E3 2011

E3: Lord of the Rings: War in the North

| 14 Jun 2011 14:30

Lord of the Rings co-op action: Now with giant eagles!

When I first set my eyes on War in the North, I thought it was some sort of sequel to Pandemic's lackluster Lord of the Rings: Conquest. As it turns out, WitN couldn't be more different, with an emphasis on a linear campaign and cooperative action - more importantly, it's actually good.

Since being pleasantly surprised by the game at South by Southwest last March, I've had hopes that Snowblind Studios would make a game that lives up to the developer's classic Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. So far, so good. The E3 demo presented a new area and combat features, mainly a giant eagle you can call in for support.

War in the North is a three-player cooperative action-RPG with loot, an enjoyable combat system and a original storyline with moral choices. The game is a hack-n-slash, so repetition is inevitable. Like all good entries in the genre, WitN avoids fatigue by stringing the player along with new loot, ability unlocks and addicting combat.

The three players choose between an elf, dwarf and ranger. Each has their own play style, but perhaps they aren't as distinct as they could be. I was disappointed to find that running head-on into combat was more effective than long-distance archery, while playing as the ranger.

The player has a weak and strong attack which can be strung into combos; striking with a strong attack while an enemy is dazed results in an execution and extra xp. Cooperative play makes the waves of enemies manageable, but also helps players level-up faster with additional xp given for co-op combos. Incentives like these make sticking together the best choice, even when one player gets annoyed at another for hording all the item drops.

Each ability has its own recharge time, which don't last all that long. As a result, you'll rely on each character's abilities which alter the rhythm of combat. For instance, the ranger has a cloak ability that lets the player sneak up behind an enemy and perform a one-hit kill. Each character shares the ability to summon a giant eagle that swoops down and attacks an enemy. This is especially useful when facing a boss.

LotR games haven't had the strongest track record as of late, but War in the North might change that. With offline, online and mixed co-op, Snowblind's latest is a welcome diversion among fall's co-op shooters and a faithful entry in the LotR canon.

Middle-Earth and co-op fans can pick up the game August 24 for 360, PS3 and PC.

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