As its name suggests, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor takes place in Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth, made popular by The Lord of The Rings series of books and movies. You play as Talion, a Ranger whose family (himself included) are captured and killed in a ritual. However, Talion awakes with an unknown wraith sharing his body, and together they set off to uncover the wraith’s identity and avenge the death of Talion’s family by slaying a bunch of orcs.
The game is an action-adventure with a focus on combat and stealth. Combat is “Arkham-style”, after Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can hit enemies or counter their attacks, and this will start a combo counter (1,2,3…). Every consecutive hit adds to your combo and after a certain number of hits, you may use one of Talion’s many abilities, like Execute (instantly kill an enemy) and Wraith Flash (Area Stun). If you take damage or miss an attack, your combo is reset and goes back to zero. Some abilities also gain power as the combo increases.
Combat is the highlight of this game. Talion’s excellent animation and sound design provide some of the best feedback that I’ve experienced in any game. You will see, hear, and feel every impact and this is important in fast-paced combat, where you are easily surrounded. Talion is also very mobile, and movements are accurate enough and responsive. Early game is easy with only basic enemies, and later you will face different enemy types that require tactics to defeat. Mixing these enemy types with different environments around Mordor creates a healthy variation that keeps the game interesting and challenging. Stealth works, but enemies are too slow to spot you, and very easy to lose, when running away.
The game’s other highly advertised feature is the Nemesis system. This gives the stronger Enemies (Captains and Warchiefs) personalities by randomly mixing strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. They will also react to the player’s actions throughout the game. If a captain defeats Talion (Talion will not die permanently, instead he is revived and time progresses.), they will receive a promotion and become stronger. They will then remember and reference past encounters, and this can create many smaller, more personal stories within the game. Funny enough, these orcs were the most interesting characters in the game and their writing is consistently entertaining.
For me, the negative side of the game is the main story. What the game has is a very typical revenge story with a forgettable protagonist who has very little personality. The only aspects I found interesting lore-wise were the numerous references to The Lord of The Rings and Tolkien’s other work. As a Tolkien fan, those moments were cool, but they don’t add anything to the story itself. The main antagonist is also just a servant of evil wearing a black cloak, and he has no meaningful personality of his own. Presentation-wise the game looks nice albeit very grey, and the soundtrack is fitting, but ultimately forgettable.
Game: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: September 30, 2014
PEGI Rating: 18
All images were taken in-game by the author.
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