Lord of the Rings: War in the North Review
Although combat gets more interesting as the game goes on, there’s still little depth beyond simple button-mashing. Considering this, and bearing in mind it’s called War in the North, not Small Battle in the North, it seems odd the developer, Snowblind Studios, hasn't gone down the Dynasty Warriors route.
In fact, rather than upping the amount of enemies to provide a challenge, later foes have stupid amounts of health instead. Couple this with checkpoint spacing that sometimes sends your party back laboriously far, and latter parts of the game can be infuriating at worst; boring at best.
Of course, along with character progression, the factor that keeps you playing despite these annoyances is new loot. The lure of shinier swords and better armour can become compulsive in a way that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s played a dungeon crawler before, but it's a purely ingrained reason to play, rather than a point on which War in the North excels.
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War in the North’s real strength, though, and the feature that makes it an average, as opposed to below average game, is the co-operative aspect. Playing online can be irksome if the other players don’t match your level, as it’s either too hard or too easy, but when that’s not an issue it ups the fun factor considerably.
The AI teammates aren’t awful, but everything’s more enjoyable when two or three real people are working together, especially during the more difficult parts. Defeating the tougher enemies is far more rewarding with humans fighting alongside you, if only because you have people with which to celebrate or commiserate. Split-screen multiplayer, a feature often left out of today’s games, is also possible, although it's limited to two players. It's great to be able to sit in the same room with mates playing together, and although War in the North isn’t an amazing game, it still provides a perfectly acceptable way to while away a few hours with friends.
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With two computer characters and one human player you usually find yourself following their lead. However, when this dynamic is reversed the AI’s uselessness becomes apparent - more often than not they’ll just be running round doing their own thing, with little regard for the rest of the team.
After completion, the game can also be played again, starting with your levelled-up character and all your gear. It’s fairly optimistic of Snowblind Studios to hope anyone would want to do this though, especially as all the enemies start with more health, making it even more of a slog-fest than before.
In small bouts and when playing with friends, War in the North is not devoid of any redeeming features. Compared with the big RPG of the moment, Skyrim, it comes off seriously lacking, but by offering mindless multiplayer fun and split-screen, it manages to carve its own niche and save itself from being instantly consigned to the bargain bins. Give it time, though.