Review: Lord Of The Rings War In The North

November 7, 2011, By Christian Davis

Sometimes the main goal for a hack and slash game should be simplicity. When you just want to chop some foes up with a heavy broad sword or a legendary axe, simplicity is something that should be a priority for hack and slash titles. Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a perfect example of this. The story is simple, the combat is simple, the controls are simple and it doesn’t have to be more than that. Most importantly, it’s fun. The Middle Earth themed hack and slash is now a breath of fresh air in a market compiled of a variety of shooters and deep story centric titles. It’s not the best game you’ll play this year, but it’s a lot of fun and provides a great co-op experience. Both of which should really make this game stand out more than expected.

War in the North has you control one of three characters who take on a mission given to them by Aragon. The game takes place during the Lord of the Rings trilogy but has you experience it from another perspective. So if you know the story of Frodo and the ring, then you’ve got the story of the game essentially. The game doesn’t just throw you into the action however which is something I thought would be a given. War in the North surprisingly has a lot of RPG elements such as dialogue wheels, upgrades, weapon duration, etc…You actually start off in a small town which functions as the team’s base. Here you can talk to the locals, gain side missions, participate in a few games, buy and sell products, upgrade them, and even change your characters appearance.

Interacting with these characters gives you a little more story on what’s going on at the time. When speaking with the various elves, hobbits, dwarves, and humans (all of which have been given voice overs) you will control the flow of the conversation though a dialogue wheel similar to that of Mass Effects. If you’re big into Lord of the Rings lore then you’ll want to explore each thing these characters have to say (which is a lot).

Of course, what’s a hack and slash without combat? The combat in the game is simple but not overly simple to where you get bored. You have your basic attacks, strong attacks, and a range attack available to you from the start of the game. Switching between attacks gives you satisfyingly strong combinations on the plethora of orcs that you’ll encounter. When you battle you way through groups of enemies, it feels like you’re actually participating in the battle for Middle Earth and it really keeps you involved. After landing a couple successful blows, a yellow triangle will appear above the nearly defeated orcs head; indicating that you can finish them off with a critical hit. In the films, characters would always dismember the orcs with a large fatal swoop, in turn, chopping off a head, arm, or slicing their neck. This happens in the game when that critical strike icon appears. It’s satisfying every single time and the last enemy gets taken out in a brief slow-mo sequence. You feel like a total bad-ass.

Adding another layer to the combat is the introduction of magic. Each character has four magic abilities and being that each character functions as a different archetype (mage, ranger, and warrior) they function differently. They’re all activated simply by holding the right trigger and pressing the corresponding button. It could be a powerful strike, a flurry of arrows, a healing shield, etc… The combat doesn’t really expand past that and it doesn’t need to. The game functions perfectly fine with these and keeps it fun and unique thanks to all of the weapons at your disposal.

There’s a rather large variety of weapons you can take out your enemies with and it’s great to have so many options. Swords, hammers, bows, staffs, shields, duel wielding, and more add to the entertaining fighting mechanic. These weapons can be upgraded in your inventory by adding certain stones or jewels to them; giving buffs such as slow or health regeneration for each successful hit landed. You pick up weapons from chests and rubble and you can even give them to members of your party for them to use, so nothing goes to waste.

It’s recommended that you play the game with at least another person because the artificial intelligence of your characters is ridiculously stupid. If someone calls out that there are archers, of course you’ll hide underneath some cover until it’s clear to go. Your teammates don’t ever listen to those warnings and just run out there and take all the hits, forcing you to revive them repeatedly. If you don’t get to them on time, they’ll bleed out and die, ending the mission. Some of these bosses are pretty hard too and the last thing you want to worry about is reviving some idiot while a large troll is heading your way. It can get frustrating and cause you to lose a few times.

Playing with at least one friend is where the game really excels. You can have two players together on the same console, but the third needs to be playing online. There are only three characters to choose from, at least from what I’ve played, so you’ll have to decide who’s going to be who; however you can switch characters once you reach the end of a mission if you’re so inclined.

One of the smartest things that the game has involves the economy and loot collecting. Instead of each character rushing to open the next chest and reap the benefits, each character receives their own set of unique items. So someone could end up getting some new pants and gold, while the other may get an arrow instead. It’s smart, doesn’t create any tension between players, and keeps everyone close to the same level. Players can also modify their skill trees or weapons without disrupting the flow of the game which is phenomenal. No one wants to stare are a leveling tree if they don’t need too. It just makes sense and it keeps the gameplay moving.

Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a simple, but tight hack and slash adventure game. Traveling through unexplored areas of Middle Earth with some friends is a lot of fun and it’s cool to see the story unfold from another point of view. In a time where hack and slash games come very sparingly, this is a nice venture into the genre again and it delivers a lot of fun; the most important part about games.

 

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