There Will Be Orc Blood In Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Finally, you can amputate and decapitate an Orc, thanks to Snowblind Studios' The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, the hack, slash and loot adventure with the Tolkien stamp of approval.

While the original Fellowship of the J.R.R. Tolkien books (and films) fight their way to Mordor to dispose of that ring, you'll enjoy your own adventure with a new group of heroes. It's all canon stuff, the developer says; the Tolkien estate approves it all.

Snowblind, which specializes in the ways of hack and slash, as proven by previous efforts Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and EverQuest: Champions of Norrath, tout this Lord of the Rings game as the first M-rated entry. It's bloody, and yes, Orc limbs fly freely during battle.

But you probably already know that if you've made it this far and read our E3 impressions of the game.

We were shown one battle at Gamescom, set in the Ettenmoors, a wide open forested area west of the Misty Mountains, against a pack of Orcs. The group consisted of one dwarf, one elf and one human. The hands-off demo looked like your standard slash first, ask questions later dust up right up until a Mountain Troll showed up and latched onto a member of the party. To free him required the assistance his coop partners, a small part of the "interdependent coop" play that Snowblind is focusing on.

Each of the game's Middle Earth races comes with its own specialization. Elves have a tracking ability that will let them seek out secret areas and items in the world. Dwarves can see weaknesses in walls and structures, uncovering hidden pathways. Humans can spot unique flora, like Marish Caps (read: mushrooms) that can be magically transmogrified into health potions.

These unique racial attributes, Snowblind says, are built into War in the North to encourage communication and "incentivize" exploration of the environments during cooperative play.

Snowblind also says they'll be "blurring the line between single player and multiplayer" for the coop-heavy action adventure, but didn't expand further on their online plans.

The developer also wouldn't specify whether it would offer an isometric camera angle option in War in the North—the game is set in the third-person, with the game camera following—only noting that it's a question they've been getting a lot.

Given the addictive nature of Snowblind's previous light-RPG, hack and slash adventures, it's hard not to be excited about The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. The PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 game, due next year, takes a slightly different angle on the loot-hunting, skill tree-speccing formula and is worth keeping an eye on.