The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

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The Lord of the Rings:
War in the North
LOTR War in the North.png
Developer(s) Snowblind Studios
Feral Interactive (OS X)
Publisher(s) WB Games
Feral Interactive (OS X)
Distributor(s) New Line Cinema
Middle-earth Enterprises
Producer(s) Josh Fleming
Lucas Ritting
Ruth Tomandl
Designer(s) Andre Maguire
TJ Perillo
Artist(s) Philip Straub
Writer(s) Scott Crawford
Composer(s) Inon Zur
Engine Havok[1]
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, OS X
Release date(s)
  • EU November 25, 2011[4]
OS X
  • NA September 18, 2013[5]
Genre(s) Action role playing, Hack and slash
Mode(s) Single-player, co-op multiplayer

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a 2011 action role playing hack and slash video game developed by Snowblind Studios for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and published by WB Games. An OS X port was developed and published by Feral Interactive in 2013.[5] It is the first video game based on both J. R. R. Tolkien's 1954 high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson's film trilogy adaptation released in 2001 (The Fellowship of the Ring), 2002 (The Two Towers) and 2003 (The Return of the King). Containing narrative elements unique to both the novel and the films, the aesthetic design is based more specifically upon the look of the films, with characters in the game bearing the likenesses of the actors who portrayed them in the films.

The game does not directly adapt the story of the novel and films, but instead depicts a trio of adventurers whose quest runs parallel to the main narrative, occasionally intersecting with it. The story follows them as they attempt to track down and defeat a powerful Black Númenórean named Agandaûr, who Sauron has employed to lay waste to the northern regions of Middle-earth, whilst Sauron himself concentrates on Rohan and Gondor.

The game received mixed to negative reviews, with critics praising the graphics and tone, but criticizing the repetitive combat, weak storyline and poor character development. It was also criticized for containing several game-breaking bugs. War in the North was a commercial failure, a fact many critics attributed to the timing of its release - several weeks after Dark Souls, on the same day as Uncharted 3 and ten days prior to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Gameplay[edit]

War in the North is an action role-playing hack and slash game played from a third-person perspective. The game features three playable characters; Eradan (a Ranger), Farin (a Dwarf) and Andriel (an Elf). When the player begins the game for the first time, they must chose which character to control. However, they can switch characters during a single play-through either by using the "switch character" option at the end of each level, or by loading a previously saved game and selecting a different character at the character select screen. Each character has their own unique weaponry, attacks, skills and special abilities. Eradan can use a bow, a two-handed sword, a one-handed sword and a shield, or two single-handed weapons. His skill tree is built around stealth.[6][7] His special ability allows him to find the tracks of other Rangers and follow them to secret stashes of items and weapons.[8] Farin can use two-handed heavy weapons such as axes, a single-handed weapon and a shield, or a crossbow. His skill tree is built around melee combat.[9][10] His special ability allows him to detect fissures and weakness in walls and rocks, smashing them open to find money, items and gems.[8] Andriel can use a staff and a shield or a staff and a single-handed weapon. Her staff also serves as her long-range weapon. Her skill tree is built around offensive and defensive spell casting.[10][11] She can also create potions from alchemy ingredients collected in the field, and her special ability allows her to find secret passages marked with hidden elven glyphs.[8]

Farin kills an Orc in Fornost. His health, magic and character level are at the bottom left. Note the experience gauge on the right with the "Final Blow!" critical attack message.

All characters have a light and a heavy attack, and all three can roll, block and sprint.[12] Players can also perform critical strikes; when a yellow indicator appears over the head of an enemy a heavy attack will produce a critical strike, which are extra-strong attacks that often kill an enemy immediately.[13] During a single-player game, players can also issue orders to their AI companions; ordering them to either seek out enemies and attack, or stay near the player character and defend. Players can also revive fallen allies; if the player character dies, the player must wait to be revived by an AI ally.[14] Another aspect of combat is the player's ability to summon a Great Eagle to aid them. The eagle can target a single foe for a large amount of damage. However, the player is limited in the number of times they can summon him, and he can only be summoned when the player is in an outdoors location.[15]

The game also features online co-op gameplay for up to three players, each controlling one character. When playing in co-op mode, players can swap items between one another, and each player can find secrets unique to his or her character, meaning all of a level's secrets can be found in a single play-through, which is impossible in single-player mode.[16] Also in multiplayer, when all three player controlled characters are fighting a strong enemy, they can build up a combo chain. When the chain is sufficiently long, the players enter "Hero Mode," which results in much stronger attacks.[17] To build up the combo chain, the player must continually land successful attacks without being hit. Single-player games also include a hero mode, although it is limited to the player-character; the AI allies do not enter hero mode.[18]

Characters gain experience by defeating enemies and completing quests. A character will level up when enough experience points have been gained. Once a character has leveled up, they get three points to spend on their stats (strength, will, stamina and dexterity), and one skill point to use in their skill tree. Players' skills are attached to their melee weapon, their long range weapon and their defensive stance; i.e. some skills are only available during melee combat, some during long-range combat and some when the player is blocking.[19]

The game features two unlockable difficulty modes. When the player first plays the game, they can play on either "easy" or "normal." Once normal has been defeated, "Heroic" mode is unlocked. If this mode is defeated, "Legendary" mode becomes available. Playing through harder difficulties takes the form of a New Game Plus; the characters keep equipment, money, updated stats and unlocked skills from all previous playthroughs.[20]

Synopsis[edit]

Background[edit]

The game is presented against the background of the history of the One Ring. At the dawn of the Second Age, after the defeat of the Dark Lord, Morgoth, the elves of Eregion forged the nineteen Rings of Power to help themselves, the dwarves and men rule Middle-earth. However, the elves were unaware that Sauron, Morgoth's closest ally, had survived his master's defeat, and in the guise of Annatar had been the one who taught them how to forge the magic rings, whilst, in secret, he forged his own One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, a ring far more powerful than any of the others. Eventually, the elves realized Sauron's ruse. Sauron attempted to take possession of all of the rings, but the elves hid three from him. Of the other sixteen, he gave seven to the dwarves and nine to men in an effort to corrupt them. The dwarves proved relatively immune to the power of the rings, acquiring only a greed for gold, and becoming unconcerned with events in the wider world. Men proved less resilient, and the nine kings given the rings become the nine Ring-wraiths, or Nazgûl, led by the Witch-king of Angmar. Sauron consolidated his strength, but eventually a Last Alliance of Men and Elves waged war on his fortress, Barad-dûr, in the land of Mordor. The alliance was victorious, with Isildur cutting the One Ring from Sauron's hand. However, although presented with a chance to destroy the Ring forever, Isildur, already beginning to succumb to its corruption, chose not to do so. As such, although Sauron's physical form was vanquished, his spirit, bound to the Ring, survived. Some time later, Isildur was attacked and killed by a band of orcs, and the Ring was lost in the river Anduin for over two thousand years.[21]

During the Third Age, however, the One Ring was found by a Hobbit named Sméagol, who became utterly corrupted by it, living in the caves of the Misty Mountains, and physically transforming into a creature known as Gollum. For five hundred years, Gollum was consumed and corrupted by the Ring, as Sauron's strength slowly began to return. Eventually, the Ring passed to another hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who used it to assist in the victory of elves, men and dwarves at the Battle of the Five Armies. Over the next sixty years, Middle-earth enjoyed peace. However, Gollum was captured by orcs, and taken to Mordor, where he was tortured into revealing the owner and location of the Ring; Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.[22] In the meantime, Bilbo left the Shire to live in the elven realm of Rivendell, and upon the advice of the wizard Gandalf, Bilbo had (very reluctantly) given the Ring to his nephew, Frodo Baggins. Meanwhile, with the information given him by Gollum, Sauron, still unable to take physical form, sent the Nazgûl to the Shire to retrieve the One Ring. However, Frodo, and his friends, Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin "Pippin" Took and Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck managed to escape the Shire and head towards Bree.

Plot[edit]

"Of the great War of the Ring many songs have been sung and many tales told. The names of heroes like Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn the King and Frodo the Ring-bearer are greatly revered. And rightly so. Yet Sauron's grasp stretched much further than the lands of Gondor and Rohan alone, and his forces might have done great evil in the North of Middle-earth had a handful of heroes not stood in his path. Their stories too, deserve to be told. Pay heed now to one such tale, which begins in the town of Bree, just a few short days before Frodo arrived on his quest."

—opening narration

The game begins with Eradan (voiced by Nolan North), Andriel (Laura Bailey) and Farin (John Cygan) arriving at the Prancing Pony in Bree[23] and meeting Aragorn (Chris Edgerly), whom they inform that three days previously the Dúnedain guard at Sarn Ford was attacked by the Nazgûl. The Rangers were overwhelmed, and the Nazgûl passed into the Shire.[24] After the raid, the Witch-king of Angmar (Eric Lopez), met with a Black Númenórean named Agandaûr (Fred Tatasciore),[25] who told the Witch-king that his orcs are forming an army in the ruins of Fornost,[26][27] as per Sauron's command. Aragorn explains that a Hobbit with a "great burden" is on his way to Bree, and if the enemy take the object from him, it will mean certain doom for the Free peoples of Middle-earth. As such, he asks the trio to distract the orcs at Fornost.[28]

Soon after arriving in the ruins, they find a group of orcs torturing a chained Great Eagle. They kill the orcs and free the eagle, who reveals his name is Beleram (John Patrick Lowrie), an eagle from the Misty Mountains in the service of Gwaihir. The trio tell him of Agandaûr, and he offers his aid in their quest. Heading further into the ruins, the group meet Elladan and Elrohir (Liam O'Brien), the sons of Elrond, who they also tell of Agandaûr and their mission to distract him. The twins, however, suggest they may be able to destroy Agandaûr. As such, the group head towards the citadel at the center of the ruins. Fighting their way to the top of the citadel, they face Agandaûr, who leaps from the roof onto a waiting Fell-beast. Unable to predict Agandaûr's next move, each of the group elects to return to their respective superiors and inform them of the events at Fornost; Beleram to Gwaihir in the Misty Mountains, Elladan and Elrohir to Elrond in Rivendell,[29] and the trio to their captain, Halbarad, at Sarn Ford.

They learn from Halbarad (Peter Jessop) that Aragorn has left Bree in the company of four Shire hobbits, heading in the direction of Rivendell, and he advises them to follow. After passing through the Barrow-downs,[30][31] and fighting a group of Barrow-wights, they reach Rivendell, where they are welcomed by Elrond (Jim Piddock), Gandalf (Tom Kane) and Aragorn, who explain that one of the Hobbits, Frodo Baggins (Yuri Lowenthal), is in possession of the One Ring, which must be destroyed by casting it into fires of Mount Doom.[32] A fellowship of nine has thus been formed to carry the Ring to its destruction. The trio ask how they may help, and Gandalf explains the main concern is Agandaûr, as his mission and location are unknown. As Elrond speculates he may be planning an attack on Rivendell, it is likely he has gone to the Ettenmoors to strengthen his army with trolls.[33][34] As such, the trio head to investigate.

In the Ettenmoors, they again encounter Beleram, who tells them the orcs and trolls of the Ettenmoors have formed an army under a Stone-giant named Bargrisar, who has led them in attacking the Eagles. As such, several Eagles have come to the Ettenmoors to hunt him down.[35] The trio agree to aid them in their quest, and eventually they find and weaken Bargrisar, allowing Beleram to kill him. They are then joined by Gwaihir (Ike Amadi) and two other eagles, Baranthor (Liam O'Brien) and Armenel (Brandon Murray). Gwaihir thanks the trio for their aid, and speculates that Bargrisar must have been operating under the command of someone else. The trio return to Rivendell with Beleram, Baranthor and Armenel, where Elrond says the Fellowship have safely departed. He has also found evidence of Mount Gundabad orcs operating in the Ettenmoors.[36] As they have no way of knowing if Agandaûr is actually at Gundabad, the trio head to investigate.

The eagles drop them near the fortress, and as they climb, they see a massive army of orcs gathering in the valley. Once inside, they find the bodies of many dwarfs, with a dying dwarf telling them a group of dwarves came to Gundabad to activate a secret weapon with which to destroy the orc army. He tells them that Nordri has the key with which to operate the weapon, and is still alive within the chambers. The trio locate Nordri (Nolan North), who, along with Bruni (Jim Meskimen) is attempting to activate the weapon. The trio assist them in holding off orcs and trolls whilst the dwarves operate the weapon. Upon doing so, a horn sounds, the reverberations of which cause the fortress to start collapsing. The dwarves explain that operating the weapon was a suicide mission as its function is to destroy the entire fortress, taking the orcs with it. With that, however, the Eagles fly into the chamber, rescuing the trio and the two dwarves, and taking them to the dwarves' home, Nordinbad, a secret mountain stronghold on the edge of Rhovanion.[37][38] Once there, Nordri introduces the trio to his father, Gorin (Ike Amadi), Lord of Nordinbad, who tell them he fears Agandaûr may be attempting to ally himself with Úrgost, a Dragon who lives nearby. The trio volunteer to approach Úrgost and find out.

After learning of Úrgost's exact location from Radagast (Philip Proctor), an Istari from Mirkwood,[39] they learn that Úrgost (Keith Szarabajka) has been approached by Agandaûr, who offered him something in return for assisting in the destruction of the North. However, what Agandaûr had offered is not yet in his possession, and Úrgost will not join him until it is. The trio enter his lair, where he tells them Agandaûr has promised him Nordinbad. However, he has no interest in Nordinbad. Instead he wants Carn Dûm, a fortress in Angmar.[40] Carn Dûm is currently occupied by Agandaûr, and Úrgost does not wish to make an enemy of Sauron by taking it from him. He proposes the trio take the fortress and turn it over to him. In return, he will remain neutral in the war. He also tells them if they wish to save Nordinbad, they should hurry, as it is under siege as they speak.

They speed back to find Nordinbad under heavy attack. Bruni has been killed, and Nordri is coordinating the defenses. The eagles set out to cripple the siege towers, whilst the trio help defend the courtyard. However, Baranthor and Armenel are killed, and Beleram is seriously wounded. Nordinbad is successfully defended and the dwarves take Beleram inside to tend to his injuries. The trio then head to Carn Dûm to face Agandaûr. Entering the fortress through the sewers, they fight their way towards the summit but are attacked by a fell-beast. Suddenly, Beleram appears, killing the beast. He is still injured, but he tells them he will be there for them should they need him in the fight against Agandaûr. They confront Agandaûr and as they fight, Beleram attacks, lifting Agandaûr into the air. However, Agandaûr is able to stab and kill the Eagle. The distraction, however, allows the trio to strike, killing Agandaûr. As he dies, he calls on Sauron for aid. However, nothing happens. Úrgost then arrives, telling the trio that Sauron has been defeated and the Ring destroyed. He takes possession of Carn Dûm as the trio begin the journey back to Rivendell. In an alternative ending, in which the player does not call on Beleram for support during the fight with Agandaûr, Beleram survives and joins them on the journey.

Development[edit]

"Snowblind has been making actions RPGs for a very long time, and this is the culmination of everything we're been leading to. This is the game that Lord of the Rings fans have been waiting for."

—Executive producer Larry Paolicelli.[41]

According to Snowblind Studios, the game was initially inspired by Gandalf's comment in The Return of the King that the efforts in the east of Middle-earth during the War of the Ring would have been futile if not for the contributions of "a few heroes in the North."[17] According to producer Ruth Tomandl, "At the end of The Return of the King, Gandalf mentions a great battle that took place in Erebor, and says that if the Dwarves and Men there hadn't won that battle, the war could have been lost even if the One Ring had been destroyed. Frodo's quest was extremely important, but everyone in Middle-earth was drawn into the War of the Ring. Even Lothlórien, which was remote and well-protected, was attacked during the war. The fact that the whole world was at war is what we're drawing on for War in the North. Tolkien's work mentions Dwarves living in the Grey Mountains, and that the Orcs had a capital city at Mt. Gundabad, and that the Witch-king of Angmar had once ruled a large part of the North, so we're using that canon as the foundation of our story."[42][a]

The game was conceived as primarily a co-op from its inception, with the developers feeling that co-operation amongst traditionally antagonistic races is such a major theme in the novels, they wanted to replicate it in the game.[42] Having experimented with two, three and four-player co-op, they ultimately decided to go with three-player, thus mirroring the classic triptych in the novels; Man (Aragorn), Elf (Legolas) and Dwarf (Gimli).[8] According to Tomandl,

The game was first announced on March 18, 2010 when Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment revealed Snowblind Studios were developing the game for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. In March 2009, Warner had acquired the rights to make games based on the film series from Electronic Arts,[44] and in May 2009 they had acquired the rights to make games based on the literary series from Vivendi.[45] With Warner holding the rights to both intellectual properties, it meant that New Line Cinema and Middle-earth Enterprises were to be involved in the game. War in the North was the second Warner Lord of the Rings game, after The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest, but the first for which they possessed the rights for both the films and the books (Aragorn's Quest was based exclusively on the films).[43][46]

"You could point to the game's locations on a map of Middle-earth; in fact, we're using the same map that was used in the film as the basis for our world map. Everything in War in the North that wasn't in the films is based on information from the books; we've been careful to stay as close to the canon as we can. Our writer is a Lord of the Rings expert and a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and he makes sure that everything we do works within the framework of the books. We also work closely with the license holders to make sure we're accurate to the lore."

—producer Ruth Tomandl.[42]

In their earliest press release for the game, Warner said War in the North would feature "unseen lands, story elements, and characters from Middle-earth, as well as elements familiar from past feature films."[47] Tomandl stated that "having both the rights to the films and the books has definitely allowed us to take the approach we want. We're not restricted to just what was shown in the films and can work with the entire background of the world as revealed in the books. We really wanted to use the opportunity to go to new areas of Middle-earth that players haven't seen before and to tell a new story. Everything in our story is based directly on the books, which have tons of detail and history to draw from, and we're very careful that all of our work fits within the lore."[43] At E3 in 2011, she reiterated "We were able to draw from the books and films to create a story that ties into the story that people know while still being really new. So we have a lot of new characters and locations, but they all thread into the War of the Ring, and all the Lord of the Rings stuff that people know. You're meeting characters that you're familiar with as well as brand new characters and some characters from the books that you might know of that weren't in the films, so we really get the best of all possible worlds. We're in Middle-earth, which is the best fantasy world, drawing from all the sources and creating something really new that players are going to be excited about."[48]

One of the ways in which the involvement of Middle-earth Enterprises manifested itself was in how conversations are handled in the game. When the player speaks to an NPC, the game uses a system similar to Mass Effect, with the player given several response options from which to chose each time the NPC says something. However, whereas in Mass Effect, there was a moral dimension to choosing which response to give that affected the development of the character, there is no such aspect in War in the North. Players can choose dialogue that will simply move the story forward, or dialogue that will fill in background information and expand the lore behind the game.[49] However, Snowblind had initially planned to give players the option to chose rude responses and thus develop their character in different moral directions. Middle-earth Enterprises were against this concept, arguing that in Tolkien, the heroes are always decent, kind people. As such, the developers abandoned the idea. According to Tomandl, "we've been working with the license holders to ensure that this really respects the franchise in a way they want it to, and one of the things they told us is that they want our heroes to be good guys."[8]

War in the North is the first Lord of the Rings game to be rated M (17+) in North America and PEGI 18 in Europe.[50] Snowblind Studios founder Ryan Geithman stated that having the game M-rated allowed the developers to depict a grittier and more violent Middle-earth than had ever before been seen in a video game.[51] The developers felt that the M-rating allowed them to be more authentic to both the films and Tolkien's original novel.[41]

The game was first shown at E3 in June 2010, with a demo of the Mirkwood levels available. At this time, the three playable characters were a dwarven melee fighter, an elven archer and a wizard.[52] The next demo was made available at Gamescom in August, with part of the Ettenmoors levels. GameSpot's Shaun McInnis wrote "We didn't get a chance to see what any of the storytelling has to offer, but Snowblind seemed keen to reassure everyone that despite the high level of violence inherent to the combat, there is indeed a heavy focus on narrative as well. It's a brand-new tale that adheres to Lord of the Rings canon, and with both the book and movie licenses firmly in place, we're told to expect some familiar faces from the movies popping up every so often to connect the game's plot back to the original story of Frodo and company."[53] The game was next shown at the Game Developers Conference in March 2011, where it was revealed gameplay options would include single-player mode, two-player local split-screen with one online player or one AI controlled player, two to three player LAN, and two to three player online multiplayer via PlayStation Network, Xbox Live or Steam.[46] The game was next shown at E3 in June 2011, when Beleram was revealed for the first time, a demo was shown of the Fornost level and character skills were demonstrated in detail.[54] The game was next shown at the San Diego Comic-Con in July.[55][56] On August 2, WB Games announced the game would be released in North America on November 1 for all platforms.[2]

Collector's Edition[edit]

On July 5, 2011, WB Games announced a Collector's Edition of the game would be released alongside the regular edition, as well as a number of store-specific pre-order special offers. The Collector's Edition comes in a Ranger quiver case and includes a concept art-book, and a "behind-the-score" DVD featuring interviews with Inon Zur and footage of the score being recorded at Abbey Road Studios, as well as a concert event from E3 2011, plus three complete tracks. Digital content for the PlayStation 3 version includes War in the North wallpaper, fonts and icons, and for Xbox 360 a Ranger avatar for Xbox Live. The Collector's Edition costs $130. Pre-order deals included; for Amazon.com, early access to the War in the North digital comic written by Brian Wood and illustrated by Simon Coleby; for Best Buy, an "Elf Theme Pack," giving the player access to rare Elven equipment and unlocking the Lothlórien challenge mission immediately; for GameStop, a "Human Theme Pack," giving the player access to rare Ranger equipment and unlocking the Osgiliath challenge mission; for Target, online access to three tracks from the soundtrack; for Toys "R" Us, a limited edition War in the North poster signed by Jim Lee, and early access to the War in the North digital comic; and for Walmart, a "Dwarf Theme Pack," giving the player access to rare Dwarven equipment.[57][58]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
PC PS3 Xbox 360
Eurogamer 4/10[65]
Game Informer 5.5/10[66]
Game Revolution B-[67]
GameSpot 6/10[68] 6/10[69]
GameSpy 3/5 stars[71]
IGN 7/10[70]
Official PlayStation Magazine (US) 7/10[72]
Official PlayStation Magazine (UK) 4/10[73]
Official Xbox Magazine 7.5/10[74]
Official Xbox Magazine (UK) 6/10[75]
PC Gamer (UK) 51%[76]
Aggregate scores
GameRankings 65%[62] 63.82%[63] 65.20%[64]
Metacritic 66/100[59] 63/100[60] 61/100[61]

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North received mixed to negative reviews. The PC version holds aggregate scores of 65% on GameRankings, based on thirty reviews,[62] and 66 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on twenty-five reviews.[59] The PlayStation 3 version holds scores of 63.83%, based on thirty-seven reviews,[63] and 63 out of 100, based on thirty-five reviews.[60] The Xbox 360 version holds scores of 65.20%, based on forty-three reviews,[64] and 61 out of 100, based on thirty-eight reviews.[61]

Official Xbox Magazine‍ '​s Cameron Lewis was impressed, scoring the game 7.5 out of 10. Although he was critical of the lack of differentiation between the three protagonists, the shallow pool of enemies and the linear nature of the gameplay, he concluded "War in the North is hardly the most memorable adventure through Middle-earth, but you won't regret any of the time you spend fighting across its grim battlegrounds."[74]

IGN's Steven Hopper scored the Xbox 360 version 7 out of 10, writing "there's something too safe in War in the North. The gameplay doesn't take any real risks, as the combat is fairly simple, the RPG features are par for the course, and the story doesn't make any attempt to stand out in the backdrop of its established universe." He was critical of the bland characters and the "inconsequential conversation system." He concluded "there is still a good game to be found in War in the North [...] While it's admirable that the team had opted to create an original story set alongside the events in the books, you'll wish that they had attempted to take more risks with the project. The characters are bland and lifeless, and the combat, while fun at first, gets pretty repetitive before too long."[70] In November 2011, IGN rated the game the fourth most disappointing release of 2011.[77]

Game Revolution's Josh Laddin scored the PlayStation 3 version a B-. He too criticized the bland characterization. Of the combat system he wrote "there isn't anything especially innovative about it, but it's all solid." He was also heavily critical of game-breaking bugs. He concluded "War in the North is a good choice for some classic action-RPG fun. It isn't amazing, but it's a competent effort and certainly one of the better LotR games to come along.[67]

GameSpot's Carolyn Petit scored both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions 6 out of 10. Although she praised the graphics, she was critical of the collision detection, the autosave feature, poor enemy AI and technical issues with multiplayer. She concluded "there are times when War in the North shows you the game it could have been [...] But each time the game starts to hit its stride, it soon stumbles and falls on its face."[68][69]

Official Xbox Magazine (UK) scored the game 6 out of 10, writing "War in the North at no point pretends to be anything more than an epic and borderline two-dimensional slug-fest through hordes of similar enemies. It's repetitive, but Snowblind has honed the experience to something surprisingly addictive. Though seven hours of bloody entertainment, War in the North is a safely made game."[75]

GameSpy's Leif Johnson scored the PC version 3 out of 5 arguing "it never overcomes a sense of enjoyable mediocrity." He felt the game was unlikely to be a success due to the timing of its release; amidst such highly anticipated title as Dark Souls, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3 and Skyrim. He concluded "Unless you're a Tolkien die-hard, you'll probably be better off waiting a week for the next fantasy-based game featuring a struggle in the snow-riddled northern reaches of the world [...] At its core, War in the North isn't a bad game; it's merely a disappointing one."[71]

Game Informer's Joe Juba scored the PlayStation 3 version 5.5 out of 10, calling it a "clumsy and unpolished adventure." He too complained about game breaking bugs, and concluded "I can only say one good thing about War in the North: It could have been awesome. The conceptual framework is solid, and with some extensive tuning and polish, it would be fun to play. Just thinking of War in the North reimagined as an old-school isometric adventure (à la Dark Alliance) gets me pumped up...but it's too late for that now."[66]

Eurogamer's Jeffrey Matulef scored the Xbox 360 version 4 out of 10. He called the narrative "merely a catalyst for a linear dungeon crawler." As with several reviewers, he also found the game suffered from bugs, calling it "a glitchy mess." He concluded "The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a soulless cash-in that has little to do with its license, and nor is it much fun in its own right. If you're lucky enough to not encounter any game-breaking bugs and if you have a friend or two to play with, then it can be pretty entertaining for a few hours. But that's a lot of "ifs" for so little payoff."[65]

PlayStation Official Magazine‍ '​ Joel Gregory also scored the game 4 out of 10. He too found the timing of the release poor, believing it would not find an audience. He criticized the lack of differentiation between the characters, poor characterization, repetitive combat, and "half-arsed" skill-trees. Of the story, he wrote "it basically goes like this: 'remember all the stuff from those films and books you love so much? Here's some other really crucial stuff that happened at the same time...only it wasn't important enough for anyone to mention during those 1,500 pages'."[73]

Sales[edit]

The game was a commercial failure, selling just over three-quarter million copies worldwide across all platforms. In the UK, it charted at #38 in its opening week. The only newly released game which sold less copies was Rayman Origins, which failed to make the top 40.[78]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The passage to which Tomandl refers is actually from "Appendix A, Part III: Durin's Folk" at the end of Return of the King. The exact quote is "With his far-stretched right hand, Sauron might have done great evil in the North, if King Dáin and King Brand had not stood in his path [...] When you think of the great Battle of the Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valour of Durin's folk. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell. There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now hope to return from the victory here only to ruin and ash. But that has been averted."

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Havok Celebrates 15 Years of Providing Essential Game Technology For Physics, AI, Destruction, and More". Havok. December 15, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Makuch, Eddie (August 2, 2011). "LOTR: War in the North begins November 1". GameSpot. Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
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  5. ^ a b "The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - A new fellowship arrives on the Mac". September 18, 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Player Characters". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 6. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. One of the Dúnedain Rangers of the North, secret protectors of the lands once ruled by their ancestors. The life of a Ranger is a hard one; to survive he has mastered many skills. Always outnumbered, he has learned evasion tactics, allowing him to take enemies by surprise or to escape from a tight spot. Eradan is a master archer, able to bring down foes from afar. And when stealth and archery are of no avail, he is more than capable with weapon and shield, dual-weapons or two-handed swords. 
  7. ^ "Skills". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 25. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Lord of the Rings: War in the North - A co-op action game worth playing?". Computer and Video Games. March 15, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Player Characters". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 7. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. A Champion of the Dwarf realm of Erebor. From his first taste of war at the Battle of Five Armies, he has been one of the foremost defenders of his homeland. A true son of a warlike race, Farin is skilled in the use of all melee weapons and adept with a crossbow as well. While he strikes punishing blows, his greatest strength lies in his ability to endure harm. In battle, Farin is an unyielding rock upon which waves of enemies break. The sound of his fierce war-cry bolsters his allies, even as it strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies. 
  10. ^ a b "Skills". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 24. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Player Characters". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 6. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. An Elven Loremaster of Rivendell, schooled in ancient wisdom by Elrond himself; yet she is no meek scholar. In her hands a simple staff becomes a deadly weapon, not only because she wields it with Elven-skill, but also because she can use it to focus her power, striking down enemies near and far. But as capable as she is in combat, Andriel's true strength lies in her power to preserve and protect her allies, and with her arts she can create shields of light which heal and restore those within. 
  12. ^ "Combat". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 17. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
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  16. ^ "Play Co-op". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 5. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Richardson, Ben (March 10, 2011). "GDC 11 – War in the North Hands-on". GameFront. Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Combat". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 19. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Combat". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. pp. 18–19. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Main Menu". The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - Microsoft Windows Manual (US). WB Games. 2011. p. 13. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  21. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Rivendell, Part 1. Gandalf: Tell me, what do you know of Isildur's Bane? / Farin: I know nothing of this. What is Isildur's Bane? / Gandalf: Isildur's Bane is the Ring of Power, forged by the Dark Lord Sauron long ago. / Elrond: Into this Ring, Suaron bound the greater part of his power, but it has been lost for hundreds of years. / Farin: Why did Sauron make the Ring? / Elrond: It was part of a grand deception. Sauron taught the Elves the art of making Rings of Power, but secretly he planned to make one master Ring through which he could control all the lesser rings and those who wore them. / Farin: Learning at the hands of the Dark Lord sounds pretty foolish to me. Why would your folk ever do such a thing? / Gandalf: At that time, Sauron was still able to assume whatever form he wished. He came to the Elves in a fair guise and played on their greatest desire; to preserve and protect what they loved in Middle-earth. / Elrond: Eager for knowledge, they learned and made many rings. The greatest of these were Narya, Nenya and Vilya, the three rings of the Elves. When Sauron forged the One Ring, the Elves were instantly aware of his betrayal. / Gandalf: The Dark Lord made war on the Elves and seized the lesser rings. These he gave freely to Dwarves and Men, those same Men who became the Nazgûl. To Sauron's dismay, the Dwarves proved less easy to dominate. By force, he took back three of the Dwarven rings, the rest were consumed by dragons and destroyed. / Elrond: The Elves were very hard pressed, and Sauron's dominion spread over the greater part of Middle-earth. / Farin: What saved the Elves from final defeat? / Aragorn: The coming of my ancestors. The Dúnedain, led by Elendil the Tall, a lord of lost Númenor, came to Middle-earth seeking new lands in which to dwell. They were the sworn enemies of Sauron and staunch allies of the Eleven king, Gil-galad. / Elrond: An alliance was formed between Elves and Men, and together they drove back the armies of Sauron. / Gandalf: In the end, Gil-galad and Elendil threw down Sauron at the cost of their own lives. / Farin: What happened to the Ring after Sauron's defeat? / Aragorn: It was claimed by Isildur, Elendil's heir. It was he who cut the Ring from the Dark Lord's hand with the hilt-shard of his father's sword Narsil, broken in the battle. / Elrond: I counseled him in vain to cast the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, near at hand, but he would not heed me. / Farin: Why didn't Isildur wish it destroyed? It was made by the Enemy, he must have known it would only lead to trouble. / Gandalf: The Ring has a power over the minds of all who come into contact with it, filling them with a desire to claim it as their own. This temptation is all the greater for those who already possess a measure of their own power. Isildur was a mighty lord and the lure of the Ring was more than he could resist. / Elrond: He would not suffer the Ring to be destroyed, thinking perhaps that he could use its power for the good of Middle-earth. Yet it is a work of the Enemy and in the end, it corrupts all who possess it. / Farin: So Isildur was corrupted by the power of the Ring? / Aragorn: He would have been. But it happened that he was slain in an ambush while travelling with only a few retainers. In this, the malignant power of the Ring was at work. / Gandalf: Yes, the Ring betrayed him to his death and was lost, passing out of all knowledge for many long years. 
  22. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. The Shire: The Shire is the homeland of the Hobbits, but it was once part of the Dúnedain kingdom of Arnor. The land was given to the Hobbits some 1400 years past and they made it their own after the kingdom of Men fell to ruin. The Hobbits of the Shire are isolated from the rest of the world and prefer it that way. They are left in peace for the most part, thanks to the constant vigilance of the Rangers. 
  23. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. Bree: Bree is an isolated, but important village west of the Misty Mountains and east of the Shire. Built at the intersection of two roads, the Great East Road and the North Road, Bree has been an important stopping place for travelers for some three thousand years. It is the only settlement where Men and Hobbits live side by side in harmony and is famous for its ancient inn, the Prancing Pony. 
  24. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. Sarn Ford: The southern border of the Shire is formed by the river Baranduin, which the Hobbits call the Brandywine. Sarn Ford is a stony, shallow crossing of the river along the southern road that leads from the Shire to the lands beyond. As a main entry point to the Shire, Sarn Ford was strongly guarded by the Rangers who maintained a secret watch over that land. Yet even they could not resist the combined power of the Nine Nazgûl. 
  25. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Bree. Aragorn: He is not a Dúnedain, but in ages past, we had common ancestors. While the forbearers of the Dúnedain rejected the lies of the Dark Lord, not all of the Men of Númenor did so. Many were enticed by his promises of power. Their descendants serve him still. Many are great warriors and sorcerers, but they are consumed by darkness. You know them as Black Númenóreans. Their hatred for the Dúnedain is very great, and no less so for the Elves. This Agandaûr may prove a foe as deadly as the Black Riders. 
  26. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Bree. Aragorn: Fornost was once a great city, the capital of the Dúnedain kingdom of Arnor. It fell to the Witch-king long ago. The men of Gondor and the Elves formed an alliance that drove the Witch-king out, but Fornost was never rebuilt. The ruins remain a place of dread for many. The men of Bree call it Deadman's Dike and fear to go near. 
  27. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. Fornost: Long ago the chief city of the northern Dúnedain kingdom of Arnor, Fornost was conquered by the Witch-king of Angmar over a thousand years ago. His dominion was short lived however and he was in turn driven from the city by the forces of Gondor. Fornost was never reoccupied and fell into ruin, becoming a place of dread. The people of Bree know it as Deadman's Dkie and they believe the ruins to be haunted. Only Rangers dare to tread there now. 
  28. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Bree. Aragorn: There is a Hobbit of the Shire who should be coming this way with...a great burden. If it falls into the hands of the enemy, it will mean doom for us all. Now this Hobbit is adrift on the road with enemies all around. I must find him before they do, and I need you to help me keep him safe. / Eradan: You are my chieftain. I will gladly do whatever you command. / Farin: Aye. I'm a part of this now as well. / Andriel: Then we three are all of one mind. How can we aid you? / Aragorn: We must reduce the threat from the enemies gathering at Fornost. Travel there, and do whatever you can to keep the enemy's eye turned toward you and away from the Shire. 
  29. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. Rivendell: Called Imladris by the Elves, the refuge of Rivendell is nestled in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. It was founded by Elrond Halfelven after the destruction of the Elf-kingdom of Eregion during the War of the Elves and Sauron. It has served as a haven for Elves and other folk of goodwill for nearly 5000 years. 
  30. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: The Barrow-downs. Farin: I'm told the Barrow-downs are filled with ancient tombs. What do you know of them elf? / Andriel: These tombs were made by the Fathers of Men in the depths of time. They were sacred to the men of Arnor, and they too buried their dead here until their kingdom fell to the Witch-king. / Eradan: These hills have an evil reputation in the folklore of the Shire and Bree, but Rangers travel here often without incident. Still, I feel a sense of...unease. We must stay alert. 
  31. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. The Barrow-downs: These hills were, for many ages, the burial place of Men, especially the Dúnedain of the lost kingdoms of Cardolan and Arthedain. During their war with the Witch-king, the men of Cardolan took refuge hwre, hiding amongst the hills and tombs. The Witch-king responded by sending the evil spirits known as wights to inhabit the tombs. With the fall of the Witch-king, the wights seemed to disappear, but they are still remembered in dark legends. 
  32. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Rivendell, Part 1. Gandalf: After lying lost and forgotten for centuries, Sauron's Ring has once again been found. / Andriel: Do you mean to say the Halfling Aragorn rescued has come into possession of the Dark Lord's Ring? / Farin: It's a mighty good thing we managed to get it here safely. What will become of it? / Elrond: There is no safe resting place for the Ring, not even here in Imladris. It is a danger to all who come near to it. There is only one course left to us; the Ring must be destroyed. / Gandalf: To do so, the Ring will need to be cast into the same fires from which it was forged, those of Mount Doom, in the land of Mordor. The Hobbit, Frodo Baggins, has agreed to take it there. 
  33. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. Ettenmoors: This remote and wild highland is a westward spur of the Misty Mountains. The Ettenmoors are notorious for their rugged terrain and even more so for their being infested with Trolls. Understandly, thie region sees few visitors. 
  34. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Rivendell, Part 1. Aragorn: The Ettenmoors are a spur of the Misty Mountains lying almost directly north of Rivendell. It is a wild region of very rugged terrain, home to many Trolls and giants. 
  35. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: The Coldfells. Beleram: Eagles and Stone-giants have shared the mountain heights without conflict for many generations. But this giant, Bargrisar, is different. Without provocation, he ambushed some of our people, taking them unaware and striking them down with hurled boulders. Many of our aeries he also destroyed, along with the defenceless fledglings who nested there. Gwaihir summoned his strength tp punish the giant, but he fled before us. We believe he come here, to the Ettenmoors where he is gathering an army of Orcs and trolls. Bargrisar is a threat to all. The sooner he is destroyed, the safer we shall be. 
  36. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Mount Gundabad: Called the Capital of the Orcs of the North, Mount Gundabad is a tall peak standing at the meeting point of the Misty Mountains and the Grey Mountains. In the distant past, Gundabad was a great mansion of the Dwarves, but it has been in the hands of the Orcs for many centuries. Gundabad was sacked by the Dwarves during the War of the Dwarves and Orcs some 200 years ago, but the Orcs soon returned. 
  37. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Nordinbad. Bruni: It's east you've come, clean over the Misty Mountains and along the length of the Grey Mountains. You've left the land of Eriador behind. You're on the northern edge of the land of Rhovanion now. 
  38. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Nordinbad. Gorin: My great, great grandsire was the first to enter the caves of this mountain where he discovered the hidden lake we call Azan-zâram. He was awed by its beauty and led some of his kin here. Slowly, over many long years, with loving hands, and careful chisels, we created the halls you see before you. Nordinbad was never rich in gold or jewels but its beauty would move even the most cold-hearted dwarf. That is why we have remained here for so long. There is no a dwarf among us who would not chose death over exile from our home. 
  39. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. Mirkwood: The greatest of the forests of Middle-earth, Mirkwood was known as Greenwood the Great before the shadow of Sauron fell over it. Although the Silvan Elves maintain a realm in the northeast of the wood, most of the forest is dark, dangerous and nearly impenetrable. Many evil creatures dwell beneath the tangled boughs of Mirkwood. 
  40. ^ Snowblind Studios. "The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North". WB Games. Level/area: Map. Carn Dûm: A thousand years ago, Carn Dûm was the capital of the far northern kingdom of Angmar. From this mountain fortress, the Witch-king waged a relentless war against the Dúnedain kingdom of Arnor. After his defeat the fortress lay abandoned, but now it seems Carn Dûm has once again become home to the servants of Sauron. 
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External links[edit]