Lord of the Rings: War in the North – Archived review

I have a weakness for certain franchises; for example, Stars Wars and Lord of the Rings. So I could not help but pick up Lord of the Rings: War in the North by Snowblind for the PS3. I’ve played it for about three hours, and already I feel it belongs in this topic: Finished playing.

The plot of the game concerns three characters (a fighting Dwarf, a Lore-master Elf, and a Human Ranger) and their role in events in the northern part of Middle Earth that take place at the same time as main events of the book. The characters are fixed; you can’t choose their names, you can only choose which one you play.

My chief complaint with the game is that it doesn’t “feel” like Lord of the Rings; it feels like an RPG with LOTR grafted on. I can’t put my finger on what that means, I can only offer an analogy: Knights of the Old Republic and The Force Unleashed felt like Star Wars, even with the computerized RPG elements; Lego Star Wars did not feel like Star Wars, but was fun to play. LOTR:WITN just goes from battle to battle, with little or no personality to the characters; it’s more like The Force Unleashed II. Certainly the characters in the book did not have to hack apart every box, barrel, and chest in search of more health potions.

That gets into my second complaint: LOTR:WITN would still be engaging if the RPG made it worth it. Perhaps BioWare/DragonAge has spoiled me, but I find it to be a sub-par game, at least as a solo experience. From all appearances this is a multi-player game with solo play grafted on. You can only play, manage the inventory, or level up the character you control. You can switch characters, but you essentially have to exit the game and reload it. The AI controlling your NPC characters is not very smart; the only tactics you can offer them is “Attack my target” or “Defend.”

Perhaps it’s my inexperience with console RPG games, but I thought there was a stiff learning curve on the controls. In games like Batman: Arkham Asylum/City or the DragonAge games, you’re gradually brought up to speed with the first few encounters. In LOTR:WITN, you’re immediately bombarded with multiple-button combos to perform even basic tasks.

There have been other video games based on LOTR, but this is the first I’ve played. I wish my first LOTR game had been a more satisfactory experience.

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