There’s always room for surprises at E3, and one of the more pleasant ones came in the form of The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, a third person action/RPG title featuring three player co-op. We were treated to a closed door preview at Warner Bros. Entertainment booth, where a trio of testers from developer Snowblind Studios played a build of the game for us. Snowblind is no stranger to the genre, having developed Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Justice League Heroes.
Right off the bat, the production value of War in the North is very high. The graphics are crisp and detailed; the setting of the demo was Mirkwood Forest, with dense foliage and trees. The creature and player models are large, with plenty of character and detail.
The demo began with one the eagles transporting a trio of heroes to the edge of Mirkwood. The heroes consisted of a human mage, an elf and a dwarf. The game is set during the events of the novel, but in a different region, allowing the developers some freedom while remaining within the canon of the books.
The trio are immediately set upon by a horde of orcs and wargs led by a Ringwraith riding a dragon. The combat is swift, brutal and bloody, as the heroes cut a swath through the attackers. Each of the heroes showed their own strength: the dwarf clubbed orcs with his mace, while the elf shot arrows and occasionally brandished a blade when they got too close. The mage had a twofold task: he fired offensive spells, but he was also tasked with healing his compatriots – when either was incapacitated, he could revive them. He also had a spell called Sanctuary, which was essentially a force bubble which was impenetrable to magic or missiles. When the battle was over, the eagle came and finished off the dragon itself.
After a few words with the eagle, the trio set along the dark path through Mirkwood. It is here that the differences between the three adventurers were pronounced. The elf was the only one who could see warg prints trailing off the path. The human was the only one who could pick fruits and berries to create, for example, healing potions. The dwarf could find weaknesses in stone walls to burst through.
It’s important to note that the three players who were playing the demo were constantly communicating. This is a game that requires real teamwork, since each character depends on the others to cover their weaknesses as well as provide their own strengths. This became apparent during a boss battle with a servant of Mordor, which was long and difficult. The mage constantly had to use Sanctuary while the dwarf and elf took their potshots at the evil henchman. The battle was enough to convince all watching that the bosses would test the cooperation of the players; while the game will provide bots for single player play, it’s hard to imagine the game being as fun without two other humans playing along.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North looks like a real sleeper hit, and will be released on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2011. Keep an eye out for this one.
Jonah Falcon is a blogger for TMRzoo and GameStooge.com and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Jonah provides his readers with reviews, previews and up to date gaming industry news and rumors.