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Page 1 of 2The Lord of the Rings: War in the North will finally reach store shelves here in North America tomorrow, and the rest of the world will be entering Middle-earth shortly thereafter. As big fans of Snowblind's previous action RPG offerings, particularly the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath series, we wanted to fire off some last-minute questions to better understand the game's mechanics and how the title compares to the aforementioned series. Lucky for us, War in the North lead designer Andre Maguire was willing to oblige us with some answers:
GB: With only a few days left until release, what's the atmosphere like around the Snowblind office?
Andre: We're really excited! We've been working on The Lord of the Rings: War in the North for a while now so it's great to see that it's hitting the shelves!
GB: The game will sport four different difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. Do the game's enemies simply have more health and deal more damage as the difficulty ramps up, or will they actually have more sinister tactics that they'll utilize at higher levels?
Andre: As far as the enemies go it's mostly stats-based, but keep in mind, you keep your player character progression with each difficulty level. You'll be unlocking new skills, finding new weapons and armor, uncovering additional secrets in the game as well as unlocking achievements. So, there will be plenty of new stuff to see. Also, you can switch characters at each of the major checkpoints so we're looking forward to players checking out all the skill trees and progression-based elements, not just the ones for the character they start with.
GB: How will the difficulty levels affect loot drops and experience gains, and will there be any change to the storyline or environments as we ascend to greater challenges?
Andre: As you progress through The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, you'll get more experience during combat. Thatallows you to unlock more aspects of the skill tree as well as equip better gear, which inherently allows for more successful explorations into side quests, optional combat encounters and replaying through scenarios. We're expecting that players won't be able to unlock all the skills in a single playthrough, butby going through the harder difficulty levels you'll develop a much more diverse character with more combat moves and abilities. Our storyline stays consistent as you progress through but, the player character progression evolves quite a bit.
GB: For those of us who are familiar with the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath series, how will the loot system compare in War in the North? How many uniquely crafted items will there be and will there be any set equipment, "socketed" items, or anything of that nature?
Andre: I think fans of the previous Snowblind games are going to be really happy with how The Lord of the Rings: War in the North has incorporated those experiences. There are tons of weapons, armor and items and hundreds of combinations of gear you can equip on your character. You'll be able to find armor sets that give a wide range of stat bonuses. Elf stones can be slotted into gear to add elemental properties. You can craft items into elixirs and potions. Each individual piece of armor affects your stats and is visually displayed on your character. You can trade items between the different characters too, which is great because each character can use a wide variety of different weaponry and gear. Being able to include tons of loot in The Lord of the Rings: War in the North was a huge deal to us and we're really pleased with the results.
GB: Does each character in a co-op party receive their own, separate loot drops or will people still be able to "ninja" any items that fall from a boss before another player does? To expand on that further, are the loot tables influenced by the characters currently being played (ie. more bows drop when the ranger is present)?
Andre: Each character gets their own loot so that's correct; you can't steal loot from the other players. We really wanted the character to feel as if they were working together as a team so it was important for us to build things that way. That said you will find that even if you are playing say, the Ranger, you'll find items that are specifically built for the Dwarf and Elf characters. It'll be up to you as far as whether you want to keep that item, sell it later, or give it to one of your team mates. As far as loot tables go you'll find that, since each player gets their own loot, the distributions are built to match character level and will skew a bit depending on what the character needs at that moment.
GB: In your earlier titles, it was possible to "farm" bosses for equipment by saving your character after their defeat, loading an earlier save, and then importing your previously saved character data. Will such "farming" techniques be possible in War in the North?
Andre: Technically yes, you can game the system a bit in that way if you like. Its one of those things where we'd rather let you have fun with it and get some extra stuff rather than clamping things down. Folks who are looking to do that won't have much trouble figuring it out.
GB: Can you give us a quick overview of the game's character creation process, as well as a brief introduction to the statistics and skills we'll be modifying as we level up our character?
Andre: There are three characters you can play, Eradan the DÃºnedain Ranger, Andriel Lore-master of Rivendell and Farin Champion of Erebor. Eradan is a bit of a stealthy, assassin-like character. Andriel is a magic user and Farin is the tank character. You select one of the characters from the start screen and load into the game from there. If you're playing online or split-screen, you'll be able to see what the other players are selecting as well. Each character has tons of armor and weapons as well as their own skill tree. The skill trees allow you to unlock additional melee and ranged combat moves, defensive moves as well as abilities that accentuate co-op play. There are also several passive improvements you can unlock from the skill tree. It's cool because, even though the group is always comprised of the three characters, you can trick them out to play the way you want based on your preferences.
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