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Lord of the Rings War in the North Review

LOTR

At Last another LOTR Game

 

Lord of the Rings is loved by geeks worldwide, it’s a story of good overcoming evil with large scale epic battles between man and orc on beautiful landscapes.

Games based on the Lord of the Rings franchise for the PS3 are few and far between, Aragorns quest is loved by many fans and everyone was excited to learn that the makers of much the loved rpgs like the Champions series on the PS2 were making a Lord of the Rings game and they certainly didn't disappoint.

War in the North takes place at the same time as events from the books / films. Your party consists of an elf, dwarf and human and you can play as either, switching races between levels. The human has excellent sword strength and ranged skills. The elf can cast magic but struggles in hand to hand combat and the dwarf can wield some mighty powerful axes.  All 3 characters are always active, and if you don't have any friends to play with the computer will take over. The computer controlled characters are pretty limited in what they can do, fortunately they are very good at reviving you when you fall but they can sometimes keep wandering into the heart of battle and getting themselves killed even if you keep telling them to get back and defend.

It’s probably worth nothing though that the dwarf and human characters are not that dissimilar. When you level up (after collecting enough experience points from killing enemies) you can choose what attributes to make stronger and so it allows you to customise any character to your preferred playing style. The only character unique abilities are the magic skills you can buy. When I was playing it with a friend the dwarf had far stronger ranged ability than the human.

The basic idea of the game is that you work through a series of levels each set in a new location, slashing your way through bad guys such as orcs and Uruk-Hai from the Lords of the Rings universe. Scattered throughout each level are set pieces such as ambushes, where you normally get access to rapid firing arrow machines, which give you a huge amount of satisfaction from pounding the crap out of those damn orcs. Each level also features a final boss, who generally requires you to exercise your brain a bit more to work out the best way to break them down.

As you progress you level up becoming stronger, and unlocking new magic powers and picking up new armour and weapons. You can add gems to armour and weapons which give them special abilities such as fire damage, it’s your classic RPG set up.

There are three difficulty levels and if you want to get the platinum you'll need to complete it on all of these, fortunately the game doesn't do anything silly like becoming stupidly difficult when you get to the final difficulty level. The difficulty rises in line with your ability increase, so it’s really just like playing the game through 3 times on the same difficulty.

Why bother to keep coming back then? The same reason people keep playing any RPG, the progress system is addictive. You constantly find new weapons and armour, slightly better than your current setup and want to keep coming back to get something even better.

I haven't mentioned the best part of this game yet, it features 3 player co op over Playstation network (and locally). You can play the entire game and earn all the trophies with a friend online, it has full voice communication support, private rooms and invites.  In my experience the servers are incredibly stable and I only had a few disconnections while I earned the platinum with a friend online.

Graphically the game is also very pretty. The forests of Mirkwood are beautiful and Rivendell is well modelled. You also get to visit some open planes which don't look too shabby.

I do have some problems with this game; it teases you into believing you can satisfy your geeky cravings by showing just about every location from the Lords of the Rings universe on the world map, however in reality you only get to visit a small subset of them. Personally I hope they will release another game in the future that lets you visit more locations.

Its also true that the story line in the game isn't particularly deep or engaging it would have been nice if it was more tightly intertwined with the main plot from Lord of the Rings but, who really cares when you get to explore the Lord of the Rings universe ?

Initially there were a lot of bugs reported on the official forums. Throughout around 20 hours of playtime I only experienced one major bug, but fortunately we were able to work around it fairly easy. Snowblind have now released a patch for the game which should fix most of the issues people were having.

If you don't have any friends to play this game with or an interest in Lord of the Rings, this game isn't really anything special and you'd probably be better off playing something like Skyrim instead, however as a co op game its great fun and well worth checking out.

 

By Aaron Kalair

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Mon, 16 January, 2012 10:06 PM