Get Your Orcs Out
Peter Jacksons much-loved movie adaptations of Tolkiens epic created something of a modern tradition: a new Lord of the Rings property released each Christmas. With no new cinematic endeavours due until The Hobbit, this years offering is War In The North but its more of a stocking filler than something for under the tree.
With a story that fleshes out background information laid down in the novels, the game sees you as one of a trio of new heroes defending the lesser-seen regions of Middle Earth from Saurons forces. Despite occasional cameos with the better-known characters, such as an early meeting with Aragorn in his Strider identity, youll be controlling either the elf mage Andriel, dwarf champion Farin or human ranger Eradan. While each has their own proficiencies, gameplay consists largely of defeating swarms of goblins, orcs and other nasties with a mixture of melee and ranged combat. Skilful kills earn you experience points, and levelling up allows you to buy more powerful spells and skills.
It was around this point that we realised War in the North is, well, pretty generic. The combat itself largely comes down to bashing two buttons, since spells rapidly run out of power and have a fairly minimal impact on the enemies swarming you. Playing alone, your AI partners die more often than is useful, and the story progression feels entirely linear. Barring the odd secret item hidden within the rigidly enforced areas dont expect any form of exploration here theres little of any surprise.
There is some sterling voice work for the characters, and it becomes a lot more fun to play with friends but not enough to elevate the game to must-have status. Hardcore Tolkien fans will get a lot out of this rarely touched slice of Rings lore, but those not already converted will stumble over its basic nature.