The Lord of the Rings: War in the NorthOverview -
If you’re reading this, then you surely know all about the one ring and its powers. After all, it’s the main reason for the formation of Frodo’s fellowship, and its resulting journey throughout Middle Earth. The wonderful and perilous journey was well told by author J. R. R. Tolkien. Though, Peter Jackson, the talented director, also deserves credit for bringing the three novels to the big screen. He helped make the series a household name, delivering award-worthy films that honoured their source material.
Going in, you should not expect a colourful experience that uses a diverse palette. That certainly is not the case with this role-playing game. It uses earth tones to a fault, delivering visuals that are nowhere near impressive. Instead, things tend to look quite bland after a while - especially some overused enemy types. War in the North can’t compete with some of the graphical powerhouses out there, and tends to look quite dated and bland.
One of the main visual detractors found within, is noticeable during darkened sections. When you’re inside of a tomb, cavern or hidden area, blacks tend to become a bit muddy and over-prevalent. It can occasionally be tough to make things out, unless you up the brightness level. Even during outdoor gameplay, some of the character models are a bit dark, eliminating detail potential.
On the bright side, there are some decent locations shown. Select character models also look pretty good, resembling the actors who portrayed them in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. They act as NPCs, who can occasionally be talked to throughout the experience. A couple of them will initiate collection-related side quests.
One nice thing about this game is that it’s fully voiced. The addition of a voice cast gives each character (playable or non-playable,) a chance to establish its own personality. For the most part, the voice acting is decent, although it’s nothing award-worthy. The latter descriptor could also be mentioned in relation to War in the North’s original soundtrack. While it’s decent and serviceable, without any faults, it’s also nothing remarkable.
As with a lot of other cooperative action games, this game’s three playable characters are somewhat vocal. They’ll quite often yell out to their pals, mentioning that they need healing assistance or something of that sort. Those one-liners, as well as some of the others, are overused and can become a bit annoying after a while.
What you’ll hear most are its sound effects. Not surprisingly, of course. They’re pretty good and do their job quite well, providing an audible experience that sounds like it should. Swords will clang against enemies, arrows will make their iconic sound and magic attacks sound all right. Sure, the melee combat effects do become repetitive after a while, but that is what you get with this type of game.
Unfortunately, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North suffers from the licensed game curse. Even though it’s based on a great, and incredibly rich license, the experience is so ho-hum that it’s tough to recommend to most gamers. While some of the writing is pretty good, and character development is not an issue, its gameplay is repetitive and forgettable. It’d be OK if there was more to its campaign than combat, but that’s something which is thrust upon players from start to finish. More variety could have helped break up the monotony.
In the end, this game will appeal to die-hard fans of the fiction the most. They will gain the most from its relatively interesting narrative, although it could have used some more depth. Those who aren’t familiar with the series, and haven’t invested hours of their lives into Tolkien’s created lore, will be less kind to the game than those who have. Loving the source material makes some of the title’s downsides easier to overlook. However, they’re still there. Even hardcore fans will notice that this game is far from stellar.
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