AndrielSmudge and I wiped our broken saves a few days ago, and gave War in the North a second try. The good news is that we had no bugs and got through the end of the game last night. However, we were expecting to have another couple large areas to go through, so this caught us by surprise, and we never did try the two ‘challenge levels’ that opened up a little into the game.

Overall, it’s a good game, and I’m happy to have spent money on it. At the same time, I’m glad I got it on sale.

Mechanically, the game works, though the UI has some problems (managing items, especially when choosing a reward) requires too much futzing around, and we kept ending up with things other than what we intended). The story is not that complicated, but it is an action game first.

There’s plenty of conversations to be had, and they all have pretty good dialog trees, and all the voice actors did a good job. However, the motions for the conversations are all automatically generated, and with a very limited range, so all the people move like animatronics. Also, they went way too heavy with the shading on them, which ends up beating them with an ugly stick (Elrond and Arwen are especially bad in this respect).

On the other hand, all the non-humanoids (mostly great eagles) are very well animated, and really come across as characters.

The look of the game is very faithful to the movies, but at one point Frodo refers to going through the Barrow Downs, which only happens in the book; so that was unexpected. The game has a nice travel map with plenty of locations picked out that never appear in the game, it’s just a vehicle for lore. Someone was certainly in love with Middle-Earth.

I remember seeing some high-profile ads for a year or two before the game came out, and it looked like a high-budget game. The ending credits has a lot of people in it. But the game looks and feels like a budget game. We’re wondering where all the money went (quite possibly on paying big-name actors to reprise their roles for the game; they didn’t get everyone, but they certainly had Ian McKellen).

The combat is good though, and never really bogged down. You’re mostly fighting orcs and goblins, and they come in a few types, but they generally mix those up in different fights, so it’s not just waves of the same thing either. And then there’s Mirkwood….

There was one encounter that gave us some trouble, and I’m not sure how you’d manage it in single player. There’s a ‘defend the gate’ sequence where you need to stop a couple trolls or it’s game over/restart. Since they can knock you down/stun you, it was very hard to keep them from succeeding with the both of us. Considering the NPC character was getting bogged down with orcs, I have to assume you’ll end up trying to stop them both alone in single player.

In general, I recommend getting the game as a light multiplayer action game. Get it on sale if you have at least one other person to enjoy it with. We’re probably going to play again, or at least start to. Smudge wants to fiddle around and see if we can figure out just what causes save games to break at least.