Engrossing experience with fresh game play mechanics. Nemesis system is awesome. Little touches make playing even more fun.
Only 2 maps in the open-world and possible to traverse them fairly quickly. It comes to an end
Gameplay ( 10 )Graphics ( 9.5 )Sound Quality ( 9.5 )
- Total score
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an open world action RPG developed by Monolith Productions, and set in the land of Mordor during the tumultuous time between the events that took place in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. It features Talion, a Ranger who has fused with a Wraith, and together they seek vengeance for their past lives. It opens up with Talion crying, calling out the names of his wife and son, and seeing their bodies as he recalls the Uruks attacking his home and killing them. His mind flashes back to better times when he sees his son’s broken sword and how he used to train with him, teaching him all the skills he knew as a Ranger. It’s the same when he sees his wife’s body and he reminisces about how he used to sneak up on her to surprise her with a kiss or the discussions they had about leaving Mordor. Talion wonders how he’s still alive when he recalls that he was killed by the Uruks right alongside his family as part of a ritual to bring a specific wraith back into the world. He learns that the wraith actually joined with him, and it’s responsible for him still being alive. Unlike Talion, the Wraith can’t recall his true identity or past but is filled with vengeance and a belief that his story is similar to Talion’s. One thing they do know for certain is that they want to track down the Black Numenoreans responsible for slaughtering Talion’s family and performing the ritual, and with their combined might they just might be able to do so. However, the key to becoming stronger is to uncover the truth about the wraith, so who is he and why would he be so important to Sauron’s forces and the search for the One Ring?
I’ve stated on countless occasions that I’m a LOTR addict, and I was waiting for this game for over a year, as my many posts on here will attest. Even though my excitement for this game was off the charts that wouldn’t necessarily mean that the game would actually be good so I had my hopes up high but with a healthy skepticism. However, after completing it my sentiments mirror Bilbo when he was heading to the Undying Lands and wished he could hold the Ring one more time. So yes, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, is now precious to me. It wasn’t just the story but the fascinating and unique gameplay mechanics that made it so difficult for me to stop playing, and to use a cliché, it was exemplary of a next-gen title and what one should expect. The gameplay tutorial actually starts during Talion’s flashbacks of his family as all the sequences described above are fully interactive. You have 3 weapons: a sword, a broken sword used as a dagger, and a wraith bow with a limited number of arrows. The sword is simple to use with only one button to attack but you can also counter opponents’ attacks or grab and throw. This is what you practice with Dirhael, Talion’s son. Despite there only being one button to attack, the animations are very smooth and you’ll usually have to use a combination of counters and dodges in fights due to the number of enemies. The dagger is used exclusively in stealth mode, which you activate by holding down the right trigger while moving. And the first stealth mission you get is before you have this broken sword, and it’s to actually sneak up on your wife to give her a kiss. I really enjoyed this touch as it made the initial events a lot more engrossing and made me feel invested in them. And the bow isn’t received until after Talion is fused with the wraith, and it only appears when you aim with the left trigger, which also slows down time for a brief moment based on the amount of focus you have.
The Nemesis System is Awesome
So the controls start off very simple, and it’s an open world experience from the beginning so once these flashback/tutorial sequences conclude you can go anywhere on the map. I did this and promptly ran into about 30 Uruks and I just ended up making them stronger due to the Nemesis system. (So I would advise you at least complete the first couple of campaign missions to get some experience with the controls and also level up). And the Nemesis system is exactly as it sounds, and one of those truly unique gameplay mechanics that puts Shadow of Mordor in a class by itself. Mordor is crawling with Uruks, and there are different types of them but there are also different levels based on their social structure. So there are regular Uruks, captains and then warlords, which are the strongest. They are constantly in power struggles with each other regardless of your involvement, and if you advance the time you’ll see the conclusion to these struggles automatically through a screen called the Army of Sauron. So since they respect strength and victories, the way for an Uruk to rise in the ranks the fastest is by killing you because he gains a certain notoriety from that and instantly becomes a captain. And since you can’t die you’ll just reappear at a Forge Tower connected to the wraith’s past. So if/when you encounter this Uruk again he will not only remember the last time fighting you but will taunt you as well based on how that battle occurred. So you’ll know you’re fighting a captain (or warlord) based on the pre-fight taunt animation or you can identify them from a distance by entering the wraith world by pressing the left bumper. (It’s similar to the world one sees when putting on the One Ring). So your toughest enemies can be completely random Uruks who become more powerful through these battles or fighting and killing you. Even if you damage one in a battle but he happens to escape, he’ll bear the scars of that battle and will mention them. And another one of the beautiful aspects of this system is if an Uruk kills you on many occasions he’ll just be even tougher to beat and will be labeled your nemesis. So I ended up having a strong disdain for my first nemesis not because the story said I have to beat him but because this random Uruk kept killing me, becoming stronger, and then taunting me about it. So the Nemesis system worked on every level because I despised him as much as he despised me. And every Uruk has their own set of strengths and weaknesses so learning that can be critical before a fight.
RPG System is on point despite lack of customization
And Shadow of Mordor is an action-RPG so you earn XP through a variety of tasks, and there’s also Mirian that you earn by finding collectibles or performing specific side missions. The skills tree is separated into 2 parts, one for Talion and one for the Wraith. So you can assign your skill points to unlock abilities for either one. There are levels to the skills tree so even if you have skill points available from leveling up you won’t be able to access the skills on the next level of the tree unless you have enough Power points, which you acquire from completing specific side missions related to the ranks of Sauron’s Army. And the Mirian you collect is used to improve specific attributes such as increasing Talion’s overall health, the number of arrows he has or the number of runes that can be attached to any of his weapons. So the RPG elements can get deep although you can pretty much unlock everything so you can’t truly customize Talion except through the runes that you find to enhance your weapons. But the new skills that you eventually unlock are fresh and vary from Wraith Flash attacks, which is a form of teleportation, to being able to brand Uruks, which puts them under your control to activate them whenever you want. All of this gives you an almost unrivaled amount of ways to complete a mission or attack a stronghold as you can make uruks fight each other, beasts fight everyone or use your formidable skills and combos to do the most damage or turn Uruks to your side in the middle of fighting. You won’t get branding until more than halfway through the main missions but it’s definitely worth it and comes right on time to keep the game play fresh.
Riding in Mordor in Style
The open world is enticing enough for you to want to fully explore it, and the hunting and survival missions give incentives to examine it a little closer. You’re not the only human in Mordor and you’ll see many slaves in the open world you can free by killing the Uruks around them, and there are even occasions and missions where they fight back with you based on the situation. However, there are only 2 maps, one of which is only available after a certain point in the game so you’ll learn the ins and outs fairly quickly. It doesn’t take long to travel by foot from one end to another but there are also mounts available to ride and you can fast travel between towers. You can climb anything in the game but you don’t take any fall damage whatsoever due to your wraith abilities. I know there were premature comparisons to Assassin’s Creed based off pictures or videos but as one who has played every single AC game except 1 or 2 of the side titles, Shadow of Mordor has way too many unique game play elements and mechanics to be compared after playing it. It is indeed its own game.
One concern prior to Shadow of Mordor’s release was the way its story would treat the Tolkien mythology, and if it would remain faithful to it or deviate drastically. So I’ll say it gives the best of both worlds as you’re led deeper into the Tolkien mythology while trying to discover who is Celebrimbor, the name of the wraith, and what is his connection to the One Ring? The answers come in the form of discovering artifacts that once belonged to him, and some through the help of Gollum, who despite losing the ring to Bilbo still has an eerie connection to it. With every artifact that’s discovered Celebrimbor remembers more about his past life, and his power grows as well. The entire story isn’t just a scavenger hunt for lost memories because you will encounter various characters who will need your help or will play a crucial role in your search for the Black Numenoreans. I found the story to be rather engrossing with some memorable characters, although initially I was worried about the role that one particular Uruk, Ratbag, in advancing the story but thankfully his role wasn’t prominent throughout the entire game. And I was exciting to see the story explore elements of Tolkien Mythology that haven’t been shown in pop culture much, if at all, lately. And considering the time frame and seeing how the story is set in Mordor, it makes sense that there aren’t a ton of humans everywhere except as slaves. At one point I did wish there were more side quests thta involved humans but that sentiment didn’t occur until after I completed 100% of everything in the game. So I would attribute that to just loving the game and wishing it didn’t have to end. And that’s saying a lot because Shadow of Mordor not only satisfied my LOTR addiction but a desire for a great game in general.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an addictive game that has many unique gameplay mechanics and an engrossing story making for one of the truly great next-gen experiences. From the beginning with the flashbacks of Talion’s family being killed to the final mission, I never wanted to put my controller down because there was so much to do and enjoy, and even smaller things I haven’t mentioned in my review. The Nemesis System works as promised, and was even more enjoyable than I anticipated as I despised my nemesis, and even wanted to get revenge for the times the game shows you where other friends playing got killed. The controls and the combat options were very solid, and branding Uruks was one of the most exciting combat options. I know that this game was recently released and there will be a lot of DLC adding new features but after this foray into Tolkien mythology, I’m really looking forward to revisiting Middle-earth perhaps in a sequel, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about that.