The action RPG Lord of the Rings:War in the North is loosely connected to the world-famous saga by J.R.R. Tolkien. Three heroes join forces in the role-playing game and throw themselves fearlessly into the path of the dark hordes. Players have the choice of facing enemies solo with computer-controlled fighters, or in a team with two human allies.
Film flair and tube levels
The three adventurers’ journey leads them through eight chapters in The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. There is no chapter selection option, but you can return to previously visited locations via designated waypoints marked on a world map. Hostile orcs always show up the same way, in a predictable pre-defined pattern.
You make your way through dungeons, traverse mountains and search caves for valuable treasure in environments laid out in tube-like sections without any notable freedom of movement. Along the way, you pass through Rivendell and meet familiar figures like Elrond, Gimli and Arwen. The famous film characters, however, contribute very little to the storyline.
The level of difficulty is selectable, but the higher levels 'Heroic' and 'Legendary' are only unlocked after playing through the entire game several times.
Action-packed gameplay and a solid co-op mode
The player selects one of the three main characters to play as in The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and with that his personal gaming style.
The dwarf Farin is specialized in two-handed weapons, but can also combine one-handed swords and hammers with a shield and protect the group as a tank. In addition, the dwarf has a crossbow on hand that can shoot projectiles that cause devastating explosions in the advanced portions of the game.
The elf Andriel fires at enemies with magic attacks in ranged combat or switches to a staff for melée fighting. Magic spheres protect the group from arrows and hostile magic, heal the group and enhance the group effect of ranged weapons.
As the human representative in the trio, the ranger Eradan can dual-wield and keep enemies at bay with a bow.
The player has the choice of going into battle solo with computer-controlled companions or with human comrades-in-arms as allies. You can invite friends to a private game, host a public game or join a public game hosted by unknown players.
In the course of the game, you can switch your character at any time. Experience accumulated by another character is preserved and can be applied to all characters at the same game stage.
In combat, you attack enemies in action style. You don’t have to target the opponent. Instead, the player positions the camera accordingly, initiates a blow or ranged attack and escapes enemy attacks with rolls. Wounded creatures are finished off with critical hits. That can lead to spectactular attacks, for example, by climbing on a troll’s head and inflicting severe damage from that vantage point.
You don’t rescue injured comrades with healing spells, but approach them and activate a rescue button. You can quickly restore health and consumed magic energy, mana, with potions.
Defeated opponents drop items and give experience points, which you apply to your character for leveling up in development and other improvements.
Cut scenes at home in Hollywood, everything else rather tedious
Graphically speaking, the caves, environments and characters with their muted tones are in stark contrast to the colorful Asian RPGs. The style borrows much from the Windows and console game Skyrim, even if the character and landscape details don’t nearly measure up to its predecessor.
By contrast, the cut scenes are undeniably outstanding, as are the wonderful music and the professional voice actors. Unfortunately, the many dialogs cannot be skipped over and become boring by the second run-through at the very latest.
Although the treasure chests are stuffed with items, the equipped objects look all too similar to one another. Even the characters themselves are very limited in their ability to be customized to your wishes.
Conclusion: An acceptable co-op game with lots of dialog, but too linear
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North proves to be a solid co-op game. You can have fun bashing orcs and other nasty characters with your friends. At some point, though, the monotonous gameplay and strictly linear storyline that provide little opportunity for exploratory or discovery forays begin to make their existence felt in a negative way.
On the other hand, when playing with computer-controlled companions, there's no feeling of camaraderie. Every figure runs to the enemy recklessly and victory is dependent on physical advantages alone. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is played through comparatively quickly and doesn’t offer anything new to follow the campaign except higher difficulty levels.