The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
|a game by||Snowblind Studios, Inc.|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC, Playstation 3|
|User Rating:||7.2/10 - 10 votes|
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|See also:||The Lord of the Rings Games|
No it's not what you think. Yes, you, you filthy animal. In fact, let me set the record straight right now about what to expect from this game. What you definitely won't be seeing in War Of The Ring is Legolas mounting Gimli from behind like a bull and using the bearded midget's whiskers as hairy reigns to gain maximum leverage, while Aragorn holds him still and shouts, "Squeal you dwarven piggy bitch." What you will be seeing however, is a 3D isometric RTS based around Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, developed by Liquid Entertainment, the brains behind the excellent eastern-flavoured RTS Battle Realms.
Aimed more at the strategy newcomer than the veteran, War Of The Ring is set to branch away from the storyline of the books and films, and throw you into missions that develop the trilogy's backstory. So, you can expect to be tasked with navigating Gimli and his dwarven brethren through orc-infested mountains as they make their way to Rivendell, and battle through forests teeming with giant spiders in an attempt to track down that bug-eyed schizoid Gollum. You'll even be able to play on the side of evil, though this option is yet to be unveiled.
Whipped Into Shape
We got our grubby claws on an early build of the game this issue, and while the graphics proved far from spectacular, the gameplay was fast, uncomplicated and very easy to master. Not only is the interface simpler than a dropped-at-birth chimp, there's little to no tactical musing required to win a level, very much in contrast to Battle Realms. Several characters from the movies make an appearance early in the piece, including the aforementioned forehead-on-legs Gollum and mop-topped Legolas, as well as several vicious Cave Trolls. Best of all, though, is the Balrog, which minces up its opponents with a giant flaming whip.
Mission Not So Impossible
Apparently, the finished game will judge how good a player you are and adapt the difficulty accordingly, so it won't matter if you're a bit cack-handed. There's also a variety of mission types in place - some involve surviving only the units gi\ an to you at the outset, while others provide more complex base-building tasks. We've even been promised a Helm's Deep level, which could give the game some much needed magnitude, as it's currently feeling a little on the thin side.
When we saw this game four months ago at the VU Games conference in Berlin, one candid insider described it as 'a shit on a stick'. Luckily, since then it's improved almost beyond all recognition. Due out just in time for the Christmas rush (and the hysteria that'll accompany the next film, Return Of The King), there's another five months left to polish this game, and with an Evil campaign yet to be revealed and an all new LOTR back-story, it's more than possible this could end up being a very solid and entertaining RTS.
Download The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
When A Successful franchise gets milked too much, the teats shrivel and the tasty gaming milk curdles and turns into a fetid paste. That's what happened in Lord of the Rings: Conquest, but Warner believe they can reinvigorate those teats and get the juices flowing the white stuff again.
Enter Lord of the Rings: War in the North, an action-RPG set in the seldom-explored northern areas of Tolkien's Middle-earth. It's a crowded marketplace the game will be coming into, but with the strength of the Tolkien license behind it and, hopefully, some honest appraisals of the mistakes made by other studios with their games, Snowblind and Warner could be onto a winner.
The Bigger Picture
War in the North is going to be focusing on a number of aspects of Tolkien lore, mixing in a number of concepts from the books and the films. According to Warner it's going to be a mature RPG. We imagine it won't be the kind of mature that sees Gandalf and Frodo indulging in a bit of man-on-hobbit action. (Although some kind of elf romp might not go amiss, but we digress.) It just means there will be some blood in it a bit. Maybe some heads flying off.
One of the major selling points is going to be online co-op play, with three people given the opportunity to knock ore heads together in Aragon's name. As a group, you'll be exploring the more mysterious lands of the north, customising your characters and levelling up, the whole RPG shebang. It's being developed by Snowblind Studios, who were responsible for Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. They've never made a PC game before in their company's history, but that doesn't mean they won't surprise us.
A contentious issue surrounding recent Lord of the Rings games is the representation of magic. In Tolkien's works magic is only used by Gandalf, Saruman and their three fellow Istari, yet it's always present in fantasy RPGs. As you can See in this image, the guy with the light coming out of him must be a spellcaster, so if you're a stickler for fidelity to Tolkien's lore, you might be gnashing those teeth right about now. Still, it does mean there'll be some whiz-bang special effects and spells to play with.
Most action-RPGs don't focus on dialogue so players can concentrate on hammering pad buttons repeatedly. War in the North is going to be pushing a Mass Effect-style conversation model. If it's transposed into the co-op sections of the game, could really be interesting indeed. News has reached us that the conversation model won't feature the ramifications of BioWare's system, which is a worrying. Is there any point if there are no real consequences to your actions?
Cloak Of Doubt
There are lots of unanswered questions about War in the North. For a start, is it speculation to say you might be able to ride this big bird? Chances are that you can't, because it would probably interfere with the lore or something, but it's a possibility. Just think of the things you could do though - like diving down into hordes of ores and scatter them about the place like bowling pins. Snowblind, if you're reading this, make this happen.
Band Of Brothers
The usual assortment of fantasy RPG races will be available to pick characters from: elves, dwarves and humans. There hasn't been any evidence of any famous characters being included yet or even hobbits being available as a race selection. This is probably because the former are fighting the important battles and infiltrating Mordor, while the latter stay at home and stuff their faces. You'll most likely be a ragtag collection of unnameables, but don't let that get you down. It's likely you'll just be the unsung heroes of an epic tale, just one with more whippets, cloth caps and incomprehensible accents.