Consoles: 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Synopsis: Thi is a game that follows events and characters external to the events of Tolkien’s trilogy. The player has the choice of playing Eradan, and Dunedain Ranger, Andriel, a Rivendell Elf, or Farin, a Dwarf of Erebor. They are in pursuit of Agandaur, a Numenorean in the service of the Dark Lord Sauron.
As an avid Lord of the Rings fan, I do have a habit of picking up any related material that I can get my hands on. There have been many video game adaptations of late, largely as a result of the success of Peter Jackson’s franchise. Often, the results have been poor facsimiles from the films, even in cases where the stories have adhered more closely to the novels. Only one game in the pantheon available prior to now had stood out for me, that being The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. That game took the intelligent step of having the player take on a role external to the central story, and creating a new story that intertwined with the familiar saga. War in the North takes a similar approach, and as such creates a very entertaining game.
As mentioned above, you are given the choice each level of playing the Dunedain, the Elf, or the Dwarf character. Each have different strengths of gameplay, and these strength can be built upon as your level increases. Thankfully, the other characters also level up even when you are not playing them, so if you do decide to switch characters between levels, you are not left at a disadvantage in skills. The plot does early on interest with the Fellowship, but largely this is its own story, fleshing out what is happening in the Northern reaches of Middle Earth while the Fellowship seek to destroy the Ring. Though the details of this battle can only be extrapolated to a certain degree by the writings of Tolkien, the game and story does feel faithful to the vision of the world’s original creator. Some may find the inclusion of talking Eagles a stretch of credibility, but it is a real treat to anyone who has devoured the Silmarillion and beyond.
In terms of gameplay, the battle mechanisms in this game for me are a huge improvement on that presented in The Third Age. That game had a turn based fighting system that for me wrecked the fluidity of the game. War in the North has the more classic hack, slash and spell fight mechanism, which I find a lot more entertaining, especially if I want to take cover to recover some health for a period of time. Early on, I preferred paying the warrior as Eradan, though Farin and Andriel become more fun to use as they level up.
If I do have one frustration, it is the inability to switch between characters at any point in the level. This was particularly apparent to me when seeking out each levels secrets. In each level, there are hidden items that can only be found by the skills specific to each character. So if you wished to find them all, you would have to play each level three times. It is certainly one way to give the game an added longevity, but it means that only the most dedicated achievement hunter will be interested in pursuing all these options.
War in the North will not rank among the best video games for the year. As far as Lord of the Rings adaptations are concerned however, this one is certainly superior, even if it is specifically targeted at the most dedicated of Lord of the Rings enthusiasts.
3.5 stars out of 5