Lord Of The Rings: War In The North Eyes-On Impressions: A Party Of Three

Two things described by J.R.R. Tolkein in his Lord of the Rings trilogy haven't been seen yet in video games: Bloody, brutal violence, and the War in the North. An action RPG due out in 2011 will deliver both.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is the first M-rated game for the saga, after a slew of games rated between Everyone and Teen. It will be a canonical inclusion of The Lord of the Rings saga, with the full licence and blessing of the Tolkien estate, and actually being mentioned by Tolkien (albeit briefly) in his works gives the game some intrigue for fans.

Snowblind Studios, the outfit behind Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, showed us two boss battles that test different aspects of the cooperative play the game will demand. In a 20-minute demonstration, we saw the three main characters - elf, dwarf and human mage - flying over Myrkwood on grey eagle. There they were waylaid by - forgive me, this guy's name escapes me, but he rode a dragon and has some magical affinity. And a really evil-looking helmet. The battle demonstrated the need for a human mage's Sanctuary spell (depicted above). It casts a bubble that repels ranged attacks. This was key as Whatsisface rained down attacks on the poor elf trying to revive the downed dwarf. They came so frequently that revival was impossible, until the mage arrived with the Sanctuary. Ultimately they prevailed.

The second boss battle against a troll featured more brutal action than the first, and action befitting an M-rating. Characters left the scene spattered in blood. The dwarf took one hell of a beating in the troll's grasp. Then again, he did stab the troll in the eye.

Teamwork is brought out in the three classes racial abilities. Elves, being trackers, will spot illuminated trails that neither dwarves nor humans can notice. Humans can find herbs and other substances and, with a crafting skill, turn them into healing or other potions and compounds. Dwarves can spot weaknesses in subterranean walls, which expose alternate routes or treasure rooms.

At all times you will be adventuring with two companions, even if you are playing single-player. The other two will be run by bot AIs. I noticed in some melee combat that some stun attacks put foes into a bullet time, but I couldn't track fast enough to see if it was represented that way to others in the party, too. Snowblind says a final determination on this has yet to be made.

It's a very handsome game with well voiced cutscenes, and places the compelling Lord of the Rings realm in the hands of a developer with solid RPG credentials. Fans of both have good reason to look forward to a unique entry in the series.


Comments

    Tolkein never really wrote in-depth violence at all : \

    There's certainly not am excessive amount of gory description, but one of the key aspects of the Red Book is that it is what has come to be known in later years as 'gritty'. Not the faux-gritty of cheesy noir, but just 'real'.

    It's true, there is not an inordinate amount of gore described in-depth across the work. There is, however, some. A study of the violence in the LOTR (http://www.polyoinos.de/tolk_stuff/violence_lotr.html) counts about 15% of the overall violence in the book as being "vivid reports of violence".

    Even then, we're dealing with a different medium. Saying "the orc's was beheaded" is much less vivid than seeing an orc beheaded, because it is only a description. In text, that is a description that is as gory or not as the reader's mind. A visual of an orc being beheaded would, by definition, require the head be removed. One only needs to have seen the censored version of L4D2 (leaving aside the merits of the game) to see how jarring a lack of gore in an otherwise realistic game can be.

    When it comes down to it, regardless of the amount of gore described in a text, the Red Book contains countless battles. It is, among other things, about war. Swords, axes, bows, arrows. When they're involved, in reality, there's gore. There's no reason to believe elves, dwarves or cave trolls bleed any less than a human.

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