Hands-On with War in the North

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I was able to get some hands-on time with Snowblind Studiosí new Lord of the Rings: War in the North demo. The kiosk for this game wasnít big or full of flashing lights, it was just three PS3s and TVs mounted to a wall waiting for a group of players to walk up and give it a try.

When I approached the kiosk, so did another person exploring the WB booth and with the help of the demonstrator for the game, we were off to play through the demo level. War in the North follows a small fellowship of three characters, as you go through a new storyline that takes place during the height of The War of the Ring.

From what I gathered, you will always have three characters at your disposal, but friends can jump in and control the other two characters at any point in order to help out. How fluid this co-op jump in/jump out functionality wasnít clear since I played alongside two other players during the event, but the ability to call friends in to help with your fight is always a plus.

I played the part of an elf magic user. At my disposal was a spell that cast a protective shield around me. While within the bubble, no projectile would harm me, or my companions, but enemies could still walk in and perform melee attacks. This was very helpful from the start when the three of us approached a choke point where an enemy orc was using a massive armored crossbow to take down our health. With the protective bubble up though, we were able to keep his attacks at bay while we all used our long range abilities to take him out.

While this particular fellowship is made of three fighters, there is also a fourth member that can be called upon to deal out massive damage. We can call down a Great Eagle named Beleram. When he descends into a battle, he goes after the biggest and most powerful enemies and does as much damage as he can. While he is a great asset to the fellowship, he has a lengthy cool-down period, so you wonít be able to use him too frequently.

At the end of the demo, we had to protect a group of wizards who were trying to open a locked gate. As you might expect, during the time they were standing around mumbling to each other, wave after wave of enemy forces would run up the stairs to try and stop them. It was, of course, our duty to protect these wizards so that we could get past the gate.

When I realized what was going to happen, I threw up that same protective bubble around them so that only close-quarters attacks could harm our wards and from there, it was all about using our various other abilities to keep them at bay. That is, until a pair trolls decided to join the party. Thankfully, Beleram was still available and while he didnít take them down single-handedly, the fight could have been a lot worse without his aid.

One of the little details I really liked about War in the North was the gameís loot system. In order to help the fact that you could possibly have three different human players trying to claim the loot, each person can approach a body or chest and get loot from it, and from what I gathered, the loot you grab is fairly particular to your class, so you shouldnít get items that you wonít find useful.

While I only got to play through one small part of Lord of the Rings: War in the North, I liked what I played and the ability to have friends join in to help when needed is always a boon. Hopefully the friendly A.I. is good though because it would be a shame if you had to rely fully on when your friends could play the game.