The whole Snowblind Studios team here in Seattle is in the final stretch of development for The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. We cannot wait for the PlayStation community to get their hands on the game, which ships on November 1st.
This has been a great year for The Lord of the Rings. The extended BDs came out this summer, timed with special theatre showings of the films across the nation. It really gave fans the chance to reconnect with these amazing stories, as well as see new content. With The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, players will be able to experience the iconic Middle-earth universe even more deeply with completely new adventures and story, all based on The Lord of the Rings canon and approved by the license holders.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North brings a new story to the table, and we’ve also created a video game experience that I believe is truer to The Lord of the Rings than has been achieved before. We developed the game as an Action RPG, rather than purely Action or Action Adventure, and this hybrid genre really allows us to spotlight some of the central themes of the books and films – combat and exploration of course, but also character growth and progression, and the theme of Fellowship. On that note, the game will also be the first The Lord of the Rings game to receive an M rating, truly depicting the brutality of war, as portrayed in the literature; by making the combat more brutal, it becomes more realistic the way J.R.R. Tolkien wrote it. Players will quickly learn that Middle-earth is a beautiful place, but also a very dangerous place and they must stick with their allies to prevail.
The story takes place in parallel to the Ring-bearer’s quest that we all know so well from the books and movies; however, the game’s heroes – a fellowship of an Elf, a Ranger and a Dwarf – have been dispatched to the Northern lands of Middle-earth to investigate rumors of an army that Agandaûr is amassing. On their journey to the North, players will explore regions of Middle-earth that have been only hinted at in the books— Fornost, Gundabad and many others— as well as lands that are familiar. We’re excited to bring fans new experiences in new locations.
The game’s “Fellowship of three” is the basis for the unique 3-player co-op experience at the heart of the game. We took this direction for a couple of reasons. First, the story of The Lord of the Rings really emphasizes how important it is to have allies you can trust, work with, and depend on, especially during wartime. So this interdependent co-op at the core of your own fellowship helps tie the gameplay back to the narrative as a whole.
Second, Snowblind Studios has a long history with co-op action RPGs, and The Lord of the Rings is a perfect match for this type of game. We want to make a game that is fun to play with your friends on the couch, so you can experience more of Middle-earth together. Whether playing single player, couch co-op and split-screen, or hopping on PSN to play online co-op, players will always be part of a 3 player team, each member with specific strengths and abilities. Players will need to strategize and depend on each other to advance, really promoting that theme of fellowship that’s at the heart of the Lord of the Rings.
As players support each other throughout the game, true to the Action RPG genre, they’ll also be building up their own characters. We wanted each of the three heroes to really be different from one another, and for players to be able to customize their character to suit their playstyle. Each hero’s skill tree has three distinct branches, allowing each hero to fill 3 different combat roles that build on their specialties. With literally thousands of different loot items in the game, players can really customize their characters. We want players to feel really invested in their characters, as well as their Fellowship. With all the different ways you can customize your character, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to build them the way you want to, and to make them a vital part of the team. Players can gift items to their teammates, including AI characters in the single player mode, but also, loot drops all contain specific loot for each race, so players won’t need to fight amongst themselves.
Today we would also like to share exclusively with the PlayStation community a look at the Witch-king of Angmar in the game, leader and most powerful of the Nazgûl — also known as Ringwraiths or Black Riders. Chief Lieutenant of Sauron the Dark Lord, the Witch-king dwells in Minas Morgul. In old times, the Witch-king was a great king, but was enslaved to the will of Sauron – falling victim to his ring of power as with the rest of the Nazgûl. Sauron sent the Witch-king and the other Ringwraiths on a secret mission to find and capture the Ring of Power. In the films, we watched as the Nazgûl chased Frodo from the Shire to Rivendell to obtain the One Ring. Disguised as riders in black, in the physical realm they are no more than spirits wrapped in black cloth. Once the Witch-king discovered Frodo and stabbed him at Weathertop, only then did their true form become revealed – twisted, malicious fiends, still bearing the tall crown of their office.
This hunt in particular is the motivating force behind the entire first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. The Nazgûl’s attack on the Rangers guarding the Sarn Ford is part of Tolkien’s canon. In The Lord of the Rings: War in the North players will meet these same Ringwraiths and delve further into this battle through the appearance of Agandaûr, Sauron’s lieutenant in the North.
Agandaûr is called upon to support the Nazgûl’s hunt – his mission is to organize evil forces in the North to make a coordinated attack on Sauron’s enemies in Eriador. Agandaûr leads the efforts of the With-king and Sauron the Dark Lord in the North. In War in the North Aragorn sends players to thwart his effort, beginning their long struggle to be a constant thorn in Agandaûr’s side.
We’re really excited for the PlayStation community to get their hands on the game, get online, and start battling through this new experience in Middle-earth! We actually have a pre-order bonus for the Collector’s edition of the game exclusively for the PlayStation Community, with a War in the North Theme Pack – includes War in the North wallpaper, fonts, icons and more. Check it out and let us know what you think of the game at www.warinthenorth.com. You can also ‘like’ us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lotrwitn and follow us on Twitter @WarInTheNorth.