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The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed Nov 2, 2011
  • PS3

Too many frustrations interfere with the joys of killing orcs and collecting loot in The Lord of the Rings: War in the North.

It's not fair. Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, and the rest of the fellowship get all the glory, but without the brave struggles of so many others, they never could have succeeded on their vital errand. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North tells the tale of three new heroes who helped make the fellowship's success possible, and it gives you much of what you'd want from a hack-and-slash role-playing game set in Middle-earth. There's plenty of great loot to collect, a number of powerful abilities to acquire, and tons of orcs and cave trolls to slay. Unfortunately, these bright spots only make it that much more disappointing when frustrations arise and overshadow this heroic adventure, as they so often do.

Andriel of Rivendell; Eradan of the Dunedain rangers; and Farin, champion of Erebor, are thrown together by war and join forces. This union of elves, dwarves, and men sets out to foil the evil forces of Agandaur, a servant of the dark lord Sauron whose schemes threaten free peoples residing far from the conflicts in Rohan and Gondor. The story is typical, but it provides an excuse to send you to creepy barrows, snowy mountains, dwarven mines, and other places that evoke the atmosphere of the Lord of the Rings films. And fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's books will appreciate appearances by characters from the novels that were left out of the movies.

Regardless of which hero you select, your basic abilities in battle are the same. You have light and heavy melee attacks and a ranged attack. After enemies suffer some damage, a symbol indicates that they're vulnerable to a critical strike, and performing a heavy attack at this moment does extra damage and may sever some limbs, even if you're wielding a dull staff. The sight of limbs flying and black blood spilling brings some grim satisfaction to the combat, but that satisfaction is too often lost in frustration. In the early hours, you don't have enough abilities for combat to stay interesting for long, but you still have to fight wave after wave of similar enemies. Flawed collision detection results in some attacks that appear to hit without causing damage, as well as some attacks that don't appear to hit yet knock off a chunk of your life. And certain early enemies, like the self-destructive goblin sappers, do so much damage that you might spend way too much time crawling around on the ground, waiting to be revived by one of your fellow party members.

War in the North utilizes a revival system similar to that seen in Gears of War and numerous other games; when your health is depleted, one of your companions needs to get near you and hold down a button for a few seconds. Then you hop back on your feet, good as new. Enemies awkwardly stop attacking you and just stand around once you go down on your knees, though they mercilessly attack those who come close in an attempt to rescue you. When you're trying to revive a downed companion, you may find him or her surrounded by enemies whose attacks knock you to the ground for a few seconds. This isn't an enjoyable challenge to overcome, and it can make reviving your companion before he or she dies all but impossible. When you fail and are forced to restart, you often find that you've been set back considerably and need to replay surprisingly lengthy and difficult sections. There's no option to save manually, so you're at the mercy of the game's infrequent autosaves.

The only good troll is a dead troll.

As you level up, you put points into skill trees and acquire useful new techniques, which makes combat more fun. Andriel can cast a shielding dome that heals party members, for instance, while Eradan can unlock dual-wielding and become a much more effective damage dealer. You also periodically get your hands on exciting loot, and it feels good to mow down hordes of enemies with your new flaming sword or to slot a gem into your hammer that makes it deal shock damage. Though these elements make your progress more rewarding, they can't dispel the demons that plague your journey. For instance, during one battle in which you must prevent Agandaur's forces from shattering a door, you may find your attempts to fend off two trolls seemingly hopeless because they can destroy the door with a few quick blows. But if you simply stay away from the door and pick at the trolls with ranged attacks, they might just stand by the door harmlessly, as if they have forgotten their mission.

If you tackle this adventure alone, your AI companions do a decent job of assisting you. Although they let you do most of the slaughtering, they at least make a convincing show of fighting off the orc hordes, and Andriel regularly conjures her healing sanctuary when you are in need. But War in the North is a game about fellowship, and it's more fun to face its joys and frustrations with friends. Unfortunately, the online multiplayer has its own problems. If you invite a friend to join you who hasn't played through as much of the game as you, the disparity in character levels can make it difficult to progress together. Technical issues also interfere with your cooperative quest. Enemies might appear to be dead to one player but alive to another, or you might see prompts informing you that your friend is dying and needs your aid when he or she is perfectly fine.

Andriel doesn't let the fact that she wields a staff stop her from chopping off some heads.

War in the North's visuals make good use of atmospheric details; the falling leaves in Rivendell create a feeling of autumnal melancholy, and the swirling snow on a frigid mountain might send shivers down your spine. But the environments, and the ways you interact with them, aren't always believable. You might see a treasure chest just a short distance up a river, for instance, but because your character can't climb or leap up the three-foot slope in the riverbed, you must find a different path to reach it. Battle animations similarly take you out of the moment at times. In addition to severing limbs with staffs, you might impale orcs with dull, hefty hammers or do other things that don't make sense, even in this fantasy world.

There are times when War in the North shows you the game it could have been--when the exhilaration of mowing down fearsome foes or the satisfaction of seeing your character become more powerful makes you want to press forward. But each time the game starts to hit its stride, it soon stumbles and falls on its face. For a trio of heroes whose destiny is to save the northern regions of Middle-earth, this fellowship spends too little time earning glory and too much time crawling around in the mud.

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The Good
A good assortment of Middle-earth environments and characters
Leveling up and acquiring new abilities is rewarding
Fun to collect powerful new weapons and gear
The Bad
Automated save system leads to infuriating setbacks
Problematic revival mechanic
Frequently odd enemy behavior
Technical issues with multiplayer
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Lord of the Rings: War in the North


I picked this game up a few days ago and have had difficulty putting the controller down. The action is fast paced and the world, though not open, is quite interesting. You can't go anywhere you want, but there are "secrets" to find that require you to use your characters special knowledge to find holes in the walls or equipment left by rangers that passe before you. It allows for enough exploration that the game does not feel forced, but not enough exploration for you to really feel entirely immersed in the experience.

Most things in this review are entirely true. In the beginning you are forced to fight quite a lot of enemies without much of a skill inventory, but it is a great skill builder and doesn't last very long at all. You can learn a new ability, or add strength to ones you already have, every time you gain a new level and leveling is not a difficult thing to do.

 I think the problem with this review is that the reviewer was looking at this game as a pure hack-and-slash experience, but in order to succeed you need to incorporate some strategy as well. You can't run into the middle of a group of enemies to revive a friend because they will see you and interrupt you, but if you were to be playing as the ranger and use your stealth skill you will easily sneak into the pile and revive your friend in time to roll out and start slashing away again. As for attacking the kamikaze trolls with an ax, try range next time. I think you will find they are quite a welcome enemy because you can use their explosions to destroy surrounding hordes of uglies.  I think the strategy aspects make the hack-and-slash action much more enjoyable than a game that only requires you to push buttons really fast.

 War in the North definitely does have it's downfalls though, like the limitations in character choices, mediocre  voice acting and cheesy dialog, but the fast paced game-play mixed with all of the cool skills and loot makes for a really fun game (especially if you are playing with friends since the AI is pretty sub-par).


Another disappointing LOTR game. I think the best LOTR game is Lego LOTR so far. The Rise of the Witch-King with last patch+director's cut balance patch and BFME 1-2 are another good LOTR games. The Return of the King was okay, but all other LOTR games are quite disappointing. Actually there is not a good quality game which The Lord of the Rings series deserve, but acceptable.


Review sucked. I have to read it cause I cant stand to listen to its voice....... 


Game is great I give it an 8.0. Its fun. Makes you feel like your in the LOTR universe.


 Has a few issues( cant save when you want) and graphics could have been better but most games have some issues...I would recommend. Specially at the price it is now.   ..


This game is the best game to come out of the lord of the rings franchise. As a LOTR superfan i can proudly say this game gave me hours of enjoyment and i'm now on my third time completeing it. it is a great game and for al LOTR it is a definite must have and deserves much higher than a fair.


I just got this game with a price drop down to 20 bucks, and it was definitely worth it. I think it really deserved a rating more of "good", but i do agree with the review as far as the the "save" system. In fact, if you indeed finish the game, you can't really go back and play the missions. You are forced to restart from the beginning at a albeit at a higher level.


Another thing is if you like playing as the Ranger, they really goofed that up unbelievably. He's not as much as a Ranger as he is an Elf given his Armor. It's all Elven looking Armor and Helmets which is a shame, because the Non Playable Ranger Characters REALLY look like Rangers, which was a big mistake on the developers part.


If you decide to play as the other 2 characters (and i choose the Dwarf) you won't be disappointed in my view. The Graphics look good, and combat system is MUCH better than its prequel Conquest. In fact they are two TOTALLY different games in all aspects. I never played Coop, but as far as a Campaign, and given the price drop of 20 bucks i enjoyed it.


I really really wanted to like this game, but after reaching level 19 the game had become very repetitive and had begun to pretty much totally rely on my least favorite game design cop-out of all time...enemy attack by constant swarm while locking you in a space with no cover. With that replacement for design creativity firmly in place, they then threw in the instantly teleporting boss fight who is backed up by the never ending swarm of enemies while locked in a space with no cover. And then I lost interest.


Bummer, still going to buy it though, hopefully some of the bugs are fixed now!


@Red-Raiden-MGS Well LEGO The Lord of the Rings has beat it now.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an epic multiplayer action role-playing game based on the renowned novels by J.R.R. Tolkien.
    Average Rating1026 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
    Developed by:
    Snowblind Studios
    Published by:
    Feral Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence