sammo21's The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (Xbox 360) review

And By One Disc Bore You...

Lord of the Rings: War in the North (WITN for short in this review) is one of the worst types of games for me. The game can’t be completely awful so I write it off and move on nor can it be so good that I can’t wait to absorb every second of it; it has just the right hook for me that its completely mediocre but I keep playing it. I hate those.

WITN is basically a hack and slash with some RPG elements thrown in, because as we all know the kids love the RPGs. The story puts you not directly in the events of the movies, but during a side campaign involving original (well, to an extent) characters. Actually, outside of running into characters from the movies and books (some characters from the books not seen in the movies) you are dealing with an all new baddie who just happens to be the right hand of Sauron no on apparently was ever aware of…naturally. This sends you and your party on a quest to basically distract and disrupt the enemy while the other characters are too busy doing the things we already know and care about. The story isn’t really exciting or even all that important, but if you are a fan of the books as well as the movies then you might find some small hooks here. I know that I did, God help me.

The game play is severely basic, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately for WITN it is more boring than bad. Combat is limited to heavy hit, quick hit, and evade. There is a button for block, but I found it useless since I always took a larger portion of damage than expected using it and you NEVER receive or learn a parry move which makes the combat extremely boring. Basically anytime someone attacks you are just going to roll out of the way and then circle back to them. Each character does have a ranged attacked, and honestly I preferred to do this over the general melee attacks because they were always more powerful. The combat is extremely boring, but that is just coming from playing 1 class of the Ranger. From the looks of things from my AI companions (warrior, mage) things didn’t look much different. You also have the ability to call down a large Eagle to attack foes, but this is limited to specific areas and not always as cool as that should inherently be. Another problem I have with the combat is the animations are of a really low quality. I hate when I see the same canned animation go over, and over, and over again. If you fight trolls and want to do a quick finish you are going to stop playing for about 5-10 seconds and watch your character do the same thing he did with the last 20 trolls you killed. Combat also has no weight and since there are no combos or interesting change ups to perform, you just mash your way through everything.

There is a skill tree you can utilize which lets you do things like focus on melee combat, ranged combat, stealth, or even take up dual wielding or using one handed weapons and a shield. I did think that the talent tree allowed for a more customized experience and since you can go through and replay missions again after the fact they encourage you to keep leveling up your character. I do not know of the level cap as I hit 21 at the end of the game. Each character also has their secrets scattered across the levels that only they can find. With the ranger this ended up being secret caches left behind by rangers in the past, but I believe the female mage has the ability to find plants and make potions.

Loot is the standard fare with items being gray, green, blue, or purple based on rarity and quality. Loot was fine, but you find so much and at such a steady pace that it not really a factor. There is a character customization feature, but it is pretty throw away and some what hidden within the game. I found out about it from a loading screen tip, so that shows how important it is. When you are in any of the game’s hub stages (I think there are a total of 3 throughout the game) there is a mirror you can locate (which actually doesn’t look like a mirror in my opinion) to change options like hair, eye color, etc. I actually just left my guy as the default look as there was no real reason to do otherwise.

Music is fine but extremely inconsistent. There were times I would go 10 minutes without fighting and the score was up to 11 in bombast roaring through as if I were fighting in Helm's Deep, but no...I'm just walking through a forest cutting open some barrels. Also, you will find yourself spending 30% of the game just attacking barrels and crates hoping to get 1-2 silver from each one.

There is a Bioware style conversation system, or at least that is what it appears to be from the outside. There is no morality system at work nor are there alternate endings. Basically you have the option to listen to back-story and exposition and occasionally refuse a quest, but that’s about it. Conversations were typically so boring that as soon as I’d read the accompanying text I would skip it. Then, there are some back story things from the books if you are into that sort of thing.

Basically the game lacks depth and polish. Because of this the game became very boring, but I rented it and wanted to beat it before I took it back. I would not buy this game, and even playing some things co-op didn’t make it more fun. I typically was getting upset over the game because of the pointlessness of blocking and the fact I could never parry attacks. This is a movie tie-in game that has no business lacking the effort that it does. The original movie tie-in LOTR games were better than this. No excuse.

Oh yeah, Nolan North did the voice of the Ranger character. There is that…right?

I played the entire game using the Ranger class. I played on normal difficulty and reached level 21.

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