I find it only suitable to play and subsequently review Lord of the Rings War in the North after having played and reviewed Alan Wake. One of the reasons why this is so is the fact that the game is quite similar in its approach: gameplay is about combat, cut-scenes are non-interactive. While both games sport a different genre Lord of the Rings War in the North really feels and plays like Alan Wake, with a lot more depth (story wise and gameplay wise).
The story of the game is based on a small fellowship of 3, a dwarf warrior, a man ranger and an elf female mage. The game takes place in the far North as the title might have pointed out already and the events transpire while Frodo undertakes his own quest. Of course everyone evil in the game is inherently and ultimately evil without any chance of being anything else, the same goes for those benevolent and angelic...everyone else. While the books were written entirely and solely to show the beauty of the English language and also were a take on an alternate history (hence the many books on the history of Middle Earth, new languages, etc), something almost no one knows (superficial bastards), the game doesn't have this privilege or opportunity. You'd think then how the characters might undergo a bit more characterization, or in other words would dip their heads into a puddle of grey mist. You'd think wrong. Still, as boring and annoying as the characters might be at times you can't help but like the great eagles...big birds that talk and aid you in your quest, or the dwarfs...grumpy little bearded man who are exactly the opposite of gay Legolas character types. While most characters are what you'd expect to find in the world of LOTR they were a real refreshment from the bland and utterly annoying shitheads in Alan Wake.
And really, the game doesn't emphasize story like Alan Wake does, instead it tries to make the gameplay as enjoyable as possible. Despite that the story ends up being much more coherent, less annoying, and even more interesting than Alan Wank. Not to spoil anything further, other than the fact good will triumph as always in the world where story never mattered to begin with, play to find out more.
The gameplay itself is very simple. You choose between the aforementioned three fellowship members and either get a friend to play as the other guys or have the AI work with you. At any point in between missions you may choose to play with a different character without having to play the game from the beginning. You follow a very linear path down various corridors painted like mountains, hills, valleys, forests, and slash your enemies to death. There are dozens of different enemies and all require a different approach to defeat. While sometimes you must dash to avoid the immense hit of a huge sledge hammer which will knock you out of combat for a few seconds there are times when you must block fast two handed wielding small baddies. From archers to wizards, from spiders to the famous Uruk Huai, orc, trolls and giants, you'll never grow tired of committing genocide. You spend most of the interactive part of the game going down these corridors and slashing your enemies exactly like you do in Alan Wank. The difference is you wield two different weapons with one character, can be a wizard, a ranger or warrior, can equip various different weapons with each character, battle a multitude of different enemies in different ways, level up, have abilities and spells, sell and buy things, bla bla bla.
The combat itself is really fun and enjoyable, thus it never gets annoying or old. You left click to hit fast and right click to hit more slowly yet with more power. When you deliver enough blows in a row you can right click to incapacitate your enemy and finish him on the ground with another right click or you'll end up chopping his head off while he's still standing; which is shown in a brief slow motion scene which is rather fun. As any RPG you have health potions and mana/power potions. You use the power potions for your special abilities; each party member has 3, and a special 4th one to call upon the aid of a great eagle. If however enemies overwhelm you and you lose all your hp you won't die but will simply fall to the ground. Then you crawl to your fellows who simply hold E to revive you with full health. This is immensely fun, doesn't disrupt the flow of the gameplay, and with huge enemy numbers and the possibility to crank up the difficulty level never gets boring or easy. Hell, there's even a skill tree which you use to strengthen certain attributes or abilities.
With such a variety of landscapes and foes you never grow tired of the repetitive gameplay and I certainly felt sad the game ended when it did. The game does a magnificent job of making you believe you're in an open world (with the background images) and constantly changing enemy types and landscapes certainly contributes to that.
The emphasis on combat is further displayed by small hubs one visits after each mission. One of these safe places is Imladris where you'll meet Frodo, Gandal, Legolas, Gimli, etc. Other than talking to certain npcs to keep up the story progression there are always two npcs to interact with. One of them is a smith who repairs your armor and weapons. The other one is a trader who sells armor, weapons, gems to socket in the aforementioned two, potions and arrows, and buys stuff you picked up on your travels which don't need anymore.
The music is epic and fantasy like as one would expect. The sound is great, especially the clashing of swords during battle which really makes you feel like you're actually waging war. The graphics are lack-lustre at best. While certain textures are polished enough like armor and the like, other parts of the game world look severely outdated. Nevertheless, being a person who really doesn't care that much about graphics so long as the story and/or gameplay are good, I couldn't find a lot to be desired playing WITN.
As shown, the game is very straightforward, intuitive, fun, and really has that epic feeling surrounding it. Granting the game mechanics and story aren't as deep as Witcher 1/2 or Dragon Age 1/2, still the game is much better the last game I've played, Alan Wake. Despite that review scores tend to disagree with me...I guess you can always count on idiots to be just that.
I find comparing a game I'm playing to the game I played before quite cathartic and satisfying, especially when they share certain mechanics.
Would I recommend the game? Certainly. It's fun, it's fast, the combat is great, music and sound are epic, the graphics aren't bad, the story is ok. Come to think of it...it's been a long time since I was able to say that about a game.
Oh...I played as the dwarf...the only REAL man in the fellowship.