The Lord of the Rings has generally been well represented on the videogame front. The movie-games were solid, breaking away from the generalisation that games based on movies just can’t be any good. Once Peter Jackson’s film trilogy ended the series’s games went on a bit of a downfall, moving from action to real-time strategy and never really finding much footing. Enter Snowblind Studios, a developer that has successfully reignited the beloved franchise with the solid War in the North. While the game’s story is dull and the characters lifeless, the combat posses quite the challenge alongside some truly epic boss battles. While it might suffer from repetitiveness and a shallow inventory system, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an admirable return to form for the classic series.
Fun combat – War in the North is, at its core, an action-RPG with a strong focus on co-op gameplay. Three warriors — a human, a dwarf and an elf — team up to form a formidable group, making for varied combat against endless waves of Middle Earth foes. The combat can get quite brutal: limbs are chopped off without hesitation, blood spews out in all directions and boss battles are epic and memorable. The combat is a mixture of long-range and close-range attacks, with all three characters being especially skilled in one specific area. The dwarf, for example, is brutal and merciless with his axe, while the human ranger will be more efficient with the bow and arrow from long range. You’ll see more blood and gore in this game than in any Lord of the Rings game. The combat can be satisfying and truly devastating.
Great boss battles – From club-wielding trolls to stone-giants and even spider queens, War in the North has it covered when it comes to boss battles. You’ll come across a number of the bosses more than once, which definitely adds a sense of repetitiveness to the experience, but early on these battles can be fun and quite epic. These massive beasts are incredibly satisfying to stab, hack and shoot, making for some memorable combat moments.
Solid leveling-up system – While there aren’t any massive differences between how each of the three characters evolve, the game does reward for efficient combat and the use of combos. You can work up satisfying and devastating combos thanks to the game’s accessible combat system, which makes the bigger battles that little bit more engaging. You can spend points earned on character skill upgrades, and while you might not approach battles all that differently from character to character, playing the game alongside two friends is definitely more engaging than entering battle with two AI-controlled characters.
Combat gets repetitive – Slicing and dicing your way through big bosses and seemingly endless waves of minion enemies is great fun at first, but the combat hardly evolves from start to finish. While you can improve the effectiveness of your character’s skills, how these skills are executed doesn’t change. Furthermore, the game doesn’t really offer anything new to the genre. It’s a shame because initially War in the North is great fun. It just ultimately loses some of its pizazz the further you get into the experience.
Dry story – War in the North fails to capture the imagination of the Lord of the Rings series, offering a dry and boring narrative. Characters are dull and lifeless, and it’s a little hard to care about their objective if caring for them is a chore in itself.
While it certainly has its issues, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an admirable return to form for the series. Combat is fun but can get repetitive, although that is countered by some truly epic boss battles. The leveling-up system is solid, although it would have been great to see more variation between characters. The game is built around a cooperative experience, and while the AI does a decent job of complimenting you on the battlefield, the experience is considerably more satisfying with friends.