Genre: Role Playing Developer: Snowblind Studios Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 2nd Nov 2011 Platforms:
Average of 4 Ratings
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The first thing you need to know about Lord of the Rings: War in the North is that it is a game for fans of the Lord of the Rings universe. Games which appeal to people outside of their fanbase come out all the time, but WITN is not one of them.
For LOTR fans, the second thing you need to know is that War in the North is definitely for you. WITN is packed to the gills with locations, characters and events from the books, as well as lore and other information.
WITN follows a separate storyline to the Lord of the Rings, but the events take place at the same time. As fan-service, you run into characters like the members of the fellowship at various points throughout the game - as you go off to do your thing and they go off to do theirs.
As Frodo and company go south to throw the ring into Mount Doom, your party attempts to keep the north from slipping into the hands of Sauron and his minions. It would be ludicrous for three people to do so alone, so generally your exploits involve helping larger forces assemble and maintain in the face of Sauron's invaders.
Eradan - a Man and a friend of Aragorn, Eradan is both the most capable character to use in combat and the least interesting character to use outside of it. He can see hidden ranger caches - secret stashes of mostly junk, which other Dķnadan Rangers have hidden in unlikely places around the world. Farin - a Dwarf, doing gruff dwarfy things. In battle his attacks donít have the speed of Eradan, but mostly make up for it through impact. Outside of battle he can break down secret walls and mine for elf-stones. Andriel - rounding out the team is the female Elf mage - and while you can take her down the standard mage path of brittle bones made up for with powerful ranged magic, she can also become a pretty decent healer/warrior should you choose. Outside of battle she can pick herbs for astonishingly powerful potions and spot mage specific secret areas.
That isn't to say you don't slaughter an army of orcs, goblins, trolls and other assorted minions of Sauron however, because you do. While you can talk to NPCs like Elrond about history quite a bit, the majority of WITN is fighting.
Unfortunately however, the combat is a mixed bag. X is used for standard attacks and Y executes a heavy attack - and while the heavy attacks are annoyingly slow, they are necessary for breaking an enemyís guard and for the all important Hero mode.
After doing enough damage to an enemy, a triangle will appear over their head - yellow if you are currently targeting them and white otherwise. Performing a heavy attack while they have a yellow triangle above their head will perform a special move - on a weak goblin you might sever a limb and kill it, but on a stronger shield carrying Orc you will do a critical hit and take their shield out of the picture.
With the exception of Final Blows, performing one of these attacks will put you in Hero mode, boosting your strength and counting your strikes towards an experience multiplier. If extra strength and XP wasnít enough of an incentive to enter Hero mode however, Snowblind Studios also made it the only time battles are enjoyable.
Aside from the additional tension of trying to maintain your multiplier by attacking enemies as fast as possible without being hit, your attacks actually have substance in Hero mode. Attacks look, sound and feel like they are actually connecting - whereas regular attacks seem like they slide over your enemy.
And so every battle becomes an attempt to beat one enemy to the point where you can enter Hero mode - hoping the triangle doesnít disappear before your interminably long strong attack animation finishes when you miss and hoping you donít outright kill him before he gets a triangle above his head. Eventually you will have it down pat - youíll even stop getting stuck on the enemies as they die and stand clutching their throat or stomach directly and immovably in your path . Then evil men are introduced.
The most important thing to remember when facing the men of Carn DŻm is Left Button - it blocks. Itís important to note, because until you face men, you have zero reason to block. Zero. I managed 100 chain multipliers without ever blocking before I fought men, at which point my multipliers became significantly smaller. Battles lengthened to the point of tedium as I attempted not only to learn this entirely new method of fighting, but also unlearn everything Iíd picked up from hours upon hours of fighting already.
If Iíd been playing single player, Iíd have given up. Fortunately, WITN has both online and local co-op - and make no mistake, it was built with co-op in mind. Many of the more annoying parts of the game are easily dissolved by partnering up with one or two of your friends, as the friendly AI is just awful otherwise. Youíll also gain access to the secrets not available to your chosen character - meaning more loot and special items.
Nothing seems capable of fixing the menu interfaces unfortunately, which seem built specifically to annoy. Each equipment category has 18 available spots for an item in their category - never mind how rarely you get amulets or how often you get weaponry. Whatever item you equip will stay in the exact same place it entered your inventory too, so if you equip the fourth pair of gloves you own and then give away or sell the rest you will have to move the cursor over to the fourth slot every time you want to repair them. As an added kick in the shins, the cursor remembers your placement for the next piece, so you will generally find any trip to the blacksmith a magical journey from one end of the eighteen spots to the other and back again.
I canít say it strongly enough, Lord of the Rings: War in the North is for Lord of the Rings fans. Lord of the Rings fans who have friends who also have War in the North. When it works it really works well and its attention to the canon and lore of the Lord of the Rings is phenomenal, but it does too many things poorly to put it in the same league as a game like Dark Souls or The Witcher 2.