With a strong interest already stirring about Peter Jackson’s two-part film version of The Hobbit, it’s perhaps not surprising that another Middle Earth game has surfaced, after a bit of a lull. The problem facing The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is how to make it different and compelling, when faced with LOTRO and the slew of games that came before.
Snowblind Studios has bravely taken the decision to create a completely new storyline, which supposedly runs parallel with the Frodo saga. Thus, Eradan a Dúnedain Ranger, Andriel an elven Loremaster from Rivendell and Farin a dwarf champion from Erebor unite to prevent Sauron’s most feared deputy Agandaur – from organising a potent threat from the north of the region.
Goriest Ring tale yet
This is a co-op RPG where you decide before each mission which character you wish to play. All three of these possess a light and heavy attack plus a ranged weapon; each warrior has an extra skill (such as Andrial’s healing dome and Eradan’s dual weapons) which will help during the endless wave attacks. Respawning only happens after all three players die, where you can also revive a fallen comrade, to prevent this all from happening.
Visually it all looks suitably Tolkien-esque, with snowy mountains and deep mines. In addition to a healthy supply of weaponry, armour and money to improve fighting abilities, there’s a skill tree to enable new combat techniques. From very early on you can also call on the services of the giant eagle Belaram, who can be used to target difficult foes and you can land especially gory critical hits. These result in dismembered limbs and heads, where this is the first Middle Earth game to earn an ‘M’ rating.
Unfortunately, there are a few negatives in the gameplay. The chief of which is the repetitive pattern of wave attack, followed by looting, upgrading, relocating and the next wave attack (although you do have the occasional tower defence). Also, when you play solo and the AI looks after your compadres, you can’t change between them on the fly or even upgrade them – without first coming out the game, then choosing them individually. There’s no instant save either, so without doubt, the best way to make the most of this game is to play multiplayer offline, with two pals. The game is worth considering, when it comes down in price.
Company: Warner Bros
- Plenty of ways to improve your fighting skills.
- Very little variation in the wave attack formula.
Snowblind Studios have to be complimented on creating a new chapter in the Middle Earth story, with plenty of bloodthirsty co-op combat possibilities – but the repetitive structure may cause many to return to the real world.