The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an action, role playing game with some hack and slash elements. It was developed by Snowblind Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows in 2011. Two years later Feral Interactive developed and published an OS X port. This game was revolutionary in the Lord of the Rings gaming franchise as it takes elements from both the books and the films with characters from the books such as Halbarad making an appearance. This was something that had never happened before and was only made possible because in 2009 Warner Bros. obtained the rights to make games based on both the books and movies. The former was previously owned by Vivendi games and the Tolkien Enterprise while the latter was owned by Electronic Arts.
This game runs parallel to the main story of the Lord of the Rings and in a story that in many ways mimics the Fellowships journey. It starts off with our trio of heroes, Eradan, Andriel and Farin meeting Aragorn in the Prancing Pony Inn shortly before the Hobbits arrive there searching for Gandalf. He informs the trio of the rising threat in the North led by a dreaded Black Numenorean named Agandaur and tasks them with stopping the evil growing there. With the objective set the trio leave Bree and head North to stop Agandaur and his forces from laying waste to the Northern Kingdoms and joining with the rest of Sauron’s forces.
During your quest to stop Agandaur you will meet up with the heroes who attended the Council of Elrond as well as figures such as the twin sons of Elrond and Elrohir, Halbarad and a cast of characters that you’ll quickly come to enjoy. Some of these will fight by your side while others simply watch on as you do all the work but either way they all add something to the game. You’ll also get to travel to locations such as the Elven Kingdom Rivendell, Mount Gundabad, Angmar, the horrific Barrow Downs and many more iconic places from the books and films.
First of all, we have the stalwart Dwarf Farin. He’s your typical Dwarf character, stubborn, courageous and extremely hard to kill. He can tank a lot of damage and dish a fair bit out in return with either a hand weapon or shield or go full damage with a two-handed weapon. I personally chose the latter since the shield didn’t seem to make much difference, he is hard to kill whether he has a shield or not. While he is primary a close combat fighter Farin has access to a crossbow, it packs quite a punch but it has short range making it very situational and in all honesty, there was only a few times where it was needed.
Next, we have the brave Dunedain of the North Eradan. He’s your typical jack-of-all trade, he can mix it up in close combat with either a two-handed weapon or he can choose to dual wield which looks amazing but from my experience he, just like his dwarven friend, makes much better use of the two-handed weapons. He is quite a prolific archer too; his bow has good range and if you choose to go down the ranged upgrade path he can carry a lot of arrows. This make him a very valuable character as the other two can struggle with ranged combat.
Finally, we have our graceful elf Andriel. She is very different to the other two and much more suited to a support style of gameplay, she had access to a healing ability as well as a barrier which stops enemy missile fire which will save your life many times. That being said she can become a skilled close combat fighter using her staff and a hand weapon but her damage falls far short of the other two and she is much easier to kill. Using her for ranged attacks is viable too, she can shoot magic missiles from her staff in a way reminiscent of Gandalf from the Return of the King game for the PS2. The problem is although her ranged attack does a reasonable amount of damage she has far too few uses to rely on her for ranged combat so she loses out to Eradan.
Personally, when I played alone I always chose Eradan since he had the perfect balance of close combat strength and ranged ability which is invaluable as the characters controlled by the game are not exactly geniuses. In Co-op on the other hand I found myself playing as Andriel most of the time, her support style of play isn’t the most popular with players as most people prefer to be hacking orcs apart with a big axe or peppering them with arrows. However, on the higher difficulties she is truly the most important character of the three, she’s the one who will make sure you don’t die and while she won’t have anywhere near as many kills she will certainly make up for that with healing and protection.
Graphics and Audio
Well on the audio front this game is excellent which is no surprise considering it is a Lord of the Rings game. The background music is phenomenal and always matches the tone of the situation, my personal favourite being the music that plays in the Barrow Downs which at times gave an ambience that many horror games wish they had. The combat audio cues are excellent too, everything from axes crashing against shields to the brutal sound that you get whenever you deliver a devastating killing blow. The voice acting is in general great too although there were times where certain characters lacked a little bit of conviction in their voice whether that it due to the script which was a little odd at times or a lack of enthusiasm on the actors’ part we’ll never know.
Graphics are very good, the environments are nice and represent Middle-earth very well, every location looks exactly how you would imagine it whether it’s the ruined city of Fornost or the beautiful Rivendell. The combat looks great as all the attacks look fluid like you’d expect and the killing blow animations are in particular superb. A great feature that games seem to overlook is the weather itself which this game included, rain, snow, thunder and lightning are all present as the skies darken and the rain patters down on the environment.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a very solid game that any fan of either role-playing games or anything to do with the Lord of the Rings franchise should pick up. It adds a lot to the universe and while the story and characters were a little lacklustre it is still an enjoyable journey with replay value especially with friends. There’s so many weapons and armour to collect that I’m still hunting for pieces to this day and even if I had them all I would, every once in a while, pick this up for another adventure through the North.
The problems for this game come from the game breaking bugs that are still in the game today such as an infinite money glitch and the awful marketing campaign which had this not had the Lord of the Rings brand on it would have doomed this game to utter failure. It may have reached greater height had it not been released around the same time as Dark Souls, Uncharted 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
|+ The three characters all play differently||– Story is a little weak and there isn’t much in the way of character development|
|+ The music is incredible creating an excellent atmosphere||– Not many customising options for the characters appearances|
|+ The killing blows look great||– There are a lot of game breaking bugs, some of which were never fixed.|
|+ There’s loot and hidden areas everywhere||– Combat can get repetitive|