The lights are on
I got my first hands-on time with Snowblind Studios’ Lord of the Rings: War in the North at E3, and I’m happy to report that it’s exactly what I was hoping for. I’m a big fan of hack-and-slash combat, loot, and the Lord of the Rings, and from what I played, the game seems to expertly blend it all together.I chose to play as Farin, the dwarf, and I was accompanied by a pair of fellow players picking up the roles of Andriel the mage and Eradan the ranger. Farin was a stout fighter (what do you expect?) who is good for keeping himself alive in combat while aiding his party. Sure enough, when my fellow players were swarmed by orcs, I used a war cry ability to draw the creatures’ attention to me. The ability comes with a boost of stamina as well, which is helpful. Some of Farin’s other abilities include a shield bash that temporarily stuns foes, and a sweeping attack that damages enemies within a 360 radius.In addition to the three-member fellowship, fearsome eagles appear as honorary fourth members. They can be called down into battles, tearing enemies to shreds. In one area during the demo, I called upon one to take on a huge troll. In seconds, the formerly fearsome enemy was on the ground, being torn apart by the eagle’s talons and sharp beak. Unlike character abilities, which operate on a cooldown basis after each use, eagle strikes are limited, so players will have to use them wisely. Those cooldowns are nicely balanced, so you’re able to use the abilities when you need them without overrelying on simply spamming them.As my team carved its way through a ruined castle, fighting through swaths of orcs, I gained experience and loot. These function as you’d expect; the leveling up screen allows you to pour points into your main abilities (strength and stamina being particularly important for Farin), as well as explore a skill tree for character abilities. The loot system is intuitive, highlighting categories of items with a glowing sign when you’ve picked up new loot that’s worth equipping. If you do grab something from a chest that isn’t usable, you can easily pass it along to your fellow adventurers.After working up and around the castle grounds, we met up with a pair of elves who had to unseal a door. Our job was simple: defend them from an incoming onslaught. By then, our group had coalesced into a pretty tough force. I did my best to keep enemies busy up close while my partners picked them off from a distance. Loot and limbs fell to the ground with a satisfying regularity.The demo didn’t end with a big boss encounter, but just after we’d slaughtered the last orc. Even though that may sound a little anticlimactic, I was completely satisfied. I had tons of loot to sort through, and I felt as though our efforts were helping those of the more well-known fellowship to the south.Look for the game on PC, PlayStation 3, and PC this August 24.
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