We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
PC games software Reviews
15,670 Reviews

The Lord of the Rings: War In The North review

£33.99

Manufacturer: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

The Lord of the Rings returns as a co-op brawler with RPG elements. Is Snowblind's take on the franchise a winner, or does it get lost in the pack?

A decade on from The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson's film trilogy has become inseparable not just from Tolkien's book series, but most fantasy in general. It's evident in the visual style of Game of Thrones; the music of Dragon Age, the way enemies in fantasy media move. It's just everywhere.

In that sense, I guess The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is trapped. It can't help but base itself on the movies, because the movies are all anyone remembers anymore. Unlike with Batman: Arkham City, there's no room for an alternate interpretation. Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know; the movies were pretty darn iconic. But does every new piece of Lord of the Rings media have to be based on the movies?

Anyway, however you might feel about its overall style, Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a competent beat-'em-up that reminds me of the old Dungeons & Dragons beat-'em-ups more than it does a straight-up RPG. Every one of its locations -- some familiar, many of them new -- is positively swarming with Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, and whatever other nastiness Sauron's minions can conjure, and all of them must be put down. I found it mind-numbing at first, but as time went on and I developed my skills, I began to feel that there was more to War in the North than met the eye.

For one thing, the customization is deeper than I was expecting. Each character can choose between a variety of one-handed and two-handed weapons, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. Both swords and armour can be upgraded via socketed gems, and they will even degrade over time. The skill trees aren't what I would call "deep" -- three trees for each character, with three paths for each -- but they aren't exactly shallow, either.

Still, it's a bit of a stretch to call War in the North a straight-up RPG. The three characters -- a dwarf, a ranger, and an elven mage -- are all basically pre-generated templates. It's even possible to switch between them at will throughout the story. There is no "role-playing" here in any sense of the phrase; even the dialogue trees are mostly there for show. It's not like you'll be making life and death decisions...or any decisions at all, really.

The Lord of the Rings: War In The North

That brings me back to my chief complaint about War in the North: it's a bit too afraid to strike off in its own direction. Oh, the new locales are pretty interesting, don't get me wrong. But it also uses appearances by the Fellowship of the Ring and locations like Rivendell as a crutch. Even the main characters are reminiscent of the Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli power trio that was formed in Two Towers and persisted through the rest of the trilogy.

Conversely, I feel like War in the North is at its best when it's allowing me to glimpse corners of the universe I've never seen before. I enjoyed meeting Elrond's sons and investigating the Ettenmoors and the fortress of Fornost. The later levels in particular were striking in their use of colour and elevation, as well as their overall spookiness. War in the North's tombs gave me the creeps.

The other thing I like about War in the North is that its focus on co-operative multiplayer doesn't drag down the single-player game at all. If anything, it was actually easier to play with the A.I., because the computer-controlled players were much better about reviving me when I went down. When I played with other people, everyone was usually too busy to revive one another, which meant that the whole party went down (a silly mechanic, in my opinion -- I don't like time limits on reviving another player).

The co-op itself is fine, even if it doesn't really add anything to the actual game (in my humble opinion). The biggest thing it has going for it is the ability to invite a human player to fill one of the CPU slots at any point in the campaign. That's the sort of feature that even the co-op-adverse like myself will take advantage of from time to time.

The Lord of the Rings: War In The North Expert Verdict »
Available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC PC system requirements: OS:Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 Processor:Intel Core2 Duo 2.4 GHz or AMD 64 X2 4400 Memory:2 GB RAM Graphics:2006 or later GeForce 8600 or Radeon HD 2600 DirectX®:dx90 Hard Drive:10 GB HD space Sound:100% DirectX 9 compatible Audio Device
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

All in all, War in the North is a perfectly competent beat-'em-RPG, even if it doesn't do much to carve out its own niche in the Lord of the Rings universe. Its strength and weakness is that it's completely inoffensive -- the perfect middle-of-the-road game. Unfortunately, it's hard to see what helps differentiate War of the North from the pack, and the pack is where it's apt to stay.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning review

    Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning

    Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning is an open-world role-playing game that is, well, huge.

  • Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar

    Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar

    The current 800-pound gorilla of the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) space is World of Warcraft. But Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar starts with a major advantage: its source material is far richer.

  • Lord Of Arcana review

    Lord Of Arcana

    Lord Of Arcana occasionally excites with brief flashes of dynamic combat, but everything else in this PSP exclusive is so narrowly focused that only hardcore RPG fans will want to invest their time.

  • Alpha Protocol review

    Alpha Protocol

    After several years of development and a seven month delay, Obsidian Entertainment's ambitious spy-themed action/role-playing game, Alpha Protocol, is finally infiltrating consoles and PCs.

  • Elemental: War of Magic review

    Elemental: War of Magic

    Stardock’s Elemental: War of Magic game has some rough edges, but fans of the 4x genre will enjoy creating their own fantasy epics.


IDG UK Sites

Where to buy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the UK: Launch day price, deals and contracts

IDG UK Sites

Is Apple losing confidence in itself?

IDG UK Sites

Professional photo and video techniques for perfect colours

IDG UK Sites

How (and where) to buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus in the UK. Plus: What to do if you pre-ordered...