Features & News

Hands On: Lord of the Rings: War in the North

November 24, 2011, Author: Diogo Miguel

It’s hard to find a franchise like Lord of the Rings that is still widely recognised all over the world after so many years. Lords of the Rings began as literature written by renowned author J.R.R. Tolkien, and later moved on to the big screen, thanks to Peter Jackson’s epic film adaptations. Video-games based on Lord of the Rings have come out but the latest, War in the North, is attempting to offer something different.

War in the North has a vast cast of characters but it’s only possible to control three main characters. It’s possible to chat to other characters via branching dialogue options, though. Each of these three characters has unique skills that makes them adept at certain tasks. The ranger, for example, has a bow for long-range attacks but his defence is weak. The dwarf is the strongest of the trio and takes less damage but is slow. The elf focuses mainly on magic and is the character that heals others.

It is really up to the player but it’s recommended to start with the character that best suits a specific play style, but fortunately all three characters will work together when playing a level. The other two characters can either be controlled by two players online or A.I. and it’s possible to swap characters between levels, which comes in handy, allowing you to pick a character that’s better suited to a particular level.

There are plenty of trolls in this game.

Dying in War in the North does not necessarily mean starting over again from the beginning of a level. Each of the characters is able to revive the other two, which means that all is not lost as long as there is at least one character alive. The reviving process does take a bit of time so it’s wise to try to clear out a room before attempting to help fallen characters. The other way to not die is to use potions that are found scattered around levels. There’s a lot of different items to find by searching enemy corpses or finding hidden passages in levels. There are stores in the levels too, which make it possible to buy items and sell any items found. These items are not just for show, though, as the likes of armour will increase defence statistics.

Combat comes down to using either normal or strong attacks. These two attacks combined create combos that culminate in special attacks that give more experience points, of which can be used to fortify character statistics.. Some of the special attacks are incredibly gory with enemy limbs and heads getting chopped off in slow motion. It’s not an uncommon feature but titles are given to special kills, such as one for performing a head shot with an arrow. There are also skill points earned, which unlock new abilities in a typical RPG style skill tree.

There is a main village hub to explore but a map is used to select levels. Each level is an entirely different location and some of the environments include dungeons, forests and mountains. It’s almost like being inside an interactive version of the movies, thanks to the finer detail found in each location. Progression in levels mostly comes down to clearing successive rooms of enemies, which include series stalwarts like Orcs and giant spiders. In my playthrough, other goals did appear on a few occasions, such as rescuing other characters or destroying specific targets.

This was fortunate, as it made the game feel less repetitive as a result, and of course, a boss fight against a giant spider also made the game much more interesting, changing the pace nicely. In this demo session, it wasn’t possible to try the online mode but there were some positive signs in the single-player, such as a barrier to make sure everyone is ready to go on to another section, that hinted that the pieces are in place for it to work nicely.

It's just a giant eagle about to rip that orc apart.

Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a game not only for fans, but also for anyone into role-playing games. It’s an interesting dynamic to have two players join in online, and the addition of the levelling system and loot should make it a game that’s easy to sink the hours into. Lord of the Rings might have a few video-games under its belt already, but War in the North seems like a worthy new entry.