When Lord of the Rings: War in the North was first announced it sounded extremely promising. Deep down, I’ve been waiting for an action-RPG that properly makes use of the lore, and unfortunately it seems that I and fans of the franchise will have to wait a bit longer.
The story takes place around our Fellowship of three as they track Agandaur, Sauron’s chief lieutenant who is tasked with operations in the North. During the course of their adventure they will visit locations such as the Prancing Pony in Bree, along with places such as Rivendell, Carn Dum, and several other iconic locations.
The best way to sum up Lord of the Rings: War in the North is disappointing. As you travel through each iconic location repeating the exact same combos and tasks you begin to realize just how shallow War in the North truly is. With such a huge emphasis on the action segment of the title it seems appropriate to start there. During my play-through this had to be the most disappointing aspect. In standard fashion players will have both a light and heavy attack at their disposal, along with a ranged combat option. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue since typically there are tons of combos to unlock. This isn’t the case with War in the North. Players will be forced to use the same combos over and over again. The worst part is that changing weapons doesn’t yield different results.
For instance, if you equip an ax it has the same finishers as the sword does. Not only does this lend to an extremely repetitive combat system, but it also makes the search for new loot pretty much pointless. Unfortunately, repetition isn’t the only issue with the combat system. There were several different occasions when I ran into hit detection issues, and the skill tree for each character just isn’t all that interesting. There’s no flow to the combat, and often times you’re stuck mashing the same buttons and watching the same animations carry out. Even a little bit more variety could have helped the combat from feeling like a complete chore.
The other main allure is the role-playing. This is where things begin to improve a little bit. There are tons of different looking pieces of loot to acquire and it seems Snowblind put a big emphasis on the loot side. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised how many unique items there was to collect, and players are even given the choice to slot elemental gems into their weapons.
These additions are hardly unique; however it was nice to see them nonetheless. The other emphasis is on character progression. Like the combat this is a mixed bag. There are three specific character paths, each that have an additional three sub-trees. On paper this sounds great; however the result in-game is far less desirable. My biggest issue with these skill trees is that there’s nothing note-worthy about them. They don’t add anything significant to the combat system, and really don’t help it from feeling any less repetitive. I would have much rather preferred a more traditional skill tree where players can unlock combos. Lord of the Rings: War in the North also has a Mass Effect-esque conversation system, which serves as a decent way to gain additional knowledge about the story and take on extra quests.
The presentation carries on the trend present in the combat system, and RPG mechanics. The graphics are just not very good. In fact, War in the North is behind, especially when it comes to the environments. Frankly, War in the North doesn’t compete, not even close. The sound design is a little bit better than the graphics, however is still muddled by the same inconsistencies. The voice acting isn’t that great in general, though that’s not indicative of the entire cast. The music on the other-hand is great, and really fits well into the overall theme of Middle Earth. The biggest issue with the sound design, like the combat system is repetitive. Lines during combat sequences will often be repeated, and I also had a few instances of audio cutting out.
War in the North also features 3-player online, system-link, and split-screen cooperative play. It was extremely difficult to gauge the cooperative element since only a few games were going at one time, and there were significant latency issues with each match I played in.
Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a repetitive and often underwhelming romp through the northern realm of Middle Earth, and even fans of the franchise will be hard-pressed to pick this up over the large quantity of quality titles that have already released.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this game was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes.