The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Warner Bros.
Developer:Snowblind Studios
Release Date:2011-11-01
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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GB: How varied are the skill trees presented to each of the game's three characters? Can you give us an example of just how different one person's dwarf champion could be (skill-wise) versus another's?

Andre: The skill trees are quite different between the three characters. Eradan can drop into evasion that allows him to be invisible. Andriel has a magic shield that protects from ranged attacks. Farin has a warcry ability that puts him into a rage-mode like state. You can expand on those skills by ranking them up or adding complimentary skills on top of them. Then you can decide if you want to focus on being more of a support role, a tank or even spread points out to be a bit of both. For example, one player's Dwarf character might be completely focused on melee damage where another player's Dwarf might have equipped a skill that allows them to fire crossbow bolts really quickly. Another might have unlocked skills that benefit everybody at the same time. We put a lot of effort into making each skill tree both appropriate for the characters and also open for players to experiment with.

GB: How did you come up with the mechanics that were ultimately used for the game's character development and progression systems? Did you base the systems around what worked in your previous games, or were certain mechanics/ideas taken from the LotR tabletop game or other sources?

Andre: A bit of everything really. We definitely wanted The Lord of the Rings: War in the North to feel like a Snowblind game. Being able to go through and find tons of loot, secrets and upgrades was important to us but, we also wanted the combat system to have quite a bit of depth, too. We found ourselves focusing on several areas at once to solidify the mechanics. And through prototypes, iteration, lots and lots of playtesting and feedback we got what I think is a great balance between long-term progression and the second-to-second combat experience.

GB: How linear or non-linear would you say the game is? Can players avoid the game's main quest and simply work on side quests if they choose to?

Andre: Well, you do need to progress through the main story. It's important that you stay synched to the events of The Lord of the Rings. Everything we're doing runs parallel with The Lord of the Rings storyline. In fact you'll be meeting up with well-known characters like Aragorn and Elrond along the way so you need to keep moving! But there are lots of side quests so it's not like we're pushing you through everything all the time. If gamers want to take their time with the story, go back and re-play through areas, find more loot or work on making their character more powerful, they can certainly do that.

GB: What type of dialogue system are you integrating into War in the North? Will our character's skills, attributes, or previous deeds restrict/enable certain dialogue options?

Andre: The conversation system allows you to pick the different things that your character will say. It's cool because depending on which character you are playing, what you'll see and the choices you have will be different. We wanted the dialog to be appropriate to each of the character's history so you definitely notice differences there. Also, you'll see some different content in conversation based on what you've done previously including who you've talked to.

GB: We understand that the game will have secret areas that can only be accessed in co-op. Can you tell us more about these, and whether or not there are any other advantages or disadvantages to playing in multiplayer?

Andre: Yes! Each character has a unique ability to find secrets. Eradan can use his tracking ability to find hidden ranger caches. Andriel can dispel magic walls that lead to treasure chambers and Farin is able to see weaknesses in structures that allow him to break through and find cool stuff. The thing is, every time a character finds a secret area, its beneficial to the whole group. Because of the way our loot system works, whenever anybody uncovers a secret area, it a good idea to check out what's in there. If you are playing online or in split-screen mode, you'll have access to many more of these areas than if you are playing single player.

GB: Aside from what was stated in the recent developer blog, what more can you tell us about the game's two challenge maps? Do you find that these are more rewarding than playing through the storyline, in terms of experience and loot? Is there loot or other rewards that are specific to the challenge maps?

Andre: The Challenge Maps are lot of fun. They are not actually a part of the The Lord of the Rings: War in the North story specifically but, they touch on some really significant aspects of The Lord of the Rings story as a whole. The Challenge Maps are a great way to get bonus XP, find additional loot or unlock achievements. You'll see the entire cast of enemies and all of their combat behaviors. The gameplay gets more and more frantic with each wave and if you're playing online, it's fun to try and get the highest scores in terms of kills, hit streaks and whatnot.

GB: What steps have been taken in order to ensure that the PC version of the game takes advantage of its native keyboard and mouse controls, as well as more powerful video capabilities and processing power? Will the UI elements support higher resolutions, keyboard shortcuts, and that sort of thing?

Andre: The PC version supports controllers as well as keyboard/mouse. The UI for keyboard/mouse users includes hotkeys for skills, potions and calling in Beleram. We support all the standard resolutions in addition to wide screen versions and some of the art is higher rez on PC.

GB: And I have to ask - what's next for Snowblind after War in the North? Is there any chance that we'll see another Snowblind-developed Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath title in the future?

Andre: There's nothing confirmed at this time so, stay tuned!

Thanks for your time, Andre!