STAFF REVIEW of Lord of the Rings: War In The North (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011.
by Brent Roberts

Lord of the Rings: War In The North Box art Chapter I
War in the 1

Legends have told the tale of Middle Earth and the quest to destroy Sauron and The One Ring. Where a fellowship banded together under a banner of brotherhood to undertake a quest that held the fate of every living thing in Middle Earth. While these tales are popular and widely known, there is a part of the story that has almost slipped away from the legends of lore. This is a tale of a new trio of comrades who join together to prevent Sauron and his forces from commanding the realms to the North under the leadership from Sauron's Chief Lieutenant Agandaur. While Frodo, the fellowship, and The Ring venture southward on their quest towards Mount Doom, the trio of Eradan the Dunedain Ranger, Andriel the Elven Loremaster, and Farin the Dwarven Champion must assemble what forces they can and fight back against the shadow that grows in the North. It is time for us now to play our part in these events and not to forsaken the fate of Middle Earth.

Fellowship is the core of Lord of the Rings: War in the North (WitN) and it is through this understanding that your success or failure will be determined. Each member brings with them unique skills and abilities which must be harnessed properly if any hope is to remain for Middle Earth. Eradan brings archery and swordplay into the fray, Andriel uses her magic for both offensive and defensive actions that can be applied to just one individual or the entire party, and Farin brings an onslaught of melee skills designed to destroy any and all oncoming foes. While the fellowship of these three is strong, they will need the assistance of others to ensure their victory over the darkness that grows in the North. One of their greatest supporters throughout the game is Beleram one of the Great Eagles. After Beleram agrees to support your fellowship he becomes an invaluable ally as he has the ability to destroy heavy mounted crossbows, multiple enemies, and even take on a massive troll. How you use his abilities is up to you, but use them wisely or you may lose him forever!

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One of the most in-depth characteristics of WitN has to fall on the shoulders of the character customization. There are thousands of pieces of armor and weaponry for all three characters that can be utilized to not only alter your players' appearance, but provide bonuses to various skill sets allowing for more character enhancements. Some of these weapons, pieces of armor, and items can be found in various places from hidden treasure chests, looted from fallen enemies, traded with other players online, or bought from shops and vendors. Not only do the weapons, armor, and items seem to be without end, but the skill trees of each member of the fellowship offers up new abilities and skills to learn which can be proven to be invaluable during the heat of battle. For instance Eradan can use one branch of his skill tree to focus on evading detection from enemies, one branch to focus on combat with dual wielding weapons, and the last branch to focus on abilities and attacks with the bow. To upgrade your character's skill tree and stats you must gain XP by either completing side quests, killing enemies in battle, or progressing on with your main story. There are ways as well for each character to earn XP bonuses by performing well in battle by executing kill moves, saving your other teammates, and going into hero mode where your character deals more damage and increases their XP multiplier with each successful hit. With each branch of the skill tree offering multiple options for character customization and development, and the combination of the vast array of weapons, armor, and items; WitN boasts a very large and comprehensive character development system that makes this action RPG shine.

Enjoying Lord of the Rings: War in the North by yourself is a very rewarding experience, especially if you are a fan of the lore that Tolkien created. However, the real enjoyment comes when you have two friends connected either via Xbox Live, split screen, or system link and the three of you decide to fight for Middle Earth and confront Sauron's Chief Lieutenant Agandaur. Along your multiplayer quest all characters will be able to partake in loot drops which mean that you don't have to abandon your friends just to be the first one to reach the treasure chest. Included as well, players will also be able to trade weapons, armor, and more with each other online and any/all weapons you accumulate throughout the multiplayer adventure will carry over to your single player campaign.

War in the 3

The sounds of Lord of the Rings: War in the North has been put in the capable hands of Inon Zur. While the name may be one you're not familiar with, some of the games he's credited for are: Baldur?s Gate II, Fallout 3, Prince of Persia, Crysis, EverQuest, and a slew of other AAA titles. Bringing Inon onboard to do the soundtrack for WitN was a brilliant move as every moment of the game sounds and feels as Lord of the Rings should. When the action tenses up during a massive battle, the symphonic score picks up the tempo beautifully and adds the right amount of dramatic flair to help accent every swing of your blade, every bolt from your staff, and every thump of your hammer. While the score itself is fantastic, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the voice acting. Some of the voices don't seem to fit the main characters and while that in itself is bad, some of the dialogue seems rushed and overacted when it was recorded. It's a shame too because of the fact that you are with these characters the entire game, you get to listen to this overacted dialogue constantly.

Lord of the Rings is noted for some of the most identifiable scenery in literature. The Black Gates of Mordor, the White City, Moria, and more are all areas we all have envisioned and in WitN we are treated to a massive map of travel locations scattered all throughout Middle Earth. Not only do these areas offer places of exploration, treasure hunting, and more but they also offer challenge missions that you can chose to participate in. Throughout your adventure you can unlock certain epic battles that you can lead your character into such as Osgiliath and more. Each area is unique and done with fine detail so that you really get a feel for what it would be like in Middle Earth. The detail of the character modeling is done very well and is even customizable to a degree. Every weapon and piece of armor is made to look like it came from Tolkien?s world and even the shields themselves have a very finite detailing to them. Not only are the main characters and items detailed, but the same can be said for the enemies you encounter in battle and even the Black Riders themselves look as fearsome as ever.

War in the 4

The lore of the Lord of the Rings is without question a font of characters, quests, adventures, battles, and most importantly, imagination. Venturing into new lands, engaging new enemies, making new friends while staying true to the canon and intertwining with events of Lord of the Rings, WitN sets out on a quest to deliver us one of the best action RPG Lord of the Rings experiences we have ever had. While a few things could use some revision work, overall this game is a masterpiece for Tolkien fans and shouldn't be missed. There's nothing like fighting through a massive battle in an iconic location to finish part of a quest and in the process find some amazing weapon or piece of armor that makes your character an even bigger threat against Sauron's forces. Prepare yourself to play a part in actions that will shape the history of all Middle Earth and all its inhabitants, prepare yourself for Lord of the Rings: War in the North.

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.7 / 10
Sound: 8.7 / 10


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