Snowblind Studios practically invented the modern, console based hack and slash role playing game with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance back in 2002. Since that time they delivered the endlessly re-playable Champions of Norrath games on PlayStation 2, and the less memorable Justice League Heroes.

Snowblind was acquired by Warner Bros. Interactive in 2009 specifically to develop games based on The Lord of the Rings, which brings us almost up to the present. Lord of the Rings: The War in the North was announced a full year ago, and just today a new trailer and a fresh batch of screens for the game have been released.

For those who haven’t been following the game’s development, War in the North is a one to three player co-op action role playing game that draws inspiration both from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films and J.R.R. Tolkien’s original books. Players of Snowblind’s previous games are apt to take note of the change in perspective, from top-down to third person, and of the exponential increase in the brutalitly of the in-game action.

It is just that brutality that comes to the fore in the newest trailer for The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Please note that the trailer is intended for mature audiences only.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDfI_mykJo0

In addition to the trailer, a number of new screens of the game in action have surfaced — click on the thumbnails for a closer look.

Brutal, indeed. The question, of course, is whether Snowblind will be able to imbue War in the North’s combat with the same kind of responsive, weighty feel that was a trademark of their earlier games. For that matter, will upgrades made to the characters’ weapons and skills be visually apparent on the battlefield? For now, that point remains unclear.

Though there have been a number of action RPGs this generation, none of them have really excelled as co-op experiences. The current gold standard of the genre, Torchlight (which, for those who have never played it, released just today as the final XBLA House Party game) doesn’t feature any multiplayer at all. Let’s hope that, with War in the North, Snowblind reminds gamers (and other developers) just how much fun a quality co-op action RPG can be.

Ranters, what do you think about War in the North? Are you anticipating the co-op play as much as I am? Is the Lord of the Rings license the right match for this kind of game?

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North will release later in 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. The game will also make an appearance at PAX East

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