An epic trip to Middle Earth.

User Rating: 7 | The Lord of the Rings: War in the North PS3
I'm a pretty big The Lord of the Rings fan. So, naturally I was pretty darn excited when this game was announced. A Lord of the Rings based RPG/Hack-in-Slash? In was a big step in the direction I always thought The Lord of the Rings should go. Lord of the Rings is a world on its knee's, begging for a RPG game and I had no idea why it wasn't done before. The best part about this game? it doesn't star my favorite characters. Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli and the others are all simply cameos. This game made its own characters to star in a story not the War of the Ring. War in the North sounded better and better. Release day was approaching, I was excited but wary. Even though this game sounded great, I didn't want anything to do with another Fellowship of the Ring game. So I waited. The critic reviews and gameplay videos came in, the critics said it was 'meh' but the gameplay videos told me otherwise. I loved the look of it. When it quickly dropped to $30 I bought a copy for me and my friend. We both loved it.

Gameplay: 7.5 - Very Good

Playing co-op in this game is fun, but that doesn't mean the singleplayer is bad, or boring. For a first playthrough at least, I would argue that playing alone is better. You can do sidequests and listen to dialog in peace. If the action is your thing, the co-op is far better. The combat in The Lord of the Rings: War in the North(long title) is as fun to watch as it is to play. You have your usual heavy and light attacks, roll, skills, blocking, the works. But how do they add up? Very well I'd say.

Combat is simple, but fun. As you mash light attack, an arrow will appear above an enemies head. When this happens, your character will either execute the foe, or land a heavy hitting attack and go into "Hero Mode" which increases damage and builds a combo meter. Its a simple combat system, but its incredibly entertaining, even if its not perfect.

The real thing that spices up the combat is the skills unique to each character. Andriel, my favorite to play, has a great arsenal of spells that don't offend the Lord of the Rings name. You have to be careful playing with magic with the Lord of the Rings lore, or you might over step your bounds. She has subtle magic, like a heal spell, and a few force push like spells. She also has a nice protective shield similar to the one Gandalf used. Eradan, the ranger plays with stealth and the like. Farin the dwarf plays with explosive bolts and toughness abilities.

As you cut down the orcs and men, and you will, gore will go flying. Wait... gore in a Lord of the Rings game? Its M?! Blasphemous! Kidding. The gore is a fantastic addition, it really makes the combat much more interesting. The gore is well done, slicing off arms, legs, and heads is a glorious spectacle. Its not exaggerated like in God of War, its tasteful and semi-realistic.

The main problem with the combat is that its not as smooth as it should be. Its doesn't "flow" like it should, which isn't helped at all by the heavy attacks, which are so clunky its jarring. There are no combos in War in the North, so you'll have to settle with mashing square. I thought that this was a strange decision, it is. Combos would have been great, but the combat still works. 2 hand weapons have no reach what-so-ever, which is kind of strange. Shields are useless. Dodging is kinda floaty, but it works alright. There does not seem to be any invincibility frames when you roll, so you will have to be careful about that. I was never a fan of blocking in this game; not that its bad in any way, or doesn't work, I just liked dodging far more, and I found it more effective. Watch out for them trolls!

Leveling-up in War in the North is as pleasurable as it is in other RPGs, and very similar. Get enough XP and you'll be assigning 3 points to either Strength(melee damage) Dexterity(Ranged damage) Willpower(Mana) and lastly, Constitution(health). All of these are equally useful for all 3 characters, it really just boils down to how you play and what you like the most. As for skill points, you get the traditional 1 per level(there's 40 levels) and you can assign it to passive abilities(like more damage with dual swords) or active skills(like stealth).

The loot is the center here and its great. Finding new armor, sword or elfstones is a common thing in this game. Loot is everywhere and armor has various appearances on each character, but, being a somewhat low budget game, don't expect to much in this area. My main complaint in this section, is that there's far to much low grade, boring loot to get. This is a problem because it clutters your limited inventory. When it gets full, expect to start dropping stuff regularly.

Replay Value: Semi-high

The reason this category isn't high, is because of a glitch. One that is unforgivable and needs to be mentioned. One that never got patched. The one I got stuck with. The Mirkwood glitch it is dubbed, but it can really happen anywhere at anytime. I'm not going to explain it, go look it up. Its a gamebreaking glitch and thats all I'll say.

If you don't get that glitch, there's alot here, and if you like the game, you'll get at least 3 playthroughs out of it. The first playthrough is somewhere inbetween 15-22 hours. Big gap, but it depends on how many sidequests and how much talking to NPCs you do. Second and after playthroughs will take about 11-16 hours. You'll know what to do, might skip dialog, and just get to the fighting.

Graphics: 7.0 - Good

This area is inconsistent at best. Some areas look great, others are just passable. Some characters look great(Eradan and the other main characters) others are plain bad(Arwen, mainly). But at least this area is mainly good, hence the good rating. Facial expression are bad though, and flat out don't exist on some sidequest characters. The ones that do exist are minimal. Animations are good in some areas(mainly combat) and just ok in others.

Sound: 7.25 - Good

Nothing special, but still good. Sound effects are good, swords slashes sound right, and the voice acting is good, especially since the fabled Nolan North voices Eradan. The real highlight of this area is the soundtrack. Always great, and done by the same guy who did Dragon Age, the tunes fit well with The Lord of the Rings and go very well with all the moments.

Story: 5.75 - A Little Above Average

Lets recap here: a story NOT about the War of the Ring, and a story NOT about Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandalf. This is what I've been wanting! Is it good though? Yes, for the most part. Whats wrong? A few things. Really sad, this was such a huge step in the right direction. Now if only someone would make a Lord of the Rings game set in the Last Alliance or another non War of the Ring era...

The ending is actually my main problem with the story, I've got nothing against happy endings but this was too much. Everything is perfect, the main characters talk about getting some rest with a smile and are totally calm and cheerful - nevermind the fact they were just fighting the hardest fight they've ever fought 5 seconds ago - and they somehow know, and blurt out the fact that Frodo destroyed the Ring. In the middle of nowhere. Nobody told them. They just know somehow. It really did kill the entire moment.

Another big problem with the game's story is the villain. He's not fleshed out at all. His only motivation is that he serves Sauron and wants to destroy the North. This is all fine and dandy in most cases, but with the attention the game gives him, with is alot, he needs something else other than that. Not only that, but he don't feel like much of a threat until chapter 7. He just kinda exists until then. Also, the fact that his voice sound laughably "evil" does not help matters at all.

Another problem with this area is Andriel and Farin. They are very dry characters. Farin is far too nice and well mannered for a dwarf, and him getting along with Andriel from the start feels off. Dwarves and elves don't get along. Legolas and Gimli was the exception to the rule, not the rule. If they wanted them to become friends, then they should have built on it through the story, not start like that. Also unlike Eradan and Andriel, Farin just feels out of place. He don't have an obvious motivation like Eradan or Andriel, who are there on Elrond's/Aragorn's orders. Farin is there why? Mainly just to have a dwarf in the game. That seems to be it. Andriel's main problem is sort of like Farin's, but to a larger extent. She's just boring and dry and totally devoid of charm. Eradan is alright though. He has some witty dialog and that Nolan North charm. He makes the best head role for this game. Beleram the Eagle is also great, and his character is easily the most fleshed out. One will genuinely like him by the time the game ends.

One thing this game really does well story wise, is that it really pays homage to really huge Lord of the Rings nerds like me, for instance, the Ragadast appearance is my favorite moment in the game, and it was oh, so, well done. In fact, that whole section was perfect. Actually, pretty much all of chapter 5 was. You'll see when you get there. Another fantastic moment was when your character talks to a dragon! That part was awesome. They nailed the aura, the motivations, and the appearance of the dragon. Gwahir himself makes a well staged cameo. That was great as well. I also like how they handled Aragorn and Gandalf's cameo. They play a minor, but effective role. Frodo and the rest of the fellowship are up for a single chat as well in the game. In this story though, Eradan and Beleram steal the show.

Dialog is handled very well, and with 3 different main characters, one has a large variety of things to hear. A Mass Effect style dialog wheel controls all the talking. This doesn't effect much aside for asking questions(which there are alot) and saying things differently. You can learn alot from said questions about the Lord of the Rings universe; If you don't want to read the books(you should, their great)this is a great place to learn about the lore. Characters go over past events, current events and other things that shed light on the world. Side quests are interesting, most of the time, and this game has a great lack of fetch quests(yay!).

All in all, this is a fantastic game that many people will like, so long as they don't get that glitch I mentioned. The Lord of the Rings fans will probably be the people who enjoy the game the most.

-Great for Lord of the Rings fans
-Loot and other RPG elements
-Vast amount of great dialog
-Bad Villain
-Andriel and Farin

Overall: 7.0 - Good