Being a decent reviewer (which I indeed hope I am) requires you to do a little bit of research, and now-a-days it seems that merely playing the game doesn't cut it. Upon my “in-depth” research of this game I came across this post:
(This isn’t written, supported or even related to anything by the author nor Game-Debate site…)
Hm… So in the vein of trying to appease these kinds of people who think this game is underrated and reviewed “improperly” (seriously, what does that even mean…?) I will try to make no reference to Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3, nor Dragon Age 2 because you know I loved that game (irony for those who don’t get it).
That being said what exactly can I say about War in the North from Snowblind Studios? Well, it is indeed made by Snowblind. If you have ever played one of their endless supply of your generic hack and slash games, then you’ll be well acquainted with this game. If you’ve never played Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath, then this game won’t exactly make you a convert though.
Let’s start out with combat as this IS and ACTION “rpg.” You spam you attacks, without any form of rhythm or metre. It actually get rather dull. Where as some games would at least allow you to break up the tedium by memorizing ridiculous combos (up, up, down, down, left, right etc.) you just keep hitting the mouse button you want. Left is quicker (molasses up-hill faster) than your right click slow smash (slow as in molasses down-hill when gravity is non-existent). The speed of attacks combined with the rate at which characters move piled up on top of the fact that there is nothing really to break the mind numbing mashing of buttons results in an action game that feels rather un-action-like.
A minor note on that, using two swords as a ranger is slower than using a bulky two handed sword. This seems like a technical oversight on the part of the game designers and adds to the rather unpolished nature of the game.
On that note, it brings me to another big gripe of mine about this game. It just feels so unfinished. Quests seem like an afterthought and don’t affect the game at all aside from that you’ll get more money. There are no quests that leap out at you or even offer you an incentive to complete them, simply because they are “if you happen to pick ___ up, please bring them back.”
The RPG elements are simply bollocks (yes, really). Stats just up damage in one form or another, be it how much or for how long you can keep dealing it. Skills are just better ways of dealing damage and the characters feel way too similar to each other to even call them different classes. The world map similarly makes the game feel unfinished. If you toggle the legend it brings up the many, many, many significant places within Middle Earth, making the scope of the game massive. However in the 8 LONG hours of tedium that it took for me to beat the game, there were about only a dozen of them used. While the scenery of some was spectacular, particularly the level of the Dwarven undercity of Nordinbad, there is much to be desired. Yes it takes place in the north and features my favorite place of Tolkien lore the Barrow Downs, but the locations fall flat. The repetitious use of the same enemies makes the locations only pretty scenery instead of an interactive environment. There are no different feelings between the levels. Encounters are just as repetitious as the selection in that there’s always just a constant stream of badies that operate on the worst difficulty curve (in the beginning of the game they take about 2-3 hits to down whereas by the end, despite that in only two levels, even when taking into account that equipment and damage SCALE, they take about five times that many blows to take down and that’s only the grunts). Because my friend Survivor as mentioned in his critique of the critiques of this game this directly, I feel as if I should defend and maybe clarify what the poster at CheatCC said, it’s not that increased difficulty is annoying, but the fact that it seems more like a staircase than a curve. The amount of time spent on the weakest of enemies should be the same amount of time you spent on a mini-boss two or even one level ago. It’s inconsistent and it makes it seem like you’re trying to pad the length of your game not through content, but designed repetition.
The part that saddens me most about this game was the hype surrounding it before it came out and it’s lack thereof to meet this standard of an action RPG (not vice versa). This game is closer, yes, to Diablo and Borderlands than it is to the two aforementioned RPGS that I’m not allowed to mention, but the problem is that the game just is a derivative and feels like a Lord of the Rings skinned version of both. Maybe it’s my problem with the whole genre of hack and slash where they have no compelling plot nor characters to hold my interest, and the fact that the setting pieces are almost interchangeable with one another, but that’s why this game bugs me, because it advertises itself under a franchise where the rich characters and even more gorgeous history and lore are completely under developed and seldom used. The familiar faces are only used so the player can say “Hey! I recognize them!” and would be easily replaced by the generic wiseman and generic quirky yet loveable NPC. There’s no reason for this game to be a Lord of the Rings game.
I have to end up giving this game a 13 on the d20. It tries, but it doesn’t accomplish much. Combat is watered down and repetitive and, unfortunately, is the only focus of the game due to its clichéd story and faceless characters. While it is entertaining most of the time, it feels more like a pastime than an enjoyable game.
P.S. HOW/WHY CAN I MAKE AN ORC’S HEAD EXPLODE WITH AN ARROW?!?!