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Review

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Review

  • Game release: November 1, 2011
  • Reviewed:
  • X360

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

by

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.

I hope my laundry detergent can take care of these goblin blood stains.

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.

It takes more than a headshot to bring this guy down.

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.

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
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
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Discussion

16 comments
McGregor
McGregor

Still on Humble Bundle. It's a great selection for a pay what you want price!

c0mmanderKeen
c0mmanderKeen

Available right now in the Humble Bundle - pay what you want !

ruther_urquia
ruther_urquia

I'm glad I picked this game up. I've been trying to find a fun co-op game I could play with my younger brother, and this one has given us hours of fun! The review forgot to mention that you can command the AI companion to be defensive or aggressive. 

It's just a matter of finding the right strategy for every match. If you find it too punishing for your skill level, you can always switch the difficulty level to EASY. 

We're playing it for the 3rd time! And it's still fun!

Oh well! Taste is subjective. :)

Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

A huge step back compared to Return of The King for the PS2

PrinceWilliam20
PrinceWilliam20

I just got done playing this game with a couple of buddies all online. I have yet to play a mission using the AIs help. The bugs they talk about like reviving a teammate whos not really down or enemies that are down for some players but not others, I have yet to come across this problem. I have had a couple of problems were try rolling away from enemies attacks still effect my health, but not as nearly as many problems that are listed above. I just wanted to put out there that this game is a fun game to play especially with friends. The only thing that annoys me about this game is the fact that you can't change the difficulty until you have beaten it on the normal setting. This makes most of the levels pretty easy to get through and for ranking up until the last couple. The severing limbs and bloody combat always make the gameplay entertaining. Overall I would say this games worth a shot at playing especially if you have a couple of friends to play online.

kJHGl
kJHGl

It's funny how Gamespot mentions the few bugs in War in The North yet they praise Skyrim and call it GOTY when the majority know that Skyrim was the most bugged game of last year. People can make excuses for Skyrim but that doesn't change the fact that it suffered from hundreds of bugs (game killing and quest breaking). And don't make any excuse for it saying that open world big games suffer from bugs because Dark Souls was pretty much free from bugs. Yeah, sure, Dark Souls had a few minor bugs but the patch has removed all bugs now. Skyrim's patch only added more. Ignoring the bugs, Skyrim sucks anyway as the enemy AI is atrocious and the combat just consists of mashing down on one button. The quests? Repetitive random quests suck. I couldn't care if they are infinite. Dark Souls GOTY of 2011. War in The North, best loot game of 2011. Who says so? kJHGI says so. Goodbye.

green_abobo
green_abobo

looks tempting. hopefully they will patch and wont pull the plug on the multiplayer after a year like conquest. gotta love terms and conditions.

drknessfeeds
drknessfeeds

Worth a try, hopefully the bugs will get patched over time.

RobDev
RobDev

@kJHGl Not a comment on the quality of the game but dark souls is hardly the open world sandbox game skyrim is.

matastig
matastig

@kJHGlNo but Because Dark Souls was made by Japanese that;s why  =P

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

 @kJHGl It pays to write reviews. Literally. 

GameSpot has been known to be bribed numerous times. Hell, look at the COD games.

Warmuro
Warmuro

 @kJHGl Says the Dark Souls fan. I wonder how many buttons you use while you're fighting in Dark Souls man. All you need to do is dodge or block with a shield and click right or left mouse button to attack in a fight. You talked as if Dark Souls is a game like World of Warcraft, which you must use 20-30 skills in a PvP fight. However, combat mechanics of Dark Souls is better than Skyrim but it's not enough to make the game "game of the year". What's more, this Lord of the Rings game is another disappointment for all LOTR fans in my opinion. I would still prefer watching LOTR movies to playing this War in North.

matastig
matastig

@Warmuro Dark Souls is for hardcore gamers ,  Skyrim is for  "western" causal gamers =P

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

 @Warmuro  @kJHGl You sound like someone trying to claim that Bayonetta is nothing but pressing X and dodging. Try playing.

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

First Release on Nov 01, 2011
  • Macintosh
  • PC
  • + 2 more
  • PlayStation 3
  • 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.
7.6
Average User RatingOut of 1007 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Snowblind Studios
Published by:
Feral Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genres:
Action, Role-Playing
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence