Lord of the Rings War in the North
NA: November 1, 2011
EU: November 9, 2011
AUS: November 23, 2011
Developer: Snowblind Studios
ESRB Rating: M
I game a lot with my husband; however there is not a great deal of local co-op games on the market that we have not already played. Recently we got a second Xbox Live account, so I sent my husband down to the local GameStop in search for either a local co-op game or online co-op game that we had not played before. After a short trip he returned with Lord of the Rings War in the North for the Xbox 360. After playing weeks of Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer, this game was a welcome change.
I was worried when we started playing this game that it was going to be like the last Lord of the Rings game we played, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II which if I remember correctly we beat it in two hours. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the gameplay is very similar to that of Baulder’s Gate II, Champions of Norrath: Realms of EverQuest both on the PlayStation 2 or Diablo 2 on the PC, or newer games if you prefer, Dungeon Siege III, or Hunted. The gameplay is third person with fairly good camera controls. War in the North really is your standard action RPG dungeon crawler.
There are three characters you have the option of playing as. There are of course the standard Champion/warrior, Loremaster/mage and Ranger/rogue. Each character has a specific skill that allows you to interact with the environment. The Champion has the ability to find gold veins to get gold nuggets to sell, as well as breaking down walls to reveal secret areas. The Loremaster can harvest various ingredients to create a variety of potions, as well as find secret areas. The Ranger finds secret ranger caches. The one thing to remember about this is that you have to have an actual player playing these characters in order to find them, the game AI does not participate in any of these skills. Thus, if you want to find all of the various secrets through the game you have to have three people playing the three different characters. Of course, like anything else, having real people play versus relying on the AI always makes for better gameplay.
What makes this game interesting and I felt worthy of playing was that as previously stated it has local co-op as well as online co-op. I started playing the local co-op with my husband; it was your standard vertical split screen to play. Then we moved onto playing online co-op with a friend, which is pretty easy to set up. There are also options to search for other online games as well, so if you want to play with others you can find games. The story starts out in Bree with the three characters having a conversation with Aragorn, the chat conversation options give you a few different options to continue the conversation or ask for more information, much like the chat options in the Mass Effect series. The story is taking places simultaneously to the events that occur in the novels. Throughout the game you will come into contact with the various well known characters of the series. The purpose the characters have is to go after Agandaur and find out what he is planning as he makes his way through the North. The story overall isn’t bad, but there isn’t any character development, so I didn’t feel the need to go through and get more information when given the chance, thus that is a bit of a downside to this game, the story is lacking. However, given that the story is lacking they do have a sizable voice cast, which does help to add to the overall gameplay. The game also has three difficulty settings which are unlocked once beating the game on the previous difficulty setting. The enemies and drops scale as you increase in level and difficulty. A note to be made; you will only be able to play as far as the lowest person has played, meaning you can’t have someone new come into a legendary game. This game like many other dungeon crawlers using both healing and mana potions which you almost never need to buy because they drop off of mobs and can be found in barrels and chests.
Overall I found this game to be rather enjoyable and worth playing more than once. There is just something fun about a game that allows you to smash barrels. It also allows you to keep your character progress and items, which you wouldn’t always think is important, but it really influences the games replay value. However, that is not to say that the game isn’t without its flaws. One thing that I found to be annoying was the lack of item comparison. It becomes difficult when trying to decide if you want to buy or sell an item when you can’t compare what you already have. Another aspect that I found to be annoying was the lack of ability to expand your inventory. This became especially difficult when playing as the Loremaster since you pick up various items to create different potions, it ends up taking up a great deal of space, I found myself no longer gathering items to save inventory space. The last thing that I found to be on the annoying side since the inventory space couldn’t be upgraded, was the spacing of sell points. There were times that I had to give up items because I was simply out of space. The overall user interface of the game seemed to be a little clunky and took a little bit of time to get used to. There wasn’t a way to auto sort your inventory, you had to hold the right trigger and select your item to move it to a new slot.
There could have also been a bank to hold items you wanted to use when you were higher level, that way they were not taking up space in your already limited inventory. Another down side to this game is the way the gear is structured, the idea that any adornments require ‘will’ which is important for the Loremaster, but not for the other two character, but you still have to spend points when you level up in areas you would not have otherwise spent them in. It would make more sense that items that are specifically geared to a certain character type have the stat requirements be reflective of what is standard for that character. The last thing that is a little annoying is that the combat seems to be a bit sluggish when using melee attacks. If you are in the middle of an attack chain and you want to change direction than you have to wait till the chain finishes before changing direction, but other than that it is very fluid combat. A bonus that should be mentioned about this game, when it first launched the game had a number of glitches but the released patches to fix those glitches.
I would say that this game is worth playing either solo or co-op. It is a nice change from all of the various realistic shooters that seem to currently be flooding the market. I would have to give this game a 7.5 out of 10, for the most part the game is enjoyable and has replay value, which is difficult to find these days. Overall, the difficultly for the game isn't too difficult when playing with others, but if you are playing solo it can prove to be a bit of a challenge. More specifically boss fights might require numerous restarts. While there are some challenging aspects to the game it is more just a fun game that allows for the ability to play with other people, which seems to be going away and that makes me a sad panda.
Immersive in its environments; no, the game was rather tight and kept you on a specific path, there was really no wondering around other than the specific game area.
Audio; unless you have it turned up it is hard to notice any ambient noise, the in combat dialogue was rather repetitive, the music wasn't anything to ride home about, the tracks were long enough that you didn't notice it repeating and it did fit with the levels so in that sense it all worked together.
Voice work; while there are well known voice actors playing various characters, there is definitely room for improvement. Some dialogue was delivered very one-dimensional, which made me disinterested in the story.
Replay value; it is a dungeon crawler, which means it is always enjoyable to play more than once. It also allows you to start the new game up with all the same equipment, which is always crucial to a games replay value.
Lord of the Rings: War in the North Review
Blog entry posted by Amalthea327, Jul 6, 2012.