I’ve sat down to log extensive hours into Lord of the Rings: War in the North four times now. But it doesn’t take long for fatigue of doing the same things over and over again to settle in. Outside finding out that your great eagle companion talks in a funny accent — the best part of the game, mind you — War in the North is a pretty tiresome lesson in monotony that’s more likely to put you to sleep and enthrall you.
Mind you, I’ve only played maybe 20% of the adventure, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. But I just can’t bring myself to play any further. The first problem that sticks out like a sore thumb is that Snowblind Studios gives you an engaging context for what you’re doing, but they stumble on the delivery. Epic quests to rid evil from the north of Middle-earth are bogged down by repetitious gameplay and main characters who are about as interesting as three planks of wood.
And that’s depressing, considering the NPC characters that inhabit Middle-earth in this title actually have some personality to them. They’ll ask you to do menial fetch quests, fight orcs or talk to someone to persuade them into doing something beneficial for their cause, but these moments don’t make you roll your eyes because you actually feel sympathy for their plights.
It’s not until you get out into the wilderness of Middle-earth where that feeling of “Shit, I’ve done this already” starts to sink in. At this point you’ll go about hacking and slashing orcs, goblins and trolls by the hundreds, with every encounter playing out roughly the same as the one before it. Quick attack, quick attack, quick attack, heavy critical stick… and a body limb flies off in slow-motion. Rinse and repeat.
Now, it is possible to share the experience with two other friends, as War in the North supports 3-player co-op. However, I feel the gaming session will go down something like this…
You: Hey, you guys wanna play the new Lord of the Rings game, it’s co-op? It’s got cool story that parallels the Fellowship’s journey to Mordor from the movies.
Friend #1: Sure. I call the dwarf!
Friend #2: Ah, jerk. OK, I’ll be the elven chick…
**20 minutes later**
Friend #2: I’m pretty bored. You guys wanna go drink?
Friend #1: Abso-freakin’-lutely!
You: OK, see you guys later… I’m going to stay here and play this game I bought…
And… cue tears.
Is that overly harsh? Yea, it probably is. And for that, I apologize. But here’s the thing: Lord of the Rings: War in the North’s biggest hurdle has nothing to do with the actual design of the game — although the design, as mentioned before, is flawed. Instead, it’s the time of its release. This game came out the same day as Uncharted 3, and only a week before Modern Warfare 3’s launch. Hell, if you want an action-RPG, you have Skyrim to look forward to on the 11th of the month; or, how about a more-friendly RPG in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on the 20th? With how stacked the month of November is gaming release wise, not even factoring in what came out in October, it becomes hard to recommend War in the North to anyone outside the diehard Lord of the Rings fans who dress up like Legolas every day while putting make-up on in the mirror while singing “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt.
Make no mistake, there is a solid foundation for a Lord of the Rings action-RPG to be found within War in the North. It’s just unfortunately overshadowed by monotonous gameplay and dull characters. And, if I’m being completely honest, I just don’t have the time to wade around in the boring to discover the fun. There is a chance I’ll revisit the game soon, but there are so many other fantastic games beckoning me to play them. In fact, I think that’s Skyrim calling out my name off in the distance…