ravenhoe's Lord of the Rings: War in the North (PC) review

A boring story and generic gameplay make this one easy to pass on

I was excited when I heard that Snowblind was working on an 'RPG' game set in the Lord of the Rings universe. My first sentence already contains some of my major criticisms of the game but let's do away with the good stuff first.

If you play this game on a high resolution, the world's look pretty neat and actually resemble the Tolkien-esque worlds you might remember from the films. The textures are crisps and so are the models, apart from the terribly wooden faces (How can I ever get back to those terrible face animations after LA Noire I ask you). The animations are also pretty good and despite the fact that controls are very superficial and don't go beyond the basic idea of smashing a button and making sure you're facing in the right direction, the attacks flow into each other and make the combat nice to look at. The fact that there are always three heroes on screen causes quite enjoyable carnage in parts.

However, that is all the good stuff I can say about the game. Let's start with the story. Going against Tolkien when making a game is both brave and utterly stupid, if you set a game set in the same universe but decide to create a different storyline, than you must have some major writing talent sitting in your office. Unfortunately, Snowblind did. There is an evil guy doing something and you have to kill him. You think I am joking ? That is the whole story, nothing else. Boring as hell. I skipped all the cutscenes and dialogues. Speaking of dialogues, the game ripped of Bioware's dialogue-wheel, but unfortunately, whatever your answers might be, the game does not genuinely react to it. For all I care, my heroes could start talking about The Dukes of Hazard and the world would not care. If you have ever played a game that actually makes your choices in dialogue mean something, you will be appalled by this mess. The voice acting is below par and like I mentioned before, the facial animations look worth than games that came out ten years ago (Vampire Bloodlines for example, looks much better).

The gameplay is pretty simple. Just click buttons and face the right direction, there are two basic attacks and each character has three special abilities (plus a few extra ones that can be unlock), all of which are the standard extra damage, area damage etc. fare, nothing to get excited about. There is some looting in the game but it is not interesting or exciting enough to make you want to kill monsters or look through chests. In fact, finding stuff is really tedious, because all the non-in-game menus (inventory, journal, talent screen, opening screen) look terrible and are very hard to navigate. Once again, a game that has been dumbed down for the console and ported to the PC without further changes (Skyrim anyone?).

The worst thing about this game is that the game does not use the fact that there are three heroes in the game at all times, the dwarf, the ranger and the elf-wizard. You cannot jump back and forth between characters, hell, you cannot even access their inventory and level them up ! If you play the dwarf for an hour and change to the ranger in between levels, he will have a dozen of skill points and character points unspent on his skill tress and character, that is just awful game design. No need to go as deep as Dragon Age when it comes to party gameplay, but add some orders, team-based skills, easy way to swap characters (F1-F3?) etc. This feels just like a single-player game with broken bots.

What else is there to say, the game is pretty dull and bland and with a non-existent story and generic gameplay, this game feels utterly outdated and I think Snowblind need to change their game if they want to stay afloat in the gaming world.

If you are looking for a mindless and cheap (once the price drops) action game or something to play through with friends (it does look fine after all), pick it up. I think it's not worth more than 8 GBP or 10$, but that is already pushing it. But with so many great games out there, I cannot recommend picking this up but would rather you played something worth your while.

So, above average presentation (visual) and good license (albeit not good use of license), average gameplay, below average complexity, inventory, longevity and atrocious story / characters.

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