John McCarroll
E3 2011: Lord of the Rings: War in the North Impressions
Hack and slash your way to victory.
06.14.11 - 5:32 PM

Snowblind Entertainment, now a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, is a development house that knows their way around a hack-and-slash title. Developers of both Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath, they also licensed out their engine and it was the building block for how the western Action-RPG was played on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. It's been half a decade and an entire new console generation since the last time they've released a game. Titles like Hunted: The Demon Forge have attempted to take the hack-and-slash away from its RPG roots, while Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale tried to come back to its D&D homestead. What I played of Lord of the Rings: War in the North, however, showed me that Snowblind's still got it. It's not a game that's going to win awards for originality, but it provides exactly what Snowblind has been known for: balanced, engaging gameplay with solid RPG elements.

Basic gameplay is exactly what you'd expect: you have a strong and weak attack that you can combo together with special strikes that will tear your opponents to ribbons in the close range. New to War in the North is ranged combat that comes in an FPS-style container. If you hold the left trigger, you raise your bow (or other weapon) and start firing into the masses. I was playing as the ranger, so my long range attacks were rather effective, but I could also dive directly in to the melee and strike enemies down. Aside from the special abilities, you also have the power to call down a giant eagle unto your enemies, something that I used to take down trolls in the demo. There was truly nothing spectacular about this game, and it's just about as far from avant-garde as you can get, but the game was just quite FUN.

There's loot and level ups and everything else that you'd expect from an action-RPG, but our time with the demo was short and displayed the basics of the gameplay. It's not the type of game where you're going to play it and remember individual elements of the gameplay or wax nostalgic about particular lines of dialogue. What this game appears to be is the essence of co-op with your friends. What it most reminded me of at the end of the day was Demon Stone, which was a game I was rather fond of. While the title won't be out until August, I'm excited for War in the North. It wasn't the most memorable title that I played at E3, but it was one that I was confident with playing and saying, "This is something I could see myself vegging out on the couch and playing with my friends online." I'm sure that I will, too.