One of my recent buys has been Lord of the Rings: War in the North thanks to Humble Bundle. I don’t play many co-op or multiplayer games but this game doesn’t require that. I’m sure it plays much better in multiplayer when an actual person is controlling one of the three main characters, but I’ll do my best to tell you about this one anyway.
Lord of the Rings is, if you don’t know, an extension of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Since its adaptation to film LotR has exploded. Games, merchandise, music, and more movies. Truly it is a story for the ages. I’m no lore master (and you may want to explore The Silmarillion and A Tolkien Miscellany for any deeper information) so I can’t vouch for the validity of LotR:WitN but it matches close enough to what I know.
Lore aside, LotR:WitN is a good game, if frustrating. I’m a fan of RPGs, they tend to be my favorite. While LotR:WitN isn’t an open world game it is still fun to take a good look around. Most levels are filled with secrets, and they are worth finding (though hard at times) as they often provide rare armor and typically a batch of much needed arrows. Or, if you’re like me, much needed potions.
This path is rather fun to look at as well. Landscapes range from vast mountains, to sprawling forts, to tangled forests. The characters, on and off the main cast, are original and look good. The Eagles flutter, the combat animations are smooth, and all around it looks nice. It’s still animation, the lips don’t quite match words, some established characters (coughAragorncough) look strange, and the hair moves in an odd way (in a different way than most games), but mostly you have a graphically strong game.
Don’t get too excited about voice acting though. Sean Astin is the only movie actor to sign on as their character’s voice. While Tom Kane does a good job as Gandalf and Fred Tatasciore is good as Beleram, I feel like no one else quite captures a character. In a way it’s nice, everyone is stoic and calm no matter the circumstances and it makes you feel like that’s just how those characters are, but it can drag on you. After you meet a couple lively characters, who are either from The Hobbit or not in the main story, the rest just seem so dull. Maybe that’s what the creators were looking for, but a bit of feeling isn’t a terrible thing.
I know I mentioned combat before, but it needs more explaining. Each character has a specific set of abilities that you can upgrade as you level. It’s not an in depth system but it’s not a bad one. While combat feels smooth, and looks great, it is the most frustrating aspect of this game. While you deal massive amounts of damage, upwards of 2,000 in one blow as you advance, you will still find yourself struggling. My main grievance with combat are the enemies. The small ones are easy to dispatch, but after so long you stop meeting hordes of small enemies and you are faced with hordes of major ones. These bigger enemies, not to be confused with bosses of which there are a few, flood the battlefield at times. They can withstand your major hits without effect, and while you can knock them back at times, mostly they ignore everything you throw at them. You will use a charge attack and they will stand not phased as they perform their own charge that knocks you down. It can be frustrating, especially when your AI companions glitch out and get stuck somewhere. Also, while the characters have both ranged and melee attacks (which both work well and can be switched between fluidly), when you enter into ranged mode your movement is stunted. You take a slow moving stance, good for aiming, but you can’t sprint even while holding the assigned key. Your best option is to roll out of the way but you are forced right back into aiming. The only way to run from an enemy is to switch back to melee and back again to ranged when you’ve gone where you want to go. And while using melee attacks you have little control over aiming. You’ll begin attacking in one direction but if the enemy moves, and you’ve been clicking like a mad-gamer, you’ll have to wait for the attacks to stop before you can change direction and attack something other than air.
Outside of combat there are a few minor quests. Most of them are achieved while you are on the main quest, harvesting plants and the like, but hold little consequence to the main story. Speaking of story, I like this one. This game is based along the main LotR plot only separate from it. You meet Frodo, and Aragorn, and Gandalf, and many others, but you exist outside of their path. The same goal is sought, defeat the forces of Sauron, but the trio of characters are faced with fighting Agandaur, one of Sauron’s most powerful minions. This trio (an Elf named Andriel, a Dwarf named Farin, and a human named Eradan guided by the Eagles) are powerful and brave and persistent. Against all odds they fight an enemy over whelming where no one else can, or will.
Overall LotR:WitN is a good game. It has its faults and can feel, at times, a bit forced, but I have enjoyed my play through. If you like RPGs, and Lord of the Rings, and are looking for a game that has both then check out Lord of the Rings: War in the North. I say play it, if you can stand the combat after level ten.