One Game to Rule Them All


Snowblind Studios is currently working on a very ambitious game. It's a licensed product, but it's one of those special titles that expands the established universe and takes it into uncharted waters. The title of this risky project is The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Based on what I have seen, this may be the LOTR game that fans have been wanting for years.

The showing I attended began with a trailer. It seemed like standard Lord of the Rings fare at first, but then we got a sense of what Snowblind is gunning for. Specifically, we got a sense of the ESRB rating that the team is gunning for -- and that would be a big fat "M." The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a blood-soaked third person action role-playing game. Excited yet?

One of the development team's goals is to dig into the bits of lore that are ripe for expansion and expression through the video game medium. With regards to both the original stories and Peter Jackson's film trilogy, Snowblind wants to feature the best of both worlds. They want to show you things that are emblematic of the LOTR universe, but they also want to show you parts of the established canon that are merely hinted at in Tolkien's work.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North features a three player interdependent cooperative experience. That means you'll be able to tackle the campaign with up to two more friends. If you choose to play alone, you'll have two A.I. party members. You and your fellow party members will have to depend on each other for survival; each character's ability set is complementary to that of the others.

Snowblind isn't revealing much on the story just yet, but all we need to know at this point is that Sauron is very much a presence in the North, and his influence needs to be eradicated. The demo follows a party of three on a quest to find Radagast the Brown, a wizard who lives beyond the dangerous Mirkwood Forest. The party is comprised of a human, an elf, and a dwarf. This diversity proves to be beneficial, as racial abilities factor into the cooperative experience much like they do in MMORPGs. Naturally, this diversity lends itself well to combat, as well.

When the party is attacked by a troll, the dwarf engages it in close-range combat, hacking at it with its axe and generally drawing the beast's ire. The elf tries to fight from a distance; staying in motion while occasionally pausing to fire off a volley seems to be an acceptable strategy. The human is a Loremaster, and he uses a special spell called Sanctuary to buffer everyone within range of the spell's focal point. After a long and heavy battle, the troll dies of several grievous wounds.

There are action role-playing staples all over this game, from the loot/reward cycle of games like Diablo to a ring-shaped conversation system almost exactly like the one from Mass Effect. Furthermore, the developers are claiming to have a deep character creation system that allows players to build the kind of characters they want, from physical appearances to statistics.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is nothing if not ambitious. If Snowblind works this the right way, we could have the ultimate Lord of the Rings game on our hands. The three-player cooperative campaign looks extremely promising, and the subtle shift to a darker tone seems to bode well for the franchise as a whole. I consider myself a fan of the series, and I'm very excited to see how War in the North turns out. The game won't be coming out until 2011, but we'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment