple foes with his sword and taking out snipers from afar. The Dwarf?s most useful for smacking the big boys about a bit, but is relatively slow-going, and the Elf generally has uses as a support character, providing protective healing bubbles for friendlies and spitting deadly fireballs at Orcs from a distance.

To truly succeed, all of these have to work together, and work together exceptionally well. I played a stage set in a creepy forest, where waves of spiders (big and small) scurry up to you and snatch huge chunks of health away from you. The aforementioned tactic (Ranger up front, Dwarf finishing off foes and Elf taking support position at the back) seemed to work really well for the most part, until the snipers came in.

Attacking is set to a familiar system for veterans of the genre. The X and Y buttons deal out varying levels of punishment, while a hold of the Right Trigger can uncover a number of alternative stronger skills. Each character has their own unique special move, which can be used by holding RT and pressing B. The Dwarf will go batshit crazy and start whizzing around enemies like a spinning top, while the Ranger can make himself turn invisible to sneakily take out troubling baddies.

Each character has a ranged attack using the Left Trigger to aim, but naturally the Ranger has the best chance of killing enemies in this way - which is annoying if said Ranger ends up using all his arrows before taking out everyone. In that situation it all becomes a bit of a Benny Hill-style runaround where the Dwarf and Elf vainly try to dent the snipers? armour while the Ranger goes running around looking for more ammo.

From what I could tell by playing this game for about an hour or so with two other players), War in the North is not going to be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. It?s tough as nails. After the forest stage, I played an area atop a snowy mountain, trying to infiltrate an Orc city.

What I found was a large number of different enemies, big and small, all vying for the chance to finish each of us off. Tactics went out the window as it became confusing to attack a specific enemy and especially easy to get knocked down. It takes a long time to get back up again, by which time another cheeky monster has decided to knock you back down again.

Whether it wants to be difficult through design or by sheer frustration has yet to be seen, but beyond this and the Lord of the Rings setting War in the North appears to be a standard hack and slash affair. It will surely go a long way to entertain fans, but I?m curious to see if it provides as interesting a solo experience as it does a challenging multiplayer one.

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