The Lord of the Rings: War in the North takes players to an area untouched by Tolkien and the movies. The game introduces an entire new story line, a marvelous soundtrack, and fun co-op RPG action. The game also brands an M rating thanks to the savage combat system.
What the game lacks is "guts." Snowblind Studious took no risks when it came to stepping outside the box. The story is very bland to say the least, combat is very original and will get repetitive very fast, and your AI friends aren't won't do anything extraordinary. War in the North is just another typical action RPG that you won't mind on passing up if you don't have the extra cash.
All of the typical components of an action-RPG are here; an extensive amount of loot, a basic progression system, item shops and blacksmiths to repair damaged weapons and armor, as well as some combo-based sword play. What the game really emphasizes on though is it's three player co-op.
You and your companions (a human ranger, an elven mage, and a dwarven warrior) must set out on an epic journey through the north to defeat Agandaur, one of Sauron's most deadly lieutenants. He has begun amassing his armies in an attempt to conquer all of Eriador (Rivendell, Bree, and The Shire to name a few of the places).
However, even after all of this, I never once felt connected to any of my companions. One thing Tolkien did so well in his books was his ability to craft relationships between the reader and the characters in the books. I could care less if one of my companions died in the game.
The two other party members in your group can either be controlled by the AI, or you can have a friend or two jump in via online or local co-op. I highly recommend that plan to play though this game with at least one other friend. The combat in this game, while very fun, becomes long and very unforgiving.
The AI does a very poor job at executing all of their class specific skills and controlling the course of the fight. Every encounter with the AI will be a toss up between life and death. You as the player have no control over what they can and cannot do.
To make matters worse, there is no way for you to seamlessly switch from one character to another without having to exit the game or complete the level in which you're currently on. Therefore, updating each and every characters skills and armor is a real pain. Apparently the AI will automatically scale in skill automatically to the point of the game at which you're at, but I personally did not notice much of any change at all.
I was always the backbone of our group and the sole reason we stayed alive.The combat in the game is pretty basic to say the least. The ranger is a master of the bow but arrows can be hard to find and often I was forced to resort to my two handed sword. The mage, who is a master in the arts of sorcery and healing. And last, but not least, you have the warrior whom will act as the sole tank and damage dealer in your merry little group.
As I said before, War in the North is the first game in the Lord of the Rings franchise to brand a mature rating. Though this isn't because you'll hear F-bombs dropping from Dwarven mouths or see Hobbits streaking through Hobbiton, it's because of the gory, brutal combat.
Unique combos and skills will dismember arms from an Orcish body and a well placed sword slice will chop the head off an unlucky goblin. Your eagle friends will rip the heads of trolls or rip the throat out of an enemy dragon. The visceral, savage combat is a welcome experience that enhances the more realistic feel of the game.
As fun as the combat sounds, and actually is, Snowblind Studious ruined the experience by simply throwing the same groups of goblins and orcs at you over and over again for ten hours straight. In most RPGs, leveling up and customizing your skills and stat trees enhances your character's abilities and makes for an easier experience when it comes to fighting your enemies.
In War in the North, the way they designed the combat makes this feature almost entirely useless. As you level up, your enemies health points increase ever so higher, and in ridiculous amounts too. One fight with a troll may last you a good ten minutes. You'll also be fighting through the same hordes of Orcs and Goblins each and every time, making every fight seem exactly like the one that preceded it.
The graphics in the game aren't the best and appear to be very dated at times, but I very much liked the art style that Snowblind Studious decided to go with. The scenery is extraordinary and character models look very good. Even the little details such as blood splatter all over your clothing after a fight or arrows disappearing from your quiver as your arrow count drops all add up to feel like a much more refined and visually appealing experience.
If you're a PC player however, the graphics may become a huge nightmare for you. If your computer does not boast a powerful Nvidia graphics card, you'll experience lots and lots of lag and game crashes no matter which video card you own. Many people are experience these problems, myself among them, yet Snowblind Studious has done nothing to resolve the issues. If you don't have a Nvidia card, yet own a Xbox or PS3, I'd highly recommend purchasing the console edition for a headache free ride.
War in the North is another shining example of a game that could have been better with more development time and a more resourceful team. Snowblind Studious took a bold risk stepping outside of the original Lord of the Rings story line, yet failed to capitalize on creating anything memorable. The story and characters were both very bland and combat was fun, yet uneventful. The lack of an intuitive AI was a major letdown as well.
Replay Value: Low