I had the opportunity to go to the Penny-Arcade Expo (PAX) over the weekend to take a look at Snowblind’s Lord of the Rings: War in the North.  Snowblind has taken a new direction with this game — it’s the first M-rated Lord of the Rings video game — and let me tell you, they’re doing an excellent job of it.

They showed us a gameplay demo, and I also had a chance to ask some questions, so first I’ll go over the demo and then I’ll list the other random tidbits I learned.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any decent pictures, so I’ll sprinkle in some screenshots from our image gallery to show a little of what I’m talking about.

The demo opened with a trailer much like the one we saw from E3, but a little shorter (it actually had less gore than the E3 trailer).  Three Snowblind employees created a coop game to walk us through some of the nifty things they’re doing with the game.  One played an Elf archer, one played a Dwarf warrior (who also carries a crossbow), and the third played a Human mage.  They loaded up a level in Mirkwood to show off some of the things they’ve been doing.

The level starts with the player(s) riding one of the great Eagles in search of Radagast the Brown; they are attacked by a Fell Beast.  The players fall to the forest below, and they have to fight the rider of the Fell Beast.  Wolfram has some magic powers, including teleportation, and he takes quite a beating before the three players take him down.

Once Wolfram dies, his Fell Beast tries to get up, but is killed by the Eagle from earlier – one named Beleran.

The conversation system looks pretty much like the standard console RPG conversation wheel – you get several options around a ring (the One Ring, in fact) and you choose which dialog tree you’d like to dive in to.  Snowblind has taken care to let us get as much or as little information as possible; if you want to skip all the background information and lore, there’s an option to just move on with the quest.

Beleran says that Radagast can be found deeper in the forest.

At this point, we see on the screen of the Elf player that there are some tracks leading off the trail; neither the Dwarf nor the Human can see them.  Players are therefore forced to work together to obtain the greatest benefit.  (I got the impression that because each race has a unique racial ability, the fellowship should always be composed of an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Human; otherwise, you might miss some loot!)  The Elf leads the trio off to a clearing where they find some loot.

Looting works as you would expect: you see a pile of stuff, you push a button, and you find money and gear.  Loot is not auto-shared with your teammates.

The Human’s racial ability is that he can collect various plants (and possibly other things), which he can use to craft various items.  For the demo, he crafted a few health potions with some mushroom caps and some herbs.  These crafted items can be given to teammates or sold to vendors.

Moving on, the trio moves deeper into the forest.  Snowblind has added dynamic dialog that your characters will say while walking around; I watched the demo several times, and noticed that while the text of the dialog was always the same, various lines were often spoken by different characters — sometimes the Elf wonders aloud why Radagast is in Mirkwood, and the Human replies that Mirkwood had not always been so foul; sometimes it is the other way around.

The fellowship is ambushed by some orcs; the Human demonstrates one of the mage powers, called Sancutary.  It creates a shield against enemy ranged weapons and grants melee buffs for any allies inside the shield; the Elven archer can take out enemy archers from within the safety of the shield.  However, Orc shamans also have this ability; the Elf can use one of her powers that lets her turn invisible for a brief time and sneak into the shaman’s shield to take out the shaman.

A note about the gore in this game.  It is certainly a very gory game; Snowblind almost revels in the amount of blood and violence they are depicting.  There are even short slow-motion animations when you decapitate an enemy.  Snowblind is trying to reflect in this game what Tolkien knew of war, and, well, war is violent.

Enemies drop little health and energy boosts when they die; it reminds me a bit of Champions Online, except in War in the North you don’t have to walk over to the boost to pick it up.

The Dwarven racial ability is that he can see structural weaknesses in stone; he can therefore find alternate paths through an area, or perhaps a hidden cache of loot.  The latter was the case in the demo, and the players found some new gear to put on before the upcoming boss fight.

Different weapons grant different abilities for the bearers; the Human mage might find a staff which grants him a fireball attack, or an ice attack, for example.  There are other types of gear, as well; helms, shields, gauntlets, rings, and so forth.

On to the boss fight.  The fellowship enters a cave, in which they find a cave troll.  The cave troll appears to be irritated that they have interrupted his dinner (which looks like a cluster of eggs); this leads him to attack them as soon as they enter.

Snowblind has put a lot of effort into making this a cooperative RPG — if you do not work together, you will die.  This is certainly true of this boss fight — troll can grab one of the fellowship in his giant fist, preventing that teammate from doing anything; the other two must distract the troll until he releases his captive.  The troll doesn’t just hold his captive, either; he punches the daylights out of you, and if your health is really low (as happened in one demo), the troll bites your head off.  (At least, that’s what it looked like.  One demo ended there — game over.)

If you run out of health another way — suppose you endured a mere giant mace to the head — then your teammates have to come over and help you up.  (Snowblind seems to have taken Left 4 Dead‘s cue here — which is no surprise, since Left 4 Dead is a game that requires good cooperation and teamwork.  The incapacitation and rescue mechanics are virtually identical, and to be clear, that’s a good thing.)

Also like Left 4 Dead, there are no health indicators on your enemies; you just have to pummel them until they fall over.

That’s where the demo ended.  I’ll just talk about a few other things I picked up during Q&As and conversations.

The most-often-asked question about War in the North seems to be, “Are classes and races locked?”  Unfortunately, Snowblind won’t answer that question yet.  We will just have to wait and find out.

The game has a single-player mode; the other two characters will be controlled by AI.  There is also an offline split-screen mode, where two characters are controlled by people, and the third by AI; split-screen mode is also supported in online play, so two people can play on one box and a third can play on another.  Based on what I saw on the game configuration screen when they set up the demos, it looks like the game supports both internet and LAN play.  No word on whether they will support cross-platform play (e.g. one player on a PC and another on an XBox or PS3).  I doubt they will do that, but I can always dream :)

Warner Brothers has both the movie rights and the literary rights for Lord of the Rings; this has given them enormous freedom in writing this game.  They are showing us a series of events that have never before been depicted on screen.  Their writer is working with the Tolkien estate to make sure nothing they do is incorrect, but I’m told he almost knows more than they do; the Lord of the Rings universe is safe in his hands.  They are also working with WETA to preserve the visual style of the movies while also creating new things for the areas of the world the game explores.

Well, that’s all I have from the PAX demo.  If I’ve missed some burning question, feel free to ask in the comments; I might know the answer, or I might be able to find out for you!

Lord of the Rings: War in the North will be released in 2011 on XBox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.


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Comments:

zach:

Excellent article. I am really wishing I could have seen the demo now!

krapyl:

Yeah, a very nice article :) Hope for some real gameplay videos soon! :D

Bareandir:

Great article mate!

-------------

Here is my salvage from todays youtube raid:

Interview:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV3wqYzrmcg

Anonymouse:

Oh, Im so glad for another article that doesnt bring any new news about the game!
WHOA! geez

ElveHaldir:

It beats your post about nothing :P
Nicely written article, too bad you couldn't make any pictures.

But I do have a question.
So if one of your party members dies it's game over? Or only when a party member dies after a "killing move"? That would really make luck an important (and perhaps frustrating) factor in this game :)

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by ElveHaldir View Post
So if one of your party members dies it's game over? Or only when a party member dies after a "killing move"? That would really make luck an important (and perhaps frustrating) factor in this game :)
I don't think it's the "killing move" that does it, I think it's that if you let yourself run out of health while you're in the troll's grip, he can then kill you.

The point is that the three players have to work together -- if you don't, you will die. (Which is why I compared it to Left 4 Dead -- that's a cooperative game in which you must work together or die.)

ElveHaldir:

Yeah, but in your article you wrote:

Quote:
The troll doesn’t just hold his captive, either; he punches the daylights out of you, and if your health is really low (as happened in one demo), the troll bites your head off. (At least, that’s what it looked like. One demo ended there — game over.)
So if the troll is able to bite off your head, is it a game-over (with the big "GAME OVER" coming at you) or was it just the end of the demo? :)

Freek:

I would bet you'd just reload to the latest checkpoint or something.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by ElveHaldir View Post
So if the troll is able to bite off your head, is it a game-over (with the big "GAME OVER" coming at you) or was it just the end of the demo? :)
The time that happened (one of the six or so playthroughs I watched), it was a game-over. The demo normally ended just after they defeated the troll.

Ilaras of The Dunedain:

Excellent article! Good to know more on this game! Looks awesome! :D

Cheeky Hobbit:

Quote: Originally Posted by ElveHaldir View Post
So if the troll is able to bite off your head, is it a game-over (with the big "GAME OVER" coming at you) or was it just the end of the demo? :)
I don't see how the Left 4 Dead-like revival system could come into play when the Dwarf character no longer has a head.

ElveHaldir:

So then it becomes a big game of chance hoping the troll will just smack you to death, instead being able to grab you and biting your head off :P
I sure hope that won't be frustrating, though a good saving system should take care of that :)

Cheeky Hobbit:

Quote: Originally Posted by ElveHaldir View Post
So then it becomes a big game of chance hoping the troll will just smack you to death, instead being able to grab you and biting your head off :P
I sure hope that won't be frustrating, though a good saving system should take care of that :)
Well, no. The article says that the troll will only bite your head off if your character is significantly low on health. Thus, it's up to your team members to free you from the troll before it comes to that.

It's certainly not just a matter of chance.

ElveHaldir:

It is whether he grabs you or not.
Mostly like in Dragon Age; big creatures might grab you 3-4 times in one battle or they might not grab you at all.

I thought that was mildly frustrating because that always dealt massive damage, until I discovered the big healing spells :P

Cheeky Hobbit:

Quote: Originally Posted by ElveHaldir View Post
It is whether he grabs you or not.
Well then it's your fault for getting too close. :P

Gray:

How are they sticking close to Tolkein's work if they're putting in human mages?

ElveHaldir:

Quote:
Well then it's your fault for getting too close. :P
But that's where possible stupid AI bots come in :P
I'll probably be playing this game most in single player, so if I can't shift between characters, those bots better be as smart as I am :P

And the mages aren't exactly the most lore-friendly way to make a LOTR RPG, but they are basic to almost every RPG. By adding them they simply wish to attract a larger public than the LOTR die-hards. They are trying to stay as close to the lore as possible with the mages. We'll just have to see how that will turn out :)

Freek:

Quote: Originally Posted by Gray View Post
How are they sticking close to Tolkein's work if they're putting in human mages?
Human mages are supported by the Lore, I have more trouble with Orc shamans to be honest, those should just be dark numenorians!

Gray:

Quote: Originally Posted by Freek View Post
Human mages are supported by the Lore, I have more trouble with Orc shamans to be honest, those should just be dark numenorians!
Yeah Orcs using magic is just....... Ugh

Northem:

I do not know if anyone has noticed this:
"They are also working with WETA to preserve the visual style of the movies"
The point is that if that statement is completely accurate, then the game will be excellent.

I say this because one of the reasons (if not the principal) for the "Conquest" game was a failure, simply was because it was not faithful to the 100% to what we saw in the movies (voices, models, scenarios, etc. ..) and a great multitude of those who play games of the Tolkien universe, they do thanks to having seen the films of Peter Jackson.

What I mean is that it would be a big disappointment for 90% of the public that the game does not look like movies. Snowblind has to try to control their creative spirit and not improvise. And I have a bad feeling about this, for example, the orcs and goblins we have seen in several screen shots do not resemble those of the films, and secondly:

http://www.middleearthcenter.com/wp-..._screen005.jpg - What's this? the Nazgul in the movies were not so ...

And in another area of things, does the PC version of this game will modeable? If so, it will have many points ...

ElveHaldir:

Pandemic did work with WETA for Conquest, but I do not know until which extent they did. I do know they used the Fell beast CGI from the movies in the game. But you're definitly right that that was one of the major bad points of Conquest. I just hated Gandalf sounding so ... un-Gandalf-like :P

As for some of the models you mentioned, they might still be adjusted as these are still pretty early screens they're showing. Or they might just be the weakest form of goblins, with nearly no armor at all, while later will have more armor and the more known look of the movies.
Nazgûl in the movies didn't look like that, but they have some freedom in that since I remember a passage in the 1st book saying "they crossed the river ... disguised as black riders". So it is possible they had other disguises. However, I think it looks pretty cool, and the Nazgûl were different in LOTRO as well, I think (at least the Witch-King was?).

It is yet unknown whether there will be modding tools for this game. Probably not, because this will be a game aimed for consoles and brought to PC, but one can hope :) They might give word on that a few months before the release, so we'll just have to wait for that one :)

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Northem View Post
http://www.middleearthcenter.com/wp-..._screen005.jpg - What's this? the Nazgul in the movies were not so ...
That's not a Nazgul, it's just an evil dude that rides a Fell Beast. His name is Wolfram, apparently.

Quote:
And in another area of things, does the PC version of this game will modeable? If so, it will have many points ...
I doubt it will be moddable, because it's a cross-platform game... but I'll ask next time I get a chance.

Stephen:

Quote: Originally Posted by Northem View Post
I do not know if anyone has noticed this:
"They are also working with WETA to preserve the visual style of the movies"
The point is that if that statement is completely accurate, then the game will be excellent.

I say this because one of the reasons (if not the principal) for the "Conquest" game was a failure, simply was because it was not faithful to the 100% to what we saw in the movies (voices, models, scenarios, etc. ..) and a great multitude of those who play games of the Tolkien universe, they do thanks to having seen the films of Peter Jackson.

What I mean is that it would be a big disappointment for 90% of the public that the game does not look like movies. Snowblind has to try to control their creative spirit and not improvise. And I have a bad feeling about this, for example, the orcs and goblins we have seen in several screen shots do not resemble those of the films, and secondly:

http://www.middleearthcenter.com/wp-..._screen005.jpg - What's this? the Nazgul in the movies were not so ...

And in another area of things, does the PC version of this game will modeable? If so, it will have many points ...
I completely disagree. We've had so many games based upon the look of the movies already (The film-tie ins, Conquest, BFME, etc) that i feel it's just completely wearing out the films and the aesthetic. Deviating from the film (though with nods to the style, and any recurring elements) will give the game a fresh look and feel, especially if done well. And it'll feel as if you're exploring Middle-earth, rather than exploring the movie. Not that it much matters anyway, cause this is set in a different location to the movies.

It's better to see a game stand alone (if done well) than see it rely on safe ground.

Freek:

Games that don't use as much content from the movies are actually a lot better then those that don't, just so long as they stay faithful to the books. LotRO has some excellent art, and I totally buy most of the locations in it, even though they look nothing like the movies. Just because Tolkien didn't talk about something doesn't mean it couldn't exist. There are plenty of vague descriptions of all sorts of creatures, and why couldn't we expand upon it?

Star Wars, for example, has an immense EU, something Tolkien-purists seem to want to prevent for LotR. Why?

ElveHaldir:

Most Tolkien purists would even lynch you for comparing Star Wars and LOTR :P (or so I noticed on several forums)

I don't think the game needs the movie's looks, but I would definitly like to see a mixture of elements I know (like architecture shown in the movies) and unfamiliar elements. I don't mind devs inventing stuff, as long as it fits the Tolkien lore and doesn't change anything about the original Tolkien lore.
Sadly, there are a lot of people who think that either goes way too far, or that it doesn't go far enough ...

Isildur-Servant of Moon:

this is an excellent article I must say =)

But I do have a question that you might answer me:
if it's supposed to be stick to tolkiens work why are they going to put a human-Mage?

I havent read all books but I certainly doubt that they exist if there are such race as the "Istari" who they are only 5...

and another thing is that in the first video shown there is a troll at the day-light... did you saw the troll on the day or in night cause if see another troll prowling in the middle day woods I'll be a little dissapointed...

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Isildur-Servant of Moon View Post
this is an excellent article I must say =)

But I do have a question that you might answer me:
if it's supposed to be stick to tolkiens work why are they going to put a human-Mage?
Next chance I get, I'll ask what made them decide to do it this way, and how it fits into Tolkien's lore.

Quote:
and another thing is that in the first video shown there is a troll at the day-light... did you saw the troll on the day or in night cause if see another troll prowling in the middle day woods I'll be a little dissapointed...
The troll I saw was in a cave in the forest. It was probably daytime, but the forest is dark-ish all the time anyway.

Besides, not all trolls turn to stone in sunlight, even in the LotR trilogy proper -- for example, if memory serves, there were trolls in the army that sieged Gondor.

zach:

Quote: Originally Posted by Freek View Post
Games that don't use as much content from the movies are actually a lot better then those that don't, just so long as they stay faithful to the books. LotRO has some excellent art, and I totally buy most of the locations in it, even though they look nothing like the movies. Just because Tolkien didn't talk about something doesn't mean it couldn't exist. There are plenty of vague descriptions of all sorts of creatures, and why couldn't we expand upon it?

Star Wars, for example, has an immense EU, something Tolkien-purists seem to want to prevent for LotR. Why?
EU = ???

I searched and all I got was European Union which makes no sense.

ElveHaldir:

I think he means "Expanded Universe" :P

As in; there are a lot of Star Wars books not written by Lucas himself, but he "approves" of it for his lore :)

Cheeky Hobbit:

Star Wars isn't as cherished in that regard as LoTR is, in my opinion. I still regard Star Wars as a successful franchise; LoTR is its own universe.

ElveHaldir:

Of course, Star Wars has a universe that's easier to expand. Just add a planet where it's possible due to something and you can add almost anything.
LOTR is a more closed of world, which makes it a lot harder to add or remove things. Or you should start writing about what is far beyond the Northern, Eastern or Southern wastes, but that would already be breaking the lore ...

However, I do think it should be possible to add minor things in function of certain elements (such as "mages" for gameplay enhancement being already something on the border between acceptable and lore-breaking)

Freek:

Quote: Originally Posted by Isildur-Servant of Moon View Post
this is an excellent article I must say =)

But I do have a question that you might answer me:
if it's supposed to be stick to tolkiens work why are they going to put a human-Mage?

I havent read all books but I certainly doubt that they exist if there are such race as the "Istari" who they are only 5...

and another thing is that in the first video shown there is a troll at the day-light... did you saw the troll on the day or in night cause if see another troll prowling in the middle day woods I'll be a little dissapointed...
Let's not forget the Nazgul had "magical" powers, and they certainly weren't maiar but mortal men (at least born as such...). There's also the Mouth of Sauron, and there is mention of several dark numenorians who did dark magic. Though, I think if a character on the side of "good" should have magical powers, it should be an elf. The rings the elves made for themselves imbued them with magical powers.The Palantiri had magical abilities, and - as for men having magical powers - Isildur managed to curse an entire people into an undead-like state.

My main problem is that in the books, there were never overt displays of magical abilities like "Freeze-rays" or Fireballs in the books, not by Men or Dwarves, the magical components of the Lord of the Rings were always mystical, and most of the time seemed to be crafted into objects (the One Ring, the Elven Rings, Wizards Staff, Doors of Durin, Palantiri, the Witch-Kings sword etc etc). But to say that only the Istari had magical abilities is simply untrue.

And Olog-Hai can travel in daylight.

Cheeky Hobbit:

Quote: Originally Posted by Freek View Post
Though, I think if a character on the side of "good" should have magical powers, it should be an elf.
Finally someone else has pointed that out. I've been saying since the days of Conquest that it makes most sense for elves to possess magical powers, not men.

Heron:

Yeah, I agree... if they wanted a mage, they should have had the mage be an Elf, with the archer/warrior being a Human. They probably made the archer an Elf because of Legolas... which is silly. Aragorn was (and Gondorian soldiers were, for that matter) pretty handy with bows...

Gray:

I think they should take a more item based approach to magic, I mean like how the dwarves imbuned some of their greatest works with a sort of enchantment, I guess you could say, like the Dwarven Doors for example. Just like how the elves put magical properties in some of their blades, like Sting, Glamdring, etc. I guess even Numenorions knew how to do this to some degree, because I don't think just any ordinary blade could cut off saurons hand.
So, basically, make it so that the "Mage" draws most of his power from his actual staff, and maybe have it so that you can find rare enchanted blades with special powers, maybe lesser magic rings ( and yes, in The Hobbit Gandalf says there were other magic rings besides the ones that the elves made). And please, for God's sake Snowblind don't have ORC MAGES ,because that is just ridiculous.

Unregistered:

Heron:

"Yeah, I agree... if they wanted a mage, they should have had the mage be an Elf, with the archer/warrior being a Human. They probably made the archer an Elf because of Legolas... which is silly. Aragorn was (and Gondorian soldiers were, for that matter) pretty handy with bows..."

Gray:

"I think they should take a more item based approach to magic, I mean like how the dwarves imbuned some of their greatest works with a sort of enchantment, I guess you could say, like the Dwarven Doors for example. Just like how the elves put magical properties in some of their blades, like Sting, Glamdring, etc. I guess even Numenorions knew how to do this to some degree, because I don't think just any ordinary blade could cut off saurons hand.
So, basically, make it so that the "Mage" draws most of his power from his actual staff, and maybe have it so that you can find rare enchanted blades with special powers, maybe lesser magic rings ( and yes, in The Hobbit Gandalf says there were other magic rings besides the ones that the elves made). And please, for God's sake Snowblind don't have ORC MAGES ,because that is just ridiculous."

I'm a huge Tolkien fan, but I am sick and tired of playing LOTR games who are neither true to the story, or even decent made games... If this game ends up even vagely like "Conquest", or has super powerful orc mages or something, I am going to refuse to support the morons who own the rights to his work, until they make a game who is made OBLIVION-style, only ten times bigger and better!!!!

Freek:

Didn't Oblivion have mages? I dont know where this sudden hatred of mages/wizards comes from, all the other LotR games had them.

d3an-extreme:

^ and thats one of the main reasons conquest was so bad, the mage was so overpowered and spoiled the whole look/feel of the game. Oblivion isnt based on the lord of the rings so they can have mages if they want, but to base a game on a book and then change some of the basic rules is a little strange, its like the FIFA series deciding they would like to give the goalkeeper a forcefield cause that would be more interesting. I liked how LOTRO did the lore master, they did it with a bit of tact, they used runes and books, they didnt just shoot fireballs all the time.

Unregistered:

Quote: Originally Posted by Freek View Post
Didn't Oblivion have mages? I dont know where this sudden hatred of mages/wizards comes from, all the other LotR games had them.
Yes, but thats not the point. I meant a LOTR game, WHO WAS TRUE TO THE LORE, and was an open world and a great game(like oblivion for instance).
Its not about hating mages or not, its about not having flashing lights all over, fireballs tossed after you by orc sorcerers(who by the way never where mensioned in any of his texts), and bulls**t like that... I want to feel that i am in tolkiens world, and not inside the world of some other guy who read the books and thought it would be cool to add a lot of other things!

Another thing that really scares me is the footage that shows red "flame" or "magic" arrows or something, plus the one that shows some kind of "magical explosion" or something...

Really guys, dont you agree with me that they should let "over-imagenitive" people like this do other games, and let the REAL Tolkien fans do things based on his work??

ElveHaldir:

Quote: Originally Posted by d3an-extreme View Post
^ and thats one of the main reasons conquest was so bad, the mage was so overpowered and spoiled the whole look/feel of the game.
...
I liked how LOTRO did the lore master, they did it with a bit of tact, they used runes and books, they didnt just shoot fireballs all the time.
I don't think the mage was the main problem in Conquest; the class especially wasn't overpowered, the 3 classes were just so overpowered it stayed in balance, but it also destroyed the "real feel" of the game. They made a game about the normal soldiers in the great battles of Middle-earth but gave us nameless heroes fighting nameless villains with only 3 different tactics. I thought the mage class was the most fun encounter in the game because it had different uses. (shield/healer/...) So you needed different tactics when you encountered a mage. Archers and Warriors were mostly the same to defeat, just repeat the same combos over and over again.
And it wasn't just the mages who spoiled the look of the game; next to the levels which looked pretty real (but were way too small in instant action) nothing really fitted in. The only ones I really liked were the Rohan Warriors, Elves in Helm's Deep and the Uruk warriors. All the others looked pretty rubbish...

But I would like to see the approach LOTRO used in a singleplayer RPG as well. I'm fine with mages and flashy magic (as some kind of necessary evil), but I'd really like to see a special, subtle magic in a LOTR game too :)

zach:

Quote: Originally Posted by Freek View Post
Didn't Oblivion have mages? I dont know where this sudden hatred of mages/wizards comes from, all the other LotR games had them.
Ummmm like EVERY fantasy RPG has mages. The hate for mages isn't genre related ... it's lore related. I still thinks its best to wait and see, I prefer the non-flashy stuff as that is never really talked about, most magic is more subtle.

Cheeky Hobbit:

Quote: Originally Posted by Freek View Post
Didn't Oblivion have mages? I dont know where this sudden hatred of mages/wizards comes from, all the other LotR games had them.
Oblivion isn't a LoTR game?

The 'official' games of the movies - The Two Towers and The Return of the King - only had Gandalf in them, and his powers were fairly limited (only a kind of bolt attack, as well as a sort of 'you shall not pass' ability). That's partly why they remain my favourites; they felt faithful.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
Yes, but thats not the point. I meant a LOTR game, WHO WAS TRUE TO THE LORE, and was an open world and a great game(like oblivion for instance).
You're setting an impossible standard; you're trying to jam together two ideas that, fundamentally, cannot fit together. LotR is not an open world, and it should not be considered as such. (LotRO pushes as far as it can.) An open world, by definition, cannot be fully true to LotR's lore. LotR's story only works because it relies on characters who are extremely different than the rest of their kind; in other words, they are heroes precisely because nobody else could have accomplished what they did.

Tolkien did hint that there were other heroes in the North that kept Sauron from doing too much harm up there; their story is not told. Indeed, if you insist that a video game strictly follow Tolkien's lore, that story cannot be told, because Tolkien did not tell that story. Are you suggesting that Snowblind is wrong to try to tell that story (regardless of whether they include magic)?

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Its not about hating mages or not, its about not having flashing lights all over, fireballs tossed after you by orc sorcerers(who by the way never where mensioned in any of his texts)
At the entrance to Moria, Gandalf said that Orcs (and Men) knew spells. He does not specify what those spells are. Gandalf himself had magic that could be used offensively, though he himself did not use it that way very often. My point is, just because Sauron didn't send Orc mages against Gondor doesn't mean they don't exist, and just because Tolkien didn't specifically describe Orcs throwing fireballs doesn't mean it wouldn't be possible in the LotR universe.

If they restrict what they do in this game to things that Tolkien explicitly described, then this game will be very short and very boring.

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Another thing that really scares me is the footage that shows red "flame" or "magic" arrows or something
You're complaining that the Elf can light an arrow on fire before she shoots it? That has to be the most absurd complaint I've ever read...

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Really guys, dont you agree with me that they should let "over-imagenitive" people like this do other games, and let the REAL Tolkien fans do things based on his work??
I most heartily do not agree with you, and you're only showing that you haven't bothered reading any of the numerous articles out there on War in the North. In reality, the writer working on WitN is a huge LotR fan, and I am quite sure he has forgotten more about LotR than you will ever know -- he has even corrected the Tolkein Estate people on at least one occasion about the lore of the LotR universe.

Please stop acting like you're a bigger Tolkien fan than they could ever be. (Do you remember, off the top of your head, the story about how the Elves first learned to kill? Do you know what the weapon was? I remember it, and I'm sure their writer does too.) The people making WitN are "REAL" Tolkien fans, and as a REAL Tolkien fan myself, I have to say that they are doing an admirable job.

Tolkien hinted at more magic than you seem to think he did. I suggest you re-read LotR, specifically looking for it. Also check out the History of Middle Earth books. All of them.

Slightly off-topic, I'm curious to know how you would portray magic in a LotR-based video game, and how you would make it fun. (The slow, corrupting magic utilized by Grima Wormtongue would be accurate to the lore, but it would be extremely boring in a video game.)

Gray:

@ Heron Ha ha, I was wondering when you were going to "set him straight", but anyway I've thought about it and I guess there really isn't a way to make the game exactly true to the lore, and still be enjoyable to play.

Cheeky Hobbit:

How does the exclusion of magic automatically make a game boring?

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Cheeky Hobbit View Post
How does the exclusion of magic automatically make a game boring?
I didn't say that; I just said that without magic, the support character in WitN would really have no purpose, and then the game would basically be two-player, and, well, it's designed to be three-player.

If you wanted them to take magic out of WitN, they'd have to do a fundamental redesign of the game, and honestly, I don't think the game would be as fun. I think we should wait to see the story they tell with the game before anyone condemns them for including magic.

Cheeky Hobbit:

They could have just made the third character a 'healer' class, rather than an all guns - or staff - blazin' type. He could have had the combined skills of the Dwarf and Elf in terms of melee and ranged abilities (albeit in a less effective manner), but with the ability to heal himself and his team-mates. He also could have had a sword and shield as a preferred choice of weaponry, allowing him to guard himself against attacks which the other two cannot do. There are so many other possibilities that Snowblind could have explored, rather than the default-minded 'well, it's a fantasy game, so let's have a Mage class'.

I'm not saying it can't work but, for me and many others, the inclusion of such over-elaborate magic prevents it from fulfilling the role of a true LoTR game. Also, I've always felt that the existence of magic in Tolkien's world was primarily channelled through weapons and items; Snowblind could have looked into that possibility, and there was potential for them to use magic in more interesting ways with WitN.

Instead, the magic appears generic and predictable.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Cheeky Hobbit View Post
Also, I've always felt that the existence of magic in Tolkien's world was primarily channelled through weapons and items; Snowblind could have looked into that possibility,
That's in the game too, have no fear :) Different weapons and armor and items can have various magical effects.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Cheeky Hobbit View Post
He could have had the combined skills of the Dwarf and Elf in terms of melee and ranged abilities (albeit in a less effective manner)
The Elf and Dwarf are already like that. The Dwarf's ranged attack is a weak form of the Elf's ranged attack; the Elf's melee attack is a weak form of the Dwarf's melee attack. A healer who had both a weak melee and a weak ranged attack would be a liability, and nobody would want to play him. The other two would have to spend half their time protecting the healer instead of dealing damage.

Cheeky Hobbit:

Not if the character had something like a sword and shield as his default weapon set; the emphasis could be on blocking attacks before going in for the kill, whilst also having to worry about your team-mates. I'd find that pretty fun, and would welcome it a lot more than a Mage class. You could also implement abilities that highlight the leadership qualities of men in battle - something akin to the Captain class in LoTRO. You could be able to sort of inspire your team-mates when fighting enemies, and you could have cool abilities such as a horn which attracts enemies to you instead of the other players.

Again, with a bit of thought Snowblind could have come up with something a lot more interesting than using magic in a very obvious and uninspiring way. While I agree to an extent that we should be giving them a chance, I don't think we should just sit here and try to justify decisions the they've taken with this game. If we believe something is in there which will somewhat destroy the LoTR feel we're hoping for, we should absolutely make it known.

I'm a pretty huge fan of Snowblind Studios, and I'm very optimistic with regards to how War in the North will turn out. I'm just a little disappointed that they've essentially taken the easy way out.

ElveHaldir:

Quote: Originally Posted by Heron View Post
The Elf and Dwarf are already like that. The Dwarf's ranged attack is a weak form of the Elf's ranged attack; the Elf's melee attack is a weak form of the Dwarf's melee attack. A healer who had both a weak melee and a weak ranged attack would be a liability, and nobody would want to play him. The other two would have to spend half their time protecting the healer instead of dealing damage.
That would actually be pretty cool. If you replace "healer" by "Ringbearer", you basically have the combat as described by Tolkien and the movies. Then again, I don't really get the people who hate the flashy magic but don't hate the idea of a healer. IMO there is a lot of magic involved in both ideas and perhaps even more in case of the healer, unless you see the healer class as some kind of old guy throwing around potions that clean wounds and make them heal faster ... :P

The 3 classes are an easy way out, but I also think they're a safe formula to begin with. Even though Snowblind has a lot of experience in RPGs, LOTR hasn't. Working out other ideas may have taken too much time and making it with a "light elf, medium human and heavy dwarf" might have resulted too much in a copy of the movie tie-ins.

Unregistered:

It seems like you are much better at explaining exactly how i feel! :)
I may come across as a crazy, un-comprimizing guy, but I am just so tired of being dissapointed.

And to HERON, the guy who set me straight:
I understand that Tolkiens massive amount of material could of course be interpreted different from fan to fan... But I have actually read every single page of material that has been released... Its probably tens of thousands of pages, if not more, so you could always find something to defend your point of view. That said, I dont completely disagree with you, but I never personally interpreted it that way.

What I do disagree with you on; is the part about how its "impossible with an open world game".
When I say: True to the lore, I am not necesserily talking about a game about one of the heroes, and one of the stories mentioned in a text. And I think that its rubbish to think that fantasy fans would be SO dissapointed, just because of a more subtle approach to magic.
How about a game where you could be either a human(A Dunedain ranger perhaps?), an elf or a dwarf who is not mentioned, but plays some sort of part in the lore? You could work "behind the scenes" in the north, killing orcs, and defending middle earth in a more subtle way... If someone chose this path, it would be easier not to dissapoint the hardcore fans, I think.

I think an open world game is always a better way of making a rpg, because it gives you power to make the choices yourself.
Have you played OBLIVION? I have played it trough probably 20 times, and I have only been a mage once... It is in my view the most boring alternative... My favourite is to be both archer, and swordsman, being able to both sneak and fight in open combat, and I have thougt many times that if I ever could play this way, only in Tolkiens middle earth, it would be the most perfect game ever!!
I really hope some of you guys are right about the game, and that my fears are greatly exaggerated!

Yams In a can:

Heron, you response was amazing. Now I sort of, no really, need your help to set the guys at The Third Age straight :P.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Cheeky Hobbit View Post
If we believe something is in there which will somewhat destroy the LoTR feel we're hoping for, we should absolutely make it known.
I guess we'll have to just agree to disagree, then... I don't think the mage destroys the LotR feel.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
You could work "behind the scenes" in the north, killing orcs, and defending middle earth in a more subtle way... If someone chose this path, it would be easier not to dissapoint the hardcore fans, I think.
That's fine, but you're asking for a completely different game. Not just WitN with a few changes, you're asking for a fundamental change in the ideas the game is based on. I'll elaborate on that in a moment.

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I think an open world game is always a better way of making a rpg, because it gives you power to make the choices yourself.
I don't think "open world" and "better" are synonymous. There are plenty of linear RPGs which are extremely fun, and which would be super boring if they were "open world".

Ironically, Oblivion is one of the games that does "open world" extremely poorly. Do you know why? It's because the game gives you almost no direction once you escape from prison. Sure, you have a vague objective, but you're just dumped in the middle of nowhere and you don't even know which direction the city is in without studying your map, and even then you have no reason to actually do what your quest says to do.

Open worlds can be fun, if they're done properly. Oblivion did not do "open world" properly. (Of course, it's debatable whether they were even trying to do "open world" in the first place.)

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Have you played OBLIVION? I have played it trough probably 20 times, and I have only been a mage once... It is in my view the most boring alternative...
So? Just because the mage in Oblivion is boring doesn't mean the mage in a completely unrelated game must also be boring. You're making false comparisons.

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y favourite is to be both archer, and swordsman, being able to both sneak and fight in open combat, and I have thougt many times that if I ever could play this way, only in Tolkiens middle earth, it would be the most perfect game ever!!
You mean your favorite is to be Aragorn :P Anyway, Snowblind is making a cooperative RPG with a linear story, not a "sneak around by yourself in the North killing random Orcs" sandbox, which seems to be what you want. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not the game Snowblind is making.

If you want to complain that they're not making the game you really want to play, that's fine; don't buy WitN, because you won't like it regardless of whether they include mages.

Stephen:

I think the dependable action is enough reason to include a mage, as long as it is not implemented as thoughtlessly as the mage on Conquest, which it doesn't seem to have been done. Three different classes to compliment each other.

Though i do question what the hell he was doing in the leaked video, seemingly setting the troll alight every few seconds. -shrug-. I'm not against magic, i'm against magic done badly.

Unregistered:

I see your point Heron.
I am not asking for a sandbox game, and I dont agree that the way OBLIVION works is a bad example of an open world game as I see it, but I am probably asking too much, your right about that.
As I said earlier I really hope you are right regarding the features of the game, and that I am mistaken.
I never prefer the mage class in more or less any rpg i have played, but maybe I have been too stubborn about this...
I change my stance regarding this, but I still hope they wont "over-do-it"...
Personally I love the investigating and exploring part of an action RPG, but maybe me, and a couple of my friends are the only ones... ;)
In my opinion; as long as the story is GREAT in a liniar game, it could make up for the lack of freedom, so lets hope they nail that part.

I probably judged you guys, and the producers, but you are probably at least as big fans that I am, so sorry! :)

Unregistered:

Just to elaborate, I probably was afraid that when it seemed to me that they took some artistic liberties, then maybe they would take a lot more... I was afraid that they where aiming this game only at rpg-fans, and not Tolkien fans, but maybe they can do both...
As long as the magic stays more or less as Tolkien would have wanted it, and as long as they dont "over-power" the mage class, im probably going to love the game... :)

By the way, you should explain it the same way to the people discussing this issue over at warinthenorth.com
in a forum called: "mages will ruin this game" ;)

Mithrandir7:

Well magic Tolkien's world was something hidden and mysterious, something which we never really saw. The magic that seems to be portrayed seems to be a very "natural" form of magic, unlike what you see in Conquest or Harry Potter.

jimi94:

does anyone know when this game is coming out

Gray:

Somtime early to mid 2011.

Unregistered:

@Heron:

"Ironically, Oblivion is one of the games that does "open world" extremely poorly. Do you know why? It's because the game gives you almost no direction once you escape from prison. Sure, you have a vague objective, but you're just dumped in the middle of nowhere and you don't even know which direction the city is in without studying your map, and even then you have no reason to actually do what your quest says to do."

Since everyone else seems to bow to you because you shout your opinions with really long paragraphs and posts, I will be the one who decides to disagree with you wholeheartedly.

They drop you in the middle of nowhere in Oblivion because that's more realistic (as in, that's what happens if you were to break out of prison in medieval times), and because you can start off your character in different ways by going to different main towns. If you don't like freedom, then I feel sorry for you.

And if you don't have the attention span to actually want to complete the main missions, then that's not my problem. A game like Oblivion doesn't have to force you to the next mission, its the fact that you want to do them to see how the story goes that drives you forward.

And I must say that if you really think LotR wouldn't work like this, then I must say that I heartily disagree with you. It would certainly be a much more fleshed out world, instead of a linear game with a couple of things from the books and movies thrown in as references and enemies. Random encounters could be handled better (random areas of magic in places such as Mirkwood, creatures that were never named in the books, etc), questions that linger from the books could be answered (where did the Entwives go?), and they could give you several different playing styles and classes, instead of just 3 classes and some skill-trees.

Now please understand that I'm not asking Snowblind to make WitN an open-world game, I'm simply stating that an open-world game set in the LotR universe is entirely possible, even if its in the "Oblivion" format that you seem to hate for very small and unimportant reasons.

Gray:

I really don't see how open world couldn't work in this game, but unfortunatly I do not think they plan on making it open world.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
They drop you in the middle of nowhere in Oblivion because that's more realistic (as in, that's what happens if you were to break out of prison in medieval times), and because you can start off your character in different ways by going to different main towns. If you don't like freedom, then I feel sorry for you.
Being "more realistic" does not automatically make a game better; "it's more realistic" should never be used as a justification for why a game design decision was made. Games are supposed to be fun; realism is a secondary goal in those few cases where it's relevant.

In other words, just because breaking out of prison in medieval times would have plopped you in the middle of nowhere does not mean that's what a video game should do, and you can't use that as the reason for why Oblivion was "right" to do it that way.

I'm not opposed to freedom in gaming; I love games that give you lots of choices about what you can do. However, games that plop you in the middle of nowhere and give you very little indication of what you should actually be doing... that's not so good.

Imagine a D&D game, where the DM starts the game like this: "Your characters just broke out of prison. A wizard stops you on the side of the road and says that you are destined to save the universe, then disappears. What do you do?" That is, by definition, an "open world"; that doesn't mean it will be fun. In fact, a game that starts that way will almost always get very boring, very quickly. (I know this from experience.)

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And if you don't have the attention span to actually want to complete the main missions, then that's not my problem. A game like Oblivion doesn't have to force you to the next mission, its the fact that you want to do them to see how the story goes that drives you forward.
It's not about attention span, it's about making the player care about the story. You seem to think that a player should magically "want" to see how the story goes, but if the game writers haven't made the player care about the story before they plop the player in the middle of nowhere, then they have failed. This is what I think Oblivion's writers did wrong.

Tons of books do this wrong; a character can be really cool, but if the story is boring, nobody will read it; similarly, a story can be very cool, but if the main character is boring, nobody will read it. I have left many books unfinished for this very reason, and the same goes for movies; I don't see why video games should be any different.

Oblivion shouldn't force you to do the next mission, no. I would never say that. But Oblivion's problem is that it barely even nudges you in the right direction, and there are several directions which are very much the wrong direction.

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And I must say that if you really think LotR wouldn't work like this, then I must say that I heartily disagree with you. It would certainly be a much more fleshed out world, instead of a linear game with a couple of things from the books and movies thrown in as references and enemies.
I said earlier that I think LotRO goes as close to "open world" as LotR can get. They added tons of material that isn't in any of Tolkien's writings, they take you to lands that Tolkien only mentions in passing, and at any given time you have at least two areas in which to do quests. But it's not an open world; there is a strong structure to the story, and you can't wander into the wrong areas without dying.

At any rate, you're mistaken about one thing: a game can be linear, overall, and still be an "open world". "Open world" does not mean "non-linear". D&D is, again, the perfect example of this.

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even if its in the "Oblivion" format that you seem to hate for very small and unimportant reasons.
I guess you think "boring story" is a small, unimportant reason? The story is the only reason I play most games; if the story is boring, I'm not going to play it. Are you really telling me that if I think a game's story is boring, I should just play it anyway? There are things about Oblivion that are well done, but its story is very much not one of them.

Heron:

Quote: Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
Since everyone else seems to bow to you because you shout your opinions with really long paragraphs and posts, I will be the one who decides to disagree with you wholeheartedly.
People disagree with me all the time, and you're welcome to do so; I can name several forum regulars who most certainly do not "bow" to me, and several more who only agree with me half the time. If you think people agreeing with me when I make sense means they're "bowing" to me, well, I guess I'm ok with that :P

I write long paragraphs because I've found that if I don't fully express an idea, people will come back later and tell me I'm wrong because I didn't specifically mention something I thought was obvious, or they'll insist I'm just making stuff up as I go when I clarify it later, or any number of other silly quibbles. It's better to just avoid that by being clear the first time.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 6th, 2010 at 1:20 AM and is filed under War in the North . You can trackback this article from your own site.