The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Interview

GameSpot interviews Snowblind producer Ruth Tomandl about The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, focusing primarily on setting and narrative, as well as some questions on co-op and classes.
GameSpot: This is the first time that you've been able to work with the movie license while you have the rights to the books. How does this change your approach to a new Lord of the Rings game? What can you tell us about the story?

Ruth Tomandl: Having both the rights to the films and the books has definitely allowed us to take the approach we want: We're not restricted to just what was shown in the films and can work with the entire background of the world as revealed in the books. We really wanted to use the opportunity to go to new areas of Middle-earth that players haven't seen before and to tell a new story. Everything in our story is based directly on the books, which have tons of detail and history to draw from, and we're very careful that all of our work fits within the lore.

The story of The Lord of the Rings: War in the North takes place during the War of the Ring, but instead of following the Fellowship of the Ring, you'll be sent on your own quest to the north to investigate the gathering armies there. You'll encounter characters that appeared in the films, but as the game progresses, you'll go farther north as Frodo and the One Ring travel farther south. Basically, you're fighting the same war but different battles.

Having the film license is great as well because the films set a very high bar for visual quality, and we're excited to work in that style. The films have been what most people think of when they visualize Middle-earth, so we've worked to make the new locations and characters in War in the North look like they're from the same universe as the films.

GS: What can you tell us about Agandaur, the story's main enemy?

RT: Far back in the history of the men of Middle-earth, a group of Numenoreans basically went over to the dark side and became servants of Sauron. Like the mouth of Sauron, Agandaur is a descendant of that group. He's Sauron's top lieutenant, sent to the north to organize an army and attack the free peoples on another front. Agandaur is ambitious and ruthless and is unfortunately doing his job very effectively.

GS: How hard is it to balance the narrative and the action? Does one outweigh the other?

RT: Particularly with a license like The Lord of the Rings, where narrative is so important, it's vital that the story and action support each other. Because The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an action role-playing game and combat is what you're spending most of your time doing, we make sure that what you're doing during combat helps tell the story. For example, conversations in town unlock new areas and battles. The Lord of the Rings is the story of a war, so we're trying to do what J.R.R. Tolkien did so well and tell that story.