The Lord of the Rings: War in the North PlayStation 3 Review

It’s time for some more orc slaying, as Lord of The Rings: War in the North tells a new Tolkien-infused tale...

The Lord of the Rings has much more depth to its universe than the adventures of the Fellowship of the Ring, and it’s not just Frodo and Co. that exist in Tolkien’s world. There are plenty of other characters and stories waiting to be told, and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a game that does just that.

Functioning as a kind of side story to the events in the famous trilogy, War in the North tells the tale of a trio of new heroes who fight the good fight against Sauron’s minions in the northern reaches of Middle-earth, whilst the ring bearer treks down south to Mordor. With events running parallel to those in Frodo’s adventure, the action here is all about introducing new characters, locations and battles to the mix, emphasising that Sauron’s evil reach wasn’t limited to Gondor and Rohan, but did, in fact, spread all the way through Middle-earth, and if not for the new heroes introduced here, Frodo and his pals may have had no home to come back to.

New kids

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As one of a heroic trio including, Farin, a dwarvern warrior, Eradan, a Ranger, or Andreil, an Elven Loremaster (that’s mage to you and me), players embark on a slash ‘em up-come-RPG adventure that takes in the sights and sound of some familiar locations of the LOTR world, as well as a selection of new vistas not seen before. Kicking things off in the famous town of Bree, home to the Prancing Pony inn, you begin with a hushed meeting with none other than Aragorn himself. This is all prior to the events in Fellowship, and so he’s still skulking around as Strider, waiting for Frodo to show up.

Things aren’t going well in the North. The dark riders are causing a stir, and a particularly evil Mordor general, Agandaûr, is planning to wipe out all resistance, operating from a local ruined city. And, yes, you’ve guessed it. You’re tasked with intervening in said plans, and have to distract the enemy whilst Aragorn locates the jewellery-burdened Hobbit.

After your briefing with Aragorn, you’re let loose into Bree, where you can shop for weapons and armour, and can talk to some inhabitants, but it’s not long before you’re free to leave and start cracking skulls and mashing faces.

Hack, slash and level up

Once it gets going, War in the North is, essentially, a button-mashing scrapper that comes with bolted on RPG elements. As one of the three characters, each of whom has their own skills and weapon preferences (and you can switch between them, if you wish, between levels) you fight your way through various linear locations, dispatching sword-fodder enemies, mini-bosses and powerful leaders, and as you go you earn experience, which you can spend to beef up your fighters. Stats like strength, stamina and magic can be improved, and each level grants you a single ability point you can spend on such things as dual wielding, evasion, better magical strikes, and special moves and so on. You can also find and equip a myriad for weapons and armour, and you can augment equipment with stat boosting jewels.

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To be honest, it’s all fairly basic stuff in practise, but, it works well. Although the RPG elements are basic, the well-handled combat mechanics, which feature the usual fast and strong attacks, dodges, and special moves are married well with the levelling system, and finding better equipment to further boost your chances makes searching around for treasure chests, or looting fallen warriors essential.

The controls are simple enough too, and although you need to hold down the shoulder buttons to access special moves and ranged attacks, it’s all intuitive enough, and it’s pretty enjoyable, if ultimately a little generic, with an often clumsy camera that can obscure your view when indoors or in confined spaces.

Kill, kill, and kill again

This generic-tinge is War in the North‘s real issue though. The RPG and the story elements aside, the gameplay is all very samey, and there’s little in the way of any radical features, or anything that makes this stand out as a LOTR title. The main characters can be customised, but are about as two dimensional and boring as it gets, and the constant trudge from checkpoint to checkpoint, mashing buttons to take out similar enemy after similar enemy soon becomes a little wearing. Add to this the ineffectual AI of your team mates, who, for the most part, leave you to do all of the work, and you’ve got a decent, but flawed, and occasionally dull scrapper that simply doesn’t use its license to the full.

There are some elements that do shine, such as the aforementioned RPG elements, looting ever-increasingly cool equipment, the attractive visuals and the ability to revive, and/or be revived by your team mates mid-battle, as well as cool powers such as calling down a giant eagle to take out your foes, but for 90% of the time it’s simplistic and repetitive combat. Some standout moments in the story do raise the bar, but these are few and far between. The addition of multiplayer co-op does add a big attraction though, and the split screen option is welcome too.

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At its heart, War In The North is certainly not a bad game. Combat is fun in short bursts, it stays true to Tolkien’s vision, and co-op is a blast, but the inevitable waning interest thanks to repetitive combat and dull characters, plus the general lack of ambition for such a usually epic franchise, drags it down a peg or two. It’s one for beat ‘em up fans and Tolkien die hards, but for most this is rental fodder and little more.

You can rent or buy The Lord of the Rings: War in the North at


3 out of 5