Backlog Quest: Day 13 – The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Dear Journal,

Today my companions and I set forth on an epic quest to rid the north of an enemy that sought to make war against the people of Middle Earth.

I had heard some not-so-good things about Lord of the Rings: War in the North when it first launched, but a few updates later and I really can’t see what all the complaints where about.  The game is a bit short and linear for an RPG, but the all important question of whether or not it is fun is easy to answer; yes.

That’s it, review over, head home!

Just kidding.

War in the North takes the incredibly enjoyable dynamic of a three-race trio from the films (Elf, Human and Dwarf) and puts in into a simple action RPG format.  Selecting one of the three races (I went with human), you embark on your quest, which takes place along side the story of the films.  Sauron has engaged agents in the northern regions of Middle Earth to raise an army and attack the inhabitants; a plot meant to largely disrupt the efforts of those standing against him and to effectively force the humans into a two front war (the same strategy that ultimately brought down Hitler, just saying).  The heroes, Eradan, Farin and Andriel (along with support from various characters from the books and films) work to disrupt these plans and keep the War in the North from spreading.

No Napoleon Complex here.

In the quest to do so the game offers the ability to do it either solo, with two computer controlled partners or co-operatively with friends.  Either way the game is an enjoyable, if not simple RPG that borders on a button smasher.  Combat is fairly simple, with each character having various special, upgradeable moves and of course the ability to pick up and equip loot.  Each character also seems to have abilities that help to boost the other character as well, such as Andriel who regularly would cast a magic ability that healed all the players and protected them from projectiles while within the shield.  When one character falls another can revive them, and “death” is only permanent when all three characters fall in battle.  Surprisingly, the computer controlled characters do a fine job of reviving you as well as working in tandem with you; for example Andriel often cast her protection spell before your health reaches critical.  Without this dynamic the game would feel far more generic, and without it working so well it would be frustrating; luckily neither of these are true.

“In hindsight, we should of brought mittens.”

The story is probably the better part of the game, as it takes you through many different locations from within the films (and some not) and when it does weave back into the original story it is kind of cool. Admittedly I am a bit of a sucker for stories that take place in the cracks of other stories (it was a big part of why I enjoyed Liberty Cities Stories expansion for GTA IV).  This could have been done to a greater extent than it was though, largely focusing on a meeting with the original stories’ principal cast before they embark from Riverdale.  The game’s finale of course also lines up with the main story as well.  The game’s plot suffers most in the end though, when the game seems to just end kind of suddenly and anti-climatically.  I wasn’t looking for twenty endings like Return of the King had, but it does seem to be rather abrupt.

The game’s biggest flaws are in some ways the best parts of the game.  If you are looking for a giant, RPG style game where there is a lot of freedom of exploration and depth in character customization than this isn’t it.  The levels look great and feel big but they are really very linear and straightforward. Characters can be customized and of course there is loot to pick up and use but it never really felt like this character was “my character” but rather just a slight variation on the default.  For gamers not looking for an epic 40 hour adventure, rather a fun hack and slash with some depth and a descent story with a solid co-op experience than War in the North is great. The game mostly suffered critically from misconceptions of what the game was; but if you approach it as something just above a hack and slash that you can play with your friends than you will get far more enjoyment out of it.  It does have a certain “just one more quest” draw to it that causes it to be over sooner than you might expect but early enough to not get stale either.

Tomorrow I defend The Grid in Tron: Evolution.

Final Rating: 8/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: Xbox 360
Time to completion: Approximately 12 hours.
Gamer Score Earned: 695/1000
Price Bought at: $15
Current Price: $19.95 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: Under $20 is good; under $15 is definitely worth it.
Why you should buy it: Fun, basic RPG that is fun with friends or alone.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You are a troll and find it offensive to troll kind.

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