It's been a long time since we've had a Lord of the Rings RPG to look
forward to. It's also
been a long time since we've had an RPG from Snowblind Studios to play
for that matter, so I suppose it's fortuitous that we're getting
one game. War in the North is
a brand new three player co-op RPG from the makes of such games as Champions of Norath and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance.
similar in many ways to Snowblind's previous work, War in the North feels like it's
own beast when stacked against the company's repertoire.
| "It's been a long time since we've had
a Lord of the Rings RPG to look forward to."
For starters, for those unfamiliar with Snowblind
Studios games, they were known for making top-down Diablo style hack-and-slash RPGs. War in the North
certainly continues in the hack and slash RPG style, but now plays from
a third-person perspective. There will be three characters that players
can choose from: an Elven mage, a Dwarven warrior, and a Human ranger.
These various characters have the types of abilities you'd expect,
however in the demo there were a number of different ways you could
upgrade them. For example, with the mage you could mainly focus on
defensive spells and buffs, go more offensive, or mix and match and
make your own build. The ability trees appeared to be quite extensive.
As for the combat itself, characters have two varieties
of basic attacks. Basic melee attacks, which were pretty simple
accomplished with one button, and also ranged attacks, which
benefit greatly from the third-person perspective. Previous Snowblind
titles had issues with ranged attacks due to difficulties aiming from
the top down view. The special abilities previously mentioned are
accessed by holding down one of the shoulder buttons (right-bumper on
the Xbox 360 demo) and pressing the face button mapped to a specific
ability. Only the Xbox 360 version was on display, so it's unclear how
the controls will work on the PC version. Combat is fast and fun and
the characters complimented each other well as we battled Orcs and
Trolls, which were no pushovers.
Another interesting aspect of the game is that there is
separate loot (meaning armor and weapons) for each of the characters,
so there's no need to fight over the best items. Each character also
has varying environmental abilities, with the Elf being able to find
use plant components, and the Dwarf being able to find secret caves.
The game will always have the three characters in play, so
it's not possible to have players using the same characters. An
additional downside to this setup is that when you pick a character in
single-player, that's who you'll have to use throughout, with the
other two characters being controlled by AI. You can switch over to
multi-player on the fly at least. As far as multi-player options go,
there will be split-screen (for two players) and online play, and you
can play online with a third person while playing split-screen.
Last, but not least, are a few quick notes about the
story. The person from Snowblind I spoke with told me that the story is
based on a comment Gandalf makes in the books regarding heroes in the
north who essentially prevent the tide of the war from turning. With
access to both the film and novel licenses, the developers have full
access to the lore of Lord of the
Rings, which could make for some very interesting story
elements. The demo only covered battles in a snowy mountain area, so
it's too early to tell how the story will pan out. Lord of the Rings fans should
certainly keep an eye on this title, which is due out sometime in 2011.