My Take on Lord of the Rings: War in the North

After completing Mass Effect 2 twice, I thought it was time to pick another game. On the top of my wishlist it was “Lord of the Rings: War in the North”. I saw Jesse Cox, Wowcrendor and Trilian playing the whole campaign as multiplayer and it seemed fun. Just before pressing the “Buy” button, though, I saw that it had a metacritic rate of 66/100 and that got my worried.

Honestly, the game doesn’t deserve 66/100. It’s not a 90/100 like Skyrim, Mass Effect and many others, but it surely deserved a bit more than that.

In its very core, LotR:WitN is an action-RPG with two buttons: the left button does a fast attack and the right button is for strong attacks. You can dodge and the mobs have a 2-3 second telegraph which gives plenty of time to avoid it. Because pressing two buttons all the time is boring, they added a special quick-time-event to give increased damage, in the form of a small triangle on the top of the head of the enemy.

When you get that, you press the strong attack button and receive a small special bullet-time animation and extra XP.

While you level up, you can unlock special attacks on your “talent tree”. The trees are different based on the character you chose, which is locked to race and gender. So you have the magical elf chick, the ranger male human and the tanky male dwarf — and, although apparently they seem tied to certain aspects of a holy trinity, every class can be ranged and melee, if they have the appropriate resource: Elf needs mana, human needs arrows and dwarf needs bolts.

The tree open 3 more “melee” skills and 1 ranged. But you still will be, most of the time, clicking mouse button 1 and mouse button 2.

Also, the combat happens in zones with the game throwing waves of enemies over and over again. For the type of action-RPG, this is pretty interesting, at first.

Unfortunately, for a very fun combat system, they put a lot of crap around.

For example, the maps are pretty linear and you end up moving from one arena to the other. And in the very few places where you see a fork in the road, it only forks into two different paths — and one leads to the end of the main quest and another to some sidequest. And you don’t even have to think: Press “Q”, see the little map pointing towards the main quest and take the other one.

And then you have the secrets.

The problem with secrets is that only one class can see them. For example, the dwarf will see walls that can be burst open; the elf will see walls guarded by sigils and the ranger can follow special tracks and find hidden caches. It’s fun, I can’t deny it, but as you can only play it as character at the time, you can’t find all the secrets in one level. And by the videos I saw, some secrets are chained, like there is an elven sigil inside a dwarven secret.

You can change characters though, but only after you complete the level.

But changing is also weird: You are there, playing with one character, seeing your companions using special skills and such, sporting some cool looking gear and then you decide to play another class. Suddenly, you see yourself playing without any skills and absolutely no gear.

I can’t really understand how to gear up companions. I completed the story with the elf and then kept going (the story restarts in higher difficulty) with the dwarf. And then I saw the elf running around in complete starting gear. All the awesome gear I collected in the first run was completely gone. So I thought “Every single piece of extra gear I get from now on, I’ll give it to her”. Thing is, half way through it I noticed she was wielding weapons I never gave to her. So, apparently, you have ansolutely no control over your companions gear. And giving gear to them is like storing stuff in black holes: You’re never sure if what they are wearing/wielding at that point is better than what you want to give them and they never return the old gear (in case you need the gold).

And we have the story. It does a lot of retconning just to give the idea that your group is actually helping Frodo and the Fellowship in completing their quest — the story everybody knows from the books and movies. And then there are some weird dialogs were you get information from said books and movies: There is a line of dialog where your character asks if Bilbo knows Frodo and the NPC goes into a full discourse about how they are related, and how Bilbo actually found the ring, and how everything went on Bilbo 111th birthday… Everything you already know from, again, the books and movies. But it doesn’t add anything in the game story or plot, it is just there only to give some connection with… ok, I’ll say it again: with said books and movies.

In a way, the game feels like a Michael Bay movie: It’s entertaining, but don’t expect anything brainy.