Everyone knows the tale of Frodo and the one ring, we know of the dark lord Sauron and his plans to control Middle Earth. However, little is known of the other battles that were also being waged in the North. This is where you come in. Choosing one of three heroes you do battle with Agandaur, a servant to Sauron, to save the North and stop a massive Ork army coming down to aid Sauron.
It’s an original story and it is told very well in War in the North, a game whose hack-and-slash combat is really fun. It can get repetitive, but when there are so many Orks and Trolls to slay we are happy to oblige. There is a lot of loot to gather and lots of spells and abilities to learn, the co-op is also a great addition and adds a lot to the gameplay.
It’s time, once again, to form a union of men, Dwarfs and Elfs and set out on a mission to stop the forces of Agandaur in the north. When you begin the game you have a choice of three characters; it must be noted that you can change characters at the end of each chapter, so you can play as all three in one playthrough. Eradan is the Ranger of the team, he can use any weapon and is the most adaptable player. He can use dual weapons and can be leveled up to become very dangerous. Since he is a Ranger, his bow skills are the best and once leveled up will deal massive damage. His special abilities are vast and range from increasing the damage of weapons to being super sneaky, killing enemies unseen.
Farin is the Dwarf of the team, a Champion class, he has great power and can be leveled up to be the wrecking ball of the team, his ranged bow skills are not the best, but can be increased. He is the best with melee weapons and his main ability is the ‘War-cry’, which increases the damage he and his team mates do. The final member is Andriel, an Elf and a Loremaster class, she uses magic and is the healer or supporter in the group. She has many spells in her collection and she can also use dual weapons, meaning she can wield two swords at the same time, she can create potions that aid in battle as well.
When you begin the story, you soon find out that this is a hack-and-slash game with a simple combat system. There are heavy attacks and light ones, the light ones taking less time but dealing less damage. You can also do a nice roll to evade attacks and use ranged attacks (bow or staff) to snipe the Orks away. Holding R2 will allow access to your skills and you can also summon a giant eagle named Belaram to aid in battles when things get sticky. You move around with the left stick and the right stick is your camera. These are simple controls and they work, there is no need here for over the top controls that confuse players. Once you deal enough damage to a foe, a yellow triangle with indicate a critical strike is possible, this is a cool slow motion limb-severing slice and looks really nice.
There is also lots of loot to collect and hunt around for in WitN, there are many secrets to find that yield golden chests with rare items, including weapons armor and potions. During battle, you will gain experience points that allow your character to level up, these points can be assigned to strength, will, stamina and dexterity and extra points added to level up abilities. All this can be done in game via the select button and is pretty easy and effective too. Some weapons need a specific level to be used, so look out for the tips as you look in your inventory. The gameplay is fine for the most part but can get a bit repetitive as you run into a new environment slay Orks then Trolls then a big boss.
A problem I had, was with the AI, both friend and foe. The problem with the enemy AI is that, at times, they were missing me in but it was still registering as a hit. The problem with the AI of my team-mates, was that they kept getting in my way, causing me to be trapped and killed on more than one occasion.
The graphics are at times quite lovely as the environments are made with respect for the LotR’s lore and great detail. The player animations are smooth and the slow motion limb shredding is a good touch. The facial expressions needs some work, but the overall polish of the game means it is very pleasing to look at. The environments change from mountains to caves to forests to castles and all are perfectly done with shading of the textures and the lighting being very accurate. The shadows are accurate and the way that some of the Ice Trolls kick your ass is nice to watch, even if you are dying in the process. Another good touch is that when you are nearly dead, a team-mate can heal you via the x button, although they have to be quick and if they get hit the process it needs to be started again which can get annoying, especially when you have gone deep in a level and all three of you die.
The most fun is to be had during Co-op play when your friend is next to you, this is very fun as you slash your way through the hordes of Orks. You can heal each other, and play tactically with one player going close and the others fighting at range. The main problem during online play is that if you invite your friend who is a lower level than you it is very hard to play with them as they will keep dying and annoy you. There are also problems in the lobby system and sometimes Orks who are dead in your game will not be dead in your friend’s game.
The music is pretty nice, feeling calm when it needs to be and gets angry when in battle. The characters voices are well matched to their personalities, but the script, I would suggest, needs a bit more work and the delivery of the lines is somewhat lackluster. The main campaign is pretty long and it won’t be finished any time soon and there are also challenges on the map that add some longevity to the game, these include taking on wave after wave of Orks.
Overall, Lord of the Rings: War in the North has lots of positives: the graphics, gameplay (most of the time), the leveling up, the LAN Co-op and the loot. There are negatives as well: the weird friendly AI getting in your way, not very accurate battle damage and repetitive gameplay. I think you need to weigh out the pros and cons with this title, but, for the most part, the developers have done a great job in creating a nice story that plays out well and gives you lots of fun as well as filling you with that Lord of the Rings feeling. This is a good hack-and-slash title and for fans is a must. The North needs you!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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