Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (SoW) is a sequel to the popular Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (SoM), an Action-Adventure set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. SoW continues the story as a direct sequel. The previous game saw Talion, the protagonist, take revenge for the loss of his family. But now he is on the offensive and going after the Dark Lord Sauron himself. Talion must use a Ring of Power to build an army and take on the Dark Lord.
Similar to SoM, you can explore a multi-region open world completing quests and side activities. In combat, hitting enemies and countering their attacks fills up your Might-meter and when it’s full, you may use one of your abilities. Unfortunately, the audio-visual feedback in combat seems oddly missing at times. Hits and button prompts don’t quite have the same punch and consistency that I enjoyed in SoM. While not game-breaking, it did lead to some moments of confusion and frustration. You may also change Talion’s weapons and armor. Loot is dropped by enemies throughout the game, and stronger enemies drop better gear. Frankly, gear mostly boils down to comparing a single number and picking the higher one. Only legendary items have bonuses and they only appear if you intentionally go hunting for them.
The Nemesis system that creates unique orc captains with personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, returns. You may kill, assist, or interfere in these nemesis missions throughout the world to produce different outcomes for the orcs involved. This time you may also better manipulate the orcs and their levels to produce the high-level gear mentioned above. Enemies also have a lot more variety, which adds a welcome challenge to each encounter, keeping the gameplay interesting. Captains may also adapt to your strategies during combat, preventing the player from spamming a single approach to defeat them. This is a welcome addition, as these repeated strategies did break difficulty in SoM. SoW also offers multiple difficulty options, allowing for more challenge for those who want it.
Despite these improvements to the overall gameplay, SoW does not quite feel like a stronger game. There is more to do than in SoM, but with the longer expected playtime and a larger map, many of these new activities started to feel like padding by the end. SoM was a good, compact experience with solid mechanics, but SoW starts to feel bloated. I found the story a bit more interesting this time around, but it’s still very average with only a few highlight moments and the usual stereotypical characters. Overall, I think SoW is a good game that earns my recommendation. But I also think everyone should play SoM first, to see if this game is for them or not.
All images were taken in-game by the author.
Game: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: October 10, 2017
PEGI Rating: 18
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