E3 2011: Lord of the Rings: War in the North second look: Why aren’t there more co-op RPGs?

There simply are not enough cooperative RPGs in this world. Full stop. You wanna headshot your buddy with a sniper rifle, you’ve got dozens of options. But if you want to team up together and take down the evil anything, your options can be counted on just a few fingers. Thankfully, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is looking address that scarcity in a very big way. Chronicling the efforts of a different fellowship of adventurers during the War of the Ring, if there’s a more satisfying-looking co-op fantasy romp coming this year, we don’t know it.

The E3 demo featured our fellowship of three - a stocky dwarf axeman, an agile and sneaky human ranger, and an elven mage/healer - working together to carve a path through the dozens, possibly hundreds of orcs standing between us and the end of the level. We played as the ranger, who served a mixed role in the party. He was more than capable in sword combat, but was also useful as an invisible scout/saboteur or as a ranged bowman. There was also a fourth member of our party who really stole the show – a massive eagle whom we could call in every so often to pounce upon an unsuspecting foe. He was, no pun intended, the ultimate wingman.

But it’s not all random hacking and slashing. War in the North really works at making you all use your specific skills far more effectively than most cooperative games do. For instance, the elf can heal and cast a sort of bubble shield, which will obviously be incredibly helpful at times. And other times, the choice between attacking with your melee weapon or at range will be crucial. One specific section had explosive orcs sprinting at us while we fought normal orcs. It quickly became clear (after a failure of an attempt) that the ranger character would be best utilized as a bowman to take down the explosive orcs before they reached the healer and tank. It’s not just a matter of figuring out the solution, though – then you’ve got to execute your plan. The explosive orcs were tough to shoot and plenty of them managed to get through and explode next to our party members.

To be perfectly blunt, we had a blast playing through the demo with our teammates. The only thing that was concerning was that the game crashed three separate times during our brief 15 minute experience. This may be nothing, since preview code often crashes and these types of bugs can certainly be worked out before release, but it is still a bit worrisome. Let’s just hope they get this kind of thing 100% worked out before it hits store shelves. Because we can’t wait to get back to Middle Earth and hack up some more orcs.

Jun 15, 2011