Tag Archives: onlive

Hacking and slashing goes ever on in Lord of the Rings: War in the North

I pretty much lean very close to all things related to Lord of the Rings, but the real reason I picked up War in the North was because I wanted more hack-n-slash action after the disappointing Aragorn’s Quest and knew exactly where to get it. See, I had previously bought War in the North for a single buck way back in the day when OnLive was having some kind of crazy sale. I played it for a little bit, only to quickly realize that playing streamed videogames over a shaky wireless connection was not ideal, especially when timing attacks and rolling away from enemies is vital to digital breathing. And so I never went back, but I also never forgot. Cut to scene of me picking up a used copy for the Xbox 360 for relatively cheap.

Like other videogames set in a popular, fictionalized world heavily licensed and thus restricted on various elements–think Game of Thrones: The Game, Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, Jurassic Park: The Game–you are there, but not as the main characters. Or characters you even know. Chances are high you’ll see the real stars as you journey along, but you will be secondary to the end. For War in the North, you control one from a trio of familiar looking characters: Eradan, a ranger from the North; Andriel, an Elven loremaster from Rivendell; and Farin, a Dwarven warrior from the halls of Erebor. They are basically Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, respectively, and yes, I find it amusing that the effeminate Orlando Bloom got a gender swap. Their own journey takes them across Middle-earth, and their actions and results thereof help the Fellowship–you know, the real heroes–without ever getting in their way. Sauron is commanding his minion Agandaur to conquer the North for the Dark Lord. It is up to the magical trio, and some helpful, colorful allies, to put an end to all that, so that Frodo and company can do what really needs to get done.

So, you do all this by hacking and slashing your way across large levels broken into small sections, defeating a lot of Orcs, Uruk-hai, and spiders, as well as minibosses and bosses alike, restocking on health potions back at town and picking up side missions, looting chests and skag piles of bones, and strengthening your character’s skills as your level increases. It’s a fairly typical action RPG, with bonus limb severing and buckets of spilled brown-red blood to liven things up. Action skills are assigned to the face buttons, there’s a roll mechanic, and you can chain attacks together, increasing the damage you do and the amount of XP you earned. If you’ve played games like Champions of Norrath, Daggerdale, or DeathSpank, this adventure won’t surprise you too much in the mechanics department.

I played the whole campaign as Farin, the Dwarf. He’s a tough little bugger, which is to be expected, but it felt great rolling right into the thick of things, sweeping around in a full circle with a shiny, sharp axe, and then finishing off each fallen enemy with a cinematic stab to the throat. That said, he’s slow everywhere else, and his ranged attacks, from a crossbow oddly enough, something a true Dwarf would never use, are rather useless, even if you spend points on upgrading abilities there. His main ability is War Cry, which strengthens you and your allies for a limited time. I used it a lot to good effect, especially when going against two trolls. Something I will always love: loot you pick up changes your appearance. Hopefully long gone are the days you get a sick magical set of armor, and it barely looks like you changed shirts.

The story, which granted does come from the actual source material, is a bit dull. It’s of this ilk: see bad guy, chase bad guy, fight swarms of disposable grunts, just miss the bad guy, chase bad guy, and repeat until you get to the final level, and the bad guy is out of running options. Strangely, most of the regular fights against dozens of little enemies proved much easier than any of the boss fights. Oh well. My favorite story moments involved talking animals, like Beleram the Great Eagle and making a deal with a dangerous dragon. Everything else just kind of stretched on or screamed of sidequest-ness, and I will openly admit that towards the end I was just mashing the “skip dialogue” button because I can read a whole lot faster than I can listen. The voice acting is decent, though weakened by the fact that character models of Elrond, Arwyn, Frodo, Aragorn, and so on look like their movie counterparts, but are obviously not voiced by them. At least Aragorn’s Quest had the real Samwise Gamgee in it.

Once you beat the game on Normal difficulty, you can play again in a New Game+ mode on a higher difficulty called Heroic. Normally, I skip New Game+s–that’s a longer post down the road–but I still needed to ping a few different Achievements and thought this was a fine way to get them. I played as both the Elf and ranger for a bit, getting up to a level that has you guarding a door from attack. The door has a life bar–or maybe the Elven brothers protecting it do–and so it can only sustain so much damage. This part was no problem on Normal difficulty, but Heroic proved undoable, no matter who I controlled. Attempted four or five times. Seemed like if one enemy slipped by me, they’d break that door down in a matter of seconds. And so ends my attempt to beat the game on Heroic difficulty. Honestly, no big deal.

Finished the game with 40 of 46 Achievements unlocked, which is a much higher  rating than other games I finish. Not sure if that’s do to skill or if the game just gives them out like candy, but here are a few I’m proud of:


Keen-eyed Marksman (20G): Kill 50 enemies with headshots in a single playthrough.


Victorious in Battle (25G): Complete a playthrough on at least Normal difficulty.


In the Dragon’s Den (20G): Meet a dragon and survive.


Sudden Fury (10G): Perform 3 critical hits within 10 seconds.

As we loom closer to the release of LEGO Lord of the Rings and part one of forty-seven for The Hobbit, I’m really jonesing for some more LOTR videogames. Yes, even more. Told you I lean real close to it all. I got a few in my collection. Don’t be surprised if I bust out The Third Age again and begin blathering about it here. Also, don’t be surprised if I don’t. My gaming whims fluctuate by the minute, and words are wind.

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All it takes to ignore a dead deer and ruined car is a ton of videogames

Last week, two days before Thanksgiving and hosting the food-centric holiday at our Grimmauld Place for the very first time, I hit a deer with my car. Now, first things first–the deer was already dead, left in the middle of the road like a lost shoe. Hitting a dead deer is, I’m assuming, better than hitting a live one, but the end result was the same, with my car going a bit down the road before overheating and then failing entirely. Had to have it towed to a repair shop, where it is still sitting until an estimator from my insurance policy can take a look at it. With this happening days before a big holiday break, nothing got worked on until starting yesterday, so I was a depressed, anxious man-boy, with plenty of time to worry. So I filled that time up with videogames, to keep the bad thoughts at bay.

First, without even knowing how much this car stuff is going to cost me in the end, I purchased the latest package from Humble Indie Bundle. It’s called The Humble Introversion Bundle, and contains these British gems: Uplink, Darwinia, Multiwinia, and DEFCON. If you paid more than the average price at the time of purchase, you also got Aquaria and Crayon Physics Deluxe, but I already own those games thank to previous bundles so I went the cheapskate route. I paid $2.00 for it, and I do not feel guilty one bit.

Y’all should already know that I then downloaded Metroid II: Return of Samus for my Nintendo 3DS right after a full day of being full.

After that, an email from OnLive was like a warm, sushi-scented hug. To start, I originally signed up with the “play the hottest games via broadband” company to get a free version of Amnesia: The Dark Descent way back in…well, I don’t remember. It’s not important. I’m always trying to remember specific dates and times, when they are more than definitely not vital to the story, a trait passed on to me from my father. Will work on that. Anyways, they were having a crazy weekend of deals, letting users play Homefront and Red Faction: Armageddon for free for 72 hours, and allowing new customers to buy a single game for $1.00. Yes, one dollar. Any game they had. Like, uh, you want Saints Row: The Third? ONE DOLLAR. You want L.A. Noire? ONE DOLLAR. I wanted Lord of the Rings: War in the North? ONE SHINY DOLLAR. It’s a little befuddling, but whatever; I charged my e-dollar and started playing LOTR: WITN with extreme glee and an Xbox 360 controller instead of keyboard/mouse. The only downfall of OnLive is that they expect you to be hooked directly into your router, whereas I was on a Mac using WiFi, which definitely caused some hiccups here and there. But for a dollar, that’s a moot complaint.

The remainder of Black Friday was spent over at my brother-in-law’s house, where a group of four soldiers made a dent in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. I can’t remember the exact worlds, but it was something like 3-1 to 4-3. Crazy hard stuff, but a fun time ultimately. Especially when three of us just plain gave up and sat watching Sean keep on keeping on. He deserves a lot of the credit, truly. We also played some football on the Wii, which is always a ridiculous affair.

Yesterday, on Cyber Monday, I started getting sad again. I started thinking about my car and money and wads of money with wings flying away from me as I chased it all right off a cliff that emptied into a roaring sea. So when I saw that Microsoft was having a sale via Xbox Live, I purchased some points and bought some more games and add-ons. Namely, these suckers: Beyond Good & Evil HD, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, and the final two DLC cases for L.A. Noire. With 130 MP to spare. Not like I can do much with that amount, but whatever.

Oh, and I just got emailed that those who purchased The Humble Introversion Bundle were now getting Dungeons of Dredmor. Another game to play.

So yeah, that’s a lot of new games over a short span of days. I’ve only really skimmed the surfaces on ’em, as time was also devoted to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, LEGO Harry Potter 2, and some IRL Magic: The Gathering. I’m still without my car, though a rental has been acquired, but until I can know for certain what is happening and what I’m responsible for, I’m going to continue to fret–internally, mind you–and the best way to push it all back is with videogames. Lots and lots of videogames. If you guessed that I use ’em as a means of pure escapism, then this Grinding Down post is your best piece of proof.