Mr. Toilken's Wild Ride
Snowblind, renowned for its action-RPG Champions of Norrath, takes license with another well-known fantasy intellectual property in War In The North. You control one of three forgettably-named characters - an elf wizard, dwarf warrior, or human ranger. Definitely more action than RPG, this game is a fun but ultimately forgettable afterthought to the LotR lore that expands on absolutely nothing.
Players start in some nameless battle in a hobbit shire, where the main antagonist Agundaur is searching for The One Ring. You and your other two companions distinguish yourselves in combat and are tasked with striking Agundaur to tangentially assist The Fellowship accomplish its goals. In the travels of the game, you'll get to look at popular book characters, and on a few occasions, even get to talk to them. Aragorn's Quest this is not - you are here solely as a diversionary attack on a minor general far, far away from anything actually important. It almost makes you feel like one of the countless thousands of meatshield drones that get cut apart in your wake; they're cogs in this vast uncaring machine as well. Since WitN calls itself an RPG as well, there are collectable armor and weapon bits to dress up your character with. Level up and put points into stats. Solve side quests... if there were more then 4. It's as if someone in the developer's studio forgot to add them. There's one interesting mission, a few missions in the hub towns, and nothing else. None of consequence, either - these easily skippable and forgettable missions can be safely ignored.
Goblins, orcs, uruk-hai, and various other baddies impede your progress, but the forgettable protagonists can dispatch them easily. The elf wizard's spells (and eventually sword, wielding one opposite a staff in Gandalf's style) are mostly defensive, the dwarf warrior has a disproportionately powerful ranged attack, and the ranger can dual-wield weapons for fast attacks. Critical attacks are not random, but well-placed strikes when an enemy gets a bright yellow arrow over its head. These often lead to fairly gory executions, with dismemberment a common sight. Executions aside, though, enemies barely react to attacks. Sometimes they'll block, but these never-flinching opponents will fight to the bitter end without any show of pain. Trolls pop up occasionally too, but these hulking damage sponges get fairly tiring after a few of them - or a few of the exact same one...
Since you'll be restarting often. Bugs abound in WitN, ranging from the graphical but not game breaking vanishing weapons to the absolutely show-stopping progression bugs. A single save file exacerbates the situation, making backtracking nearly impossible. These bugs are fairly common early in the game, reducing in frequency as the game continues. But you may have returned it long before then.
My biggest issue with the game, though, it the conclusion. We all know how that story ends, and anyone who's seen the movies or read the books knows there's no mention of a war in the north - which is ultimately how the game ends, as well. Halfway through the game, you uncover that the antagonist is not even after the Fellowship, he's battling a completely unrelated enemy. And then at the end of the game, you're informed that the Fellowship has succeeded, mooting the entire quest. If your characters had stayed home and literally read a few novels, made some coffee, and complained about the weather, this game's denouement would be exactly the same.
Gripes aside, this can be a pretty fun game. The co-op experience is pretty well-done, allowing two players to use one system and a third to play online. Voice chat on the PS3 works well, and smashing bad guys with friends really doesn't get old. If you can get past its issues, give it a shot if you can talk a friend into buying a copy too.