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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The game itself looks okay for a hack-and-slash, especially if the co-op stuff gets working well. However, "a faithful entry in the LOTR canon" it most certainly is not - the fact that the eagle is basically used as a weapon is bad enough (Tolkien specifically meant the Eagles to be independent creatures, who helped only when necessary - they were not steeds), but the flashy, overdone magic and the long tradition of deviations in games before it make me skeptical. It'll probably be considered non-canon anyways (god I hope so) but it still really bugs me.

Neverhoodian:
I like what I'm seeing so far, but I couldn't help but shake my head when Amy Drobeck made the following statement:

"For Tolkien, the Great Eagles are a representation of the order of nature..."

No...just, no. Tolkien hated allegory in all its forms and never intended any part of Middle-Earth to be a representation of anything. The Great Eagles are awesome giant birds and nothing more.

That's not allegory. The kind of allegory you're talking about, the kind that Tolkien hated, was the kind where people convinced themselves the events in Lord Of The Rings represented contemporary, real-life events. What you're talking about is symbolism, and it's unfair of you to bash the woman for her interpretation as such. Tolkien was a professor of mythology, and would have had a much better grasp of the use and application of symbolism, allusion and themes than you, I, or practically every other person on this thread.

For example: Why are hobbits only 3 feet high? Is it because Tolkien just wanted a race of awesome pint-sized people? No. It's because Tolkien wanted to create a story that celebrated the humble and the meek: thus the hobbits physical size is a representation of the values that Tolkien was honouring.

Similarly, look at the orcs, trolls and Nazgul in the novel. All those those races/creatures were created as 'corruptions' of other races; elves, ents and men. Instead of creating mooks of an entirely different nature to the other races of Middle-Earth, Tolkien decided to to use bastardized, corrupted versions of the free peoples. Why? Well firstly, it makes for a nice bit of contrast and symmetry. Secondly, and most importantly, those creatures highlight the corruptive nature of evil. The Enemy is unable to create anything truly of his own, he can only bastardize and deface what is already there.

Lastly, you've forgotten that Professor T himself coined the term 'Applicability'. He may not have liked people drawing comparisons between his story and specific events cough*WorldWarII*cough, but he was perfectly fine with people interpreting the themes as they liked, and even coined the term for it. A fan once asked him if the Fell Beasts the Nazgul rode were Pterodactyls. He replied that if the fan thought they were, then that was a valid interpretation. If Ms Drobeck wants to interpret the Eagles as the representation of the duality of Nature, then good for her. She's not right, of course, as the Eagles actually represent the Deus Ex Machina device beloved by writers of fiction, but that's neither here nor there...

EDIT

Completely forgot to comment on how the game looks: Undecided. Some of the LOTR games have been alright, but generally as soon as the developers start writing their own stories into the LOTR narrative, things start going a bit dodgy. Anyone else remember "The Third Age"? *Shudder* The developers of that one deserved to be slapped repeatedly round the head with a LOTR Omnibus edition...

Just a thought but from the trailer did it not look like the eagle was having more fun than the player characters?

This looks good, I heard there weren't any moral choices in the game though and it was just the dialog or something?

Snowy Rainbow:

allistairp:
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.

You are determining the game to be good from a trailer and production staff interviews? That's a bold claim.

IIRC the Escapist has seen the demo...

I'm getting this no matter what. Huge LOTR fan, just please let his be good. Let it also have a good story, and fun enough so I can convince my friends to pick this up.

Compatriot Block:

OhJohnNo:

Neverhoodian:
I like what I'm seeing so far, but I couldn't help but shake my head when Amy Drobeck made the following statement:

"For Tolkien, the Great Eagles are a representation of the order of nature..."

No...just, no. Tolkien hated allegory in all its forms and never intended any part of Middle-Earth to be a representation of anything. The Great Eagles are awesome giant birds and nothing more.

Still, the game itself looks promising.

I am reminded a quote from one of Isaac Asimov's opening mini-essays: "What makes you think you understand your story, just because you wrote it?"

Tolkein may have not intended anything to have any deeper meaning, but that doesn't mean people can't interpret it their own way. If that guy wishes to see Great Eagles as a representation of the order of nature, more power to him.

I've never understood that line of thought. Of course the author has more say in the representation of his work. If a reader decides that it's actually, say, a criticism of capitalism, the only reason for him to claim that the author has no more authority than anyone else is if the author disagrees with the reader's conclusion.

What I'm trying to say is, I just see it as an easy way to attack the credibility of those who don't see the same metaphors as you.

Drobeck didn't just see a metaphor, however. She attributed it to Tolkein as if that was his intention. As far as "what is a symbol?", which seems to be where this is going, I agree that a symbol can be created by anyone at any time from anything.

Does anybody know if this loosely follows the story of the war in the north set by LOTR Battle For Middle Earth 2? If we saw some returning characters from that I would be extremely happy, but if it doesn't interconnect or re-writes that story I will not bother purchasing. I really, really enjoyed that interpretation of the war in the north and I consider it canon for the whole LOTR series.

Abedeus:
Can we please have a PC Hack'n'slash without coop? So sick and tired of this... Oh hey, this game looks good... COOP!! Oh, looks fun... TWO PLAYERS AND MOOOORE

ehh. I can't wait for Diablo 3.

Pretty much yeah. I was hoping for a nice single player game with this one, forcing co-op is just, lame.

OhJohnNo:

Neverhoodian:
I like what I'm seeing so far, but I couldn't help but shake my head when Amy Drobeck made the following statement:

"For Tolkien, the Great Eagles are a representation of the order of nature..."

No...just, no. Tolkien hated allegory in all its forms and never intended any part of Middle-Earth to be a representation of anything. The Great Eagles are awesome giant birds and nothing more.

Still, the game itself looks promising.

I am reminded a quote from one of Isaac Asimov's opening mini-essays: "What makes you think you understand your story, just because you wrote it?"

Tolkein may have not intended anything to have any deeper meaning, but that doesn't mean people can't interpret it their own way. If that guy wishes to see Great Eagles as a representation of the order of nature, more power to him.

I've never understood that line of thought. Of course the author has more say in the representation of his work. If a reader decides that it's actually, say, a criticism of capitalism, the only reason for him to claim that the author has no more authority than anyone else is if the author disagrees with the reader's conclusion.

What I'm trying to say is, I just see it as an easy way to attack the credibility of those who don't see the same metaphors as you.

Can we please have a PC Hack'n'slash without coop? So sick and tired of this... Oh hey, this game looks good... COOP!! Oh, looks fun... TWO PLAYERS AND MOOOORE

ehh. I can't wait for Diablo 3.

OhJohnNo:

I am reminded a quote from one of Isaac Asimov's opening mini-essays: "What makes you think you understand your story, just because you wrote it?"

Tolkein may have not intended anything to have any deeper meaning, but that doesn't mean people can't interpret it their own way. If that guy wishes to see Great Eagles as a representation of the order of nature, more power to him.

Well, perhaps I'm just kind of fed up with people trying to impose their personal interpretations as some sort of incontrovertible fact. For example, I remember taking a poetry class in college where the professor would ask for feedback on what we felt the various poems we read meant. Eventually, each "discussion" would turn into her trying to convince us that her interpretation was the "right" one. When it came time for the final exam, you had better use her version as the answer if you wanted to get the question right.

It would have been better for the narrator to say, "The Great Eagles are often seen as a representation of the order of nature." To say Tolkien interpreted them as such when he clearly didn't gives the wrong impression.

To be fair though, I should have re-worded my post a bit to say "To Tolkien, the Great Eagles were awesome giant birds and nothing more."

Neverhoodian:
I like what I'm seeing so far, but I couldn't help but shake my head when Amy Drobeck made the following statement:

"For Tolkien, the Great Eagles are a representation of the order of nature..."

No...just, no. Tolkien hated allegory in all its forms and never intended any part of Middle-Earth to be a representation of anything. The Great Eagles are awesome giant birds and nothing more.

Still, the game itself looks promising.

I am reminded a quote from one of Isaac Asimov's opening mini-essays: "What makes you think you understand your story, just because you wrote it?"

Tolkein may have not intended anything to have any deeper meaning, but that doesn't mean people can't interpret it their own way. If that guy wishes to see Great Eagles as a representation of the order of nature, more power to him.

I like what I'm seeing so far, but I couldn't help but shake my head when Amy Drobeck made the following statement:

"For Tolkien, the Great Eagles are a representation of the order of nature..."

No...just, no. Tolkien hated allegory in all its forms and never intended any part of Middle-Earth to be a representation of anything. The Great Eagles are awesome giant birds and nothing more.

Still, the game itself looks promising.

I actually rather enjoyed Conquest...but I love most hack & slash games

And that Eagle was kicking ass towards the end of the trailer.

I played this at PAXEast. It was actually pretty fun, I was the Dwarf and he has a lot of "tank" abilities, like taunt and charge and whatnot, and my friend played the Ranger, who was the DPS guy. The Dev played the Elf Wizard, who was basically support, I think, but the guy kind of chilled behind us firing the occasional spell, so I didn't see it much.

It was like a simplified MMO setting, but with friends, the game could be amazing with the tactics required. And the combat was very enjoyable and satisfying feeling.

I think it looks cool and I'll probably buy it, but I don't really like the way they are handling magic. Much like Conquest (which I hated), some of the magic does not really fit with how it was in the books/movies.

allistairp:

Snowy Rainbow:

allistairp:
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.

You are determining the game to be good from a trailer, production staff interviews and an E3 demo? That's a bold claim.

This preview was based on a hands-on demo, as were many other E3 previews we posted.

I've modified the quoted post to amend it.

Can I please get a game based in the First or Second Age of Middle Earth? Pretty please? The end of the Third Age has been done to death.

Snowy Rainbow:

allistairp:
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.

You are determining the game to be good from a trailer and production staff interviews? That's a bold claim.

This preview was based on a hands-on demo, as were many other E3 previews we posted.

Continue reading 23 comments on the forums.
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