When it comes to the The Lord of the Rings, what are you a bigger fan of: the books or the movies? It’s an important consideration when deciding if you want to play The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. It’s a decent enough game either way, but how much enjoyment you’ll pull from it depends upon whether you want Jackson-style action or Tolkien-style exposition, because you’re going to get a whole lot of one and not much of other.
Because I don’t want to keep you guessing, I’ll tell you right now that you get more action. I know, right? From a video game?
So, is it fair of me to have wanted a better story? I think so, and for two reasons. First, this is a long game with plenty to do. That’s good. But if you don’t give me too much reason to do it, that’s not so good. Second, the game pulls its settings from the book itself. There’s apparently a line in the books which states that warriors in the north are distracting Sauron’s forces.
I’ve read the books. I don’t recall that specific line. Seems as good a reason as any to make a video game, though.
So, we follow Eradan (a Dúnedain ranger), Andriel (a Lore-master of Rivendell schooled by Elrond) and Farin (a Dwarf) as they fight to protect the North from Sauron. It’s a quest as epic as you’d expect from anything with the Lord of the Rings name, taking them from mountain passes to creepy forests to those awe-inspiring fortresses from the movies. But as I mentioned, if the scenery and action itself isn’t enough to propel you forward, you won’t get much help from the story.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an action-RPG that focuses mostly on combat. You can control your characters with either a keyboard/mouse combination or a gamepad, both of which are hampered by some awkward controls, especially during combat. The keyboard option provides greater ability to customize the settings, so I went that route, but you can certainly get the job done with a gamepad. Either way, expect to run into the typically annoying camera angles you sometimes get in the heat of battle.
That heat, by the way, is relentless. Although there are some boss battles, the ramping difficulty mostly comes from volume. War in the North is constantly throwing hordes of enemies at you with little repetition to break up the combat. Although you’re forced to use all three characters (and their various fighting styles) throughout the game, you’re still fighting the same enemies, just in different ways and in different locations.
When you’re not fighting, there’s plenty to explore and discover. Talking to non-player characters can sometimes get you sidequests to complete, and of course you’ll earn experience you can use to level up your characters, weapons and armor. Most of the interaction with the NPCs is inconsequential, but if you’re like me you’ll welcome the option to do some exploring and will talk with everyone just to take a longer break from the relentless action.
The graphics in the game are pretty good, and although the action is confined to set areas, the backdrops provide an impressive scope that seems to have been inspired by the movies. War in the North very much looks the part of an entry in Peter Jackson’s films, and that did provide an extra element of fun. My iMac is at the high end of the recommended system specs, and the game performed quite well at these settings.
Now, one more feature that could add to your enjoyment is the co-operative multiplayer, but this unfortunately only works over a local network; there is no online multiplayer option. As such, I wasn’t able to test this feature.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a decent enough game. At $29.99, it could be a war worth fighting for fans of The Lord of the Rings. For those just seeking a solid fantasy/action-RPG, however, there are games out there that provide more variety and better stories to keep you battling from start to finish.
Category: Action RPG
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
Minimum System Requirements: OS X v10.7.5, 2 GHz Intel processor, 4GB RAM, 11GB disk space, 256MB graphics card
Review Computer: 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 iMac, 4GB RAM, 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5670
Network Feature: LAN
Rating: M (blood and gore, intense violence)
Availability: Out now