I have to admit to being a little bit of a LOTR geek. I have looked forward to this game more than MW3 or Assassins Creed. I really hoped this game would be a huge sprawling adventure, with awesome battles and lots of blood to boot. In some ways this is the case, but in others, it fails. You control a human, female elf or dwarf. They are essentially the same albeit minor magical abilities and long ranged weapons. Controls are pretty standard, using two attack buttons, then the L button for long ranged attacking. The combat is easy, but actually fairly rewarding, it really feels like your giving an orc a good smack although the blocking system is a little pointless.
The character swapping/upgrading system is beyond awful. You cannot swap characters on the fly, you must exit your current game to change characters at the main menu. This means that whenever you want to sell items, or buy and equip armour, you must quit the game 3 times and continue from a checkpoint. This is more frustrating when you have to sit through the dull loading screens, which also are annoying. The magic upgrades are fairly standard, having more powerful arrows etc. I found that upgrading your arrow skills was best, as you can just shoot enemies from afar, as the attacks sometimes seem too weak.
Many reviewers have said that War in the North is too difficult. It is true, certain boss battles are rather hard, especially when your two companions seem hell bent on suicide. This leaves you in a nasty circle of reviving them, then dying yourself, being revived, repeat. There are some nice additions such as mounted turret sequences, but they happen too often, making the game seem very repetitive. If I wasn’t a fan, I could probably get bored quickly. Occasionally you will find yourself in a hub such as Bree or Rivendell, where you can talk to other characters for side quests. Sadly, Bree for example has about 5 villagers, and is simply a narrow road, so there’s no exploration at all.
The game environments are very well designed. The outdoor areas, such as Rivendell are lovely to look at and do the game some justice. Character models are also pretty impressive, with changes to their equipment happening in real time. The game doesn’t push the Xbox, it just does the job. Many enemies appear on screen at one time, which runs without any slowdown, particularly impressive when there are huge trolls, goblins and evil men thrown together. Another great feature are some of the actual set pieces in the game. Some highlights include the desperate defence of a dwarven refuge, which sees ballistas and siege towers coming at you from all directions.
The single player mode is admittedly quite short, I completed it in around 8 hours. After completion, you can replay the game again in super hard mode to continue leveling up your characters. There are also co-op campaigns which are pretty cool, but not much different to playing alone. I was quite happy that certain levels were difficult, as it took a long time to overcome them, needing a little more skill than usual. I wish that there were some unlockables to tie in with the films, such as some bonus levels set in Gondor or Isengard. It’s sad to say, but one of the downsides to this game is the fact that the game is set in the North of Middle Earth. No matter how cool it is calling in giant eagles to help defend Mirkwood, it does not compare to defending Minas Tirith or fighting on Pelennor Fields.
War in the North is a good game. The combat is solid, the graphics and sound are excellent. Sadly the game mechanics let it down, with a terrible upgrading system and repetitive level structure.
Great battling but gets tiresome
Great locations and effects
Excellent score, voices lack oompf