Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Review – “The end of an age”

Mild spoilers for game will happen so stop reading now if you want to remain oblivious 

For those of you who didn’t read our first impressions of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the only thing you missed out on was the fact that we were thoroughly enjoying the sequel to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Having had this time to finish the game, I can tell you with complete certainty that Warner Bros. Interactive has delivered something exciting, thought-provoking, and cinematic while improving on the gameplay given to us in the first game.

Continuing where Shadow of Mordor left off, Talion and the wraith Celebrimbor have forged a new ring of power to challenge Sauron’s One Ring. Now with this new ring, the pair can began their quest for vengeance by gathering allies from areas such as Minis Ithal (true Lord of the Rings fans will know this place) the Sea of Nurnen (a new area featuring a massive lakebed and lots of natural forests and plants, which is completely different from the bleak landscapes we’ve come to know) and even an area called Lithlad (also a new area that is similar to Cirith Ungol) into a massive army needed to take on Sauron’s seemingly endless hoard of orcs. Along the way, Talion and Celebrimbor encounter interesting characters like Shelob, the truth seeing Spider-witch; Eltarial, an elven Nazgul hunter; and Isildur, a former king now turned into the leader of the Nazgul’s. What follows is a tale that takes a lot of interesting dark turns before culminating in a fantastic connection that ties the games to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

However, most orcs and creatures aren’t willing to join Talion’s army on their own free conscious. Thanks to the new ring, this probably is easily solved as it allows Talion to dominate his enemies minds and make them do his biding. But in a move to up the scale from their last game, Warner Bros. has added not only different types of orcs with attack patterns that focus on certain areas but also various creatures that each act differently on the battlefield. You would think with all the enemies to dominate and control, the game would be an ease to play. Well, you’d be wrong.

Even though Talion can have all these allies around him, he’s still capable of being slain on the battlefield. Thankfully, he’s well rounded to handle most battle. Having a control scheme/combat style similar to that of the Batman Arkham series, Talion can execute, stun, shoot arrows and vault over enemies in order to kill his foes. Add in the notion that you can add different perks to the skill you have, thus creating a play style that fits you exclusively makes for a unstoppable combination. Finally, there’s also the loot system that constantly offers you new weapons/armor to help you in your conquest of Mordor (plus challenges that unlock bonus for each item).

On the other hand, should you be defeated by your foes (you only have two chances to avoid death), you will find yourself looking upon the interface of the improved nemesis system.

The Sea of Nurnen. Beautiful, yet full of deadly creatures.

 

Attack minions!!!

Just look at all those possibilities and skills!

For anyone who has played Shadow of Mordor, you should already be acquainted with the Nemesis system. The system revolves around there be a set of orc chiefs, war chiefs, and commanders controlling the various areas of the map. As Talion, you can chose any means/time to take on these special orcs and either kill them or bring them over to your side. If you prefer to plan your attacks, special events pop up on the map frequently, allowing Talion opportunities to get these orcs when their most vulnerable. If you manage to gain control of most of these command posts, you can aim to take out the main orc in charge of the land. Should you succeed, the area will become a whole lot easier to navigate.

But not all enemies will wait for you to come get them. These special orc (mostly Assassins and Ambushers) will hunt Talion through the area and attack him any chance they get. Be weary of these guys as they often carry equipment that can really mess you up/make you vulnerable to attacks from other orcs.

Switching gears, I’d like to talk about the visuals of the game. Everything is visualizing stunning, from the smallest orc tent to one of the biggest trees in video game history (still doesn’t rival the Great Deku tree from Ocarina of Time though). Half the time I would find myself just staring out at the area around me, just taking in every detail I could see. However, the downfall of this amazing detail is that when there’s all this action going on in front of you, the screen can at times get too crowded. Once or twice I’d find myself getting lost in the sea of orcs/explosions/attacking ghouls (which resulted in a cheap death).

Like I mentioned before, Talion travels to many different areas within the story. Each one has a nice feel to it, almost like there’s a story being told every time I find a new place to explore. I hope that in future dlc packs the developers chose to go a little closer to the famous Mount Doom than they did in the main story.

Just a small look at how some of the orcs look

The Nazgul play a huge role in this story.

Finally, I should briefly mention the online aspect of the game. Most icons that pop up on the map are missions you can do that allow you to jump into other players games and kill the orc who slaughtered them. However, the main attraction is the Online conquest, which has players fighting for various territories while defending the ones they have. Though it can be time consuming, its nice to diverge from the main game every now and then and explore my inner desire to conquer lands under my power.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is a extremely fun game. I had loads of fun taking out commanders and building up my dominated army and even though this is the end of Talion’s adventure, its been one hell of a ride. Hopefully, Warner Bros. Interactive’s next game will be just as good as this, but for now I award Shadow of war with a…

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