LOTR: War in the North is a fairly straight forward action based rpg, which nevertheless brings on many hours of fun.
Plot: the game seeks to expand on Tolkien's Middle Earth by presenting a side story that happens along side the War of the Rings. You get to play as either Eradan the ranger, Andriel the lore-master, or Farin the champion, to thwat the plans of Sauron's commander, Agandaur. While exploring vast landscape from the Shire, to Grey Mountains, and Mirkwood, you get to meet members from the fellowship of the rings, side characters such as Radagast the Brown, and even a mighty dragon. If you've played LOTR: the Third Age, the narrative of this game is fairly similiar.
Gameplay: the 3 aspects of a good RPG are present in this game, namely - statpoints, skilltree, and itemization. As there are limited points and inventory space to go around, decisions must be made into how your character is created. While the diversity of types of character is definitely limited, it is enough to keep you entertained for a 20-50hrs long game.
Unlike The Third Age, this game is a action based RPG and each 'encounter' with orcs requires some sort of finesse to defeat them. However, the game is not too hard, and it actually becomes easier as you unlock the heroic, and legendary difficulty levels. On the same note, a major flaw in this game is that the difficulty is based on the character you choose *winks* Farin, rather than the level you are playing on. Also, unlocking the 'legendary' difficutly, requires you to complete the game two times on it's fairly short storyline. This may get boring, although the lure of better items, hitting the maximum level, and uncovering all the secrets/collecting all 50 achievements is enough to keep a player going.
Quests in this game is fairly one dimensional as most of them cannot be missed as long as you diligently explore the maps and talk to the NPCs. More details shoud be added to the backstory to make this game more vibrant and interesting. 'Secrets' on the other hand requires some time spent exploring and manipulation of the ever annoying 'game save' mechanics, and this may frustrate players unless they find a guide (which there are surprisingly few online).
Lastly, this game UI is clearly based on the console version, and some mechanics such as character movement and inventory management, feels clunky and poorly done up. However, this is not a problem after taking some time getting used to it, although, a PC game controller will certainly improve the experience.
Audio/visual: the landscapes and character design are extremely well done for a 2011 game with details such as seeing the weaves in Elrond's shirt, rock patterns in the background, and blood splatter as you chop off the orc's head. While the game's background music and action sounds are vibrant, the voice acting could be better, to add more life to the storyline, and make the hero jouney seems more epic. Together, the atmosphere of the game felt a letdown as the good visuals such as the never ending rain in Bree is not complimented with audio effects to bring about an immersive expierence.
Verdict: Overall, War in the North gets more fun as you progress along the difficulty levels, and your character feels truely powerful on the final difficulty level. However, the clunky mechanics, limited depth to the character's development, quests and backstory limits this game from being an epic RPG. Also the game design restrict it to around 60hrs of gameplay before it gets repetitive. Thus, this game would be a good buy during steam sales as a form of pasttime, but definitely not a must-have, unless you are a Lord of the Rings fan.
Disclaimer: this review is written based on solo-play only, and I have yet to encounter any bugs with this game.