The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Preview
The movie trilogy is long since complete, but “The Lord of the Rings” remains a fantasy phenomenon, and there’s no doubt people will be reading Tolkien’s classic tales for a very long time. To keep us all entranced by the events in Middle Earth, Snowblind Studios and Warner Bros. are preparing The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, an action/RPG that takes place towards the end of the aforementioned trilogy. Frodo and Sam are negotiating the dangerous Mordor landscape while the rest of the world attempts to defend themselves against Sauron’s invading forces. The game’s story does indeed focus on a particular fellowship: a dunedain (ranger), dwarf and elf; you can play solo or with two friends, and if playing alone, AI will control the other two characters. You will, however, be able to switch party members at certain times, which should be viewed as a bonus.
Thing is, you might have to switch: as each distinct character has his own abilities and strengths, it makes far more sense to work together as a team. Unsurprisingly, the dwarf (Farin), is a melee attacker and is accustomed to accepting a large amount of damage. The elf, Andriel, is more of a support character as she has magic-like skills that will prove helpful; casting an orb that simultaneously heals her allies is certainly a big help. She can also dual-wield some weapons, so she’s a diverse character that can help turn the tide of a difficult battle. The ranger is Eradan and he can be a force at both close and long range, and he also has a few stealth abilities that can give your party the edge. These three should be capable of dealing with most any obstacle, provided you take full advantage of their specific strengths. Balance is key.
As for the “action” part of the action/RPG label, you will be tasked with chaining your strikes together because the game rewards you for smooth succession of attacks. When you start your assault, a bar will appear over a foe’s head, which tells you how close you are to landing a critical blow. If you can land that deadly strike, the character will enter Heroic Mode, which grants bonuses to both damage and experience gained. Oh, and the added power of your attack will cause limbs to fly, so there should be a fair amount of brutality involved. As you might expect, leveling up lets you dump more points into your stats- you can choose to enhance strength, will, dexterity, or stamina. Plus, you’ll unlock new skills and during your travels, you’ll doubtless find all sorts of loot, ranging from sellable items to valuable equipment. Collecting stuff is a huge draw in any RPG!
In addition to the three-player co-op play, we’ll also have the option of two-player local split-screen with one online player, 2-3-player LAN, and yeah, three players online. The only three playable characters in the game have been mentioned, so we hope you’re happy with that trio…you can live with that, right? We should also expect an appropriately in-depth storyline with plenty of lore, dialogue, and plot twists. Snowblind is responsible for the original Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath, both of which I adore. So if there’s any chance at all that The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a spiritual successor to such games, and plays similarly, I’ll be a happy gamer. Yeah, those older games were all about playing with one character of your choosing, but I can handle the party, provided all the gameplay mechanics work out well.
3/14/2011 Ben Dutka