Xbox 360 Review: Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Can this game be the one to rule them all?

I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan. I have all 3 extended films, dozens of figures and even a Monopoly version of Middle-Earth. Yet, the games have always been a major disappointment with the likes of LOTR Conquest, the games that tied into the films weren’t terrible but were repetitive, although I did enjoy the Battle for Middle-Earth games, but there hasn’t been a game that has focused on the mature nature of the Tolkien universe, this is where War in the North tries to do…but can blood and gore bring new life to the franchise?

The story is separate from Tolkien’s work and puts you in a fellowship of 3 characters. A ranger called Eradan, a Dwarf called Farin and an Elf called Andriel who are going north to try and take out a strong force leading the Nazgul. Along the journey, you’ll go to places unexplored in the books and films, while also heading to familiar locations like Rivendell and Bree where you’ll come across famous characters like Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Elrond and his daughter Arwen, plus his 2 sons Elladan and Elrohir. It’s a nice treat for LOTR fans to see cameos from these characters since in past games you rarely come across any of them.

Each character has their own skills and advantages, Eradan is balanced with one/two handed weapons and stealth moves, while Farin is more focused on melee attacks with his axe and bow, Andriel uses magic both offensively and defensively to either damage the opponents or heal members of the fellowship. Combat itself is great as long as you are playing with others, otherwise it gets quite tricky as your two AI companions aren’t the smartest and you find yourself outmatched quite early on. War in the North is a tough game as you’ll fight hundreds, if not thousands of Orcs and Trolls along your travels and they will cause a lot of damage to you and your friends.

War in the North follows a linear path with very little in the way of exploration thanks to tons of invisible walls that inhibit you to walk around, and after the likes of Skyrim it is a little disappointing that you can’t. Instead the game is focused primarily on combat and the waves of enemies that stand in your way, but it does become repetitive quickly. It does get better once you level up and are nice and strong, but early on it’s a real pain since you are so weak compared to your rivals.

The visuals are pretty average in all fairness, character models look dated and the hair textures look just weird and out of place. Middle-Earth itself looks good though…despite none of the original cast returning for voice-over work, so it doesn’t feel quite as authentic as it should be, it’s also weird for an Eagle to be talking considering none of them spoke during the films, and it’s based on Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien’s work.

The Verdict

Lord of the Rings: War in the North isn’t quite the epic adventure I was hoping it would be, instead it’s focused too much on combat and hardly lets you explore anywhere. The visuals don’t stand up to today’s games, while fighting itself becomes repetitive quickly. It’s also quite a short game and once it’s done, there’s no reason to come back for any other reason than achievements.