Before I get into this review let me just say up front that I am a huge LOTR fan, and I absolutely fall in love with any Lord of the Rings mythology. With that being said however, I will try to be as objective in this review as possible for you guys, because as awesome as this game is, it does have a few problems. Also, on a side note this will be a non-spoiler review because I don’t want to make anyone who has not played the game made, so I will withhold certain details about the story. Now that we have that out of the way, everyone ready? Lets get into it.
MIDDLE EARTH:SHADOW OF MORDOR
It has been quite a while since I have been this excited about playing a Lord of the Rings game, but I think that any fan of the LOTR mythology will consider this a fantastic entry into the video game universe. This is by far one of the best Lord of the Rings games since the Two Towers and the Return of the King on the gamecube(and those were pretty damn near perfect). “But OrkMaster, what makes this game such a fantastic game?”, you might ask. Well, we certainly have a lot to talk about, so sit back, relax, and with that being said, I hope everyone enjoys the review.
GRAPHICS/ATMOSPHERE- I’m not usually one to complain about or praise graphics. As long as the game looks somewhat decent i’m usually happy. I will say however, that in the case of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor the graphics are simply astounding. Monolith really does a great job of making the game have a dark gritty feel. From the opening cutscene, which I will not spoil, the game sets an extremely dark tone. It really does a great job of pulling you into the story and immerses you in this dark cloud for the first half of the game. Later in the game, the tone suddenly shifts and you are treated to not only a change of scenery, but a change in atmosphere as well. Your eyeballs suddenly get a welcome change from dark, gritty rocky outcrops and sheer cliff walls, to lush green pastures and rolling, green plains. The environments are extremely well done, and the world feels really vibrant and alive, especially in the second half of the game. This is important to have in an open world game, so kudos to Monolith for pulling that off. Finally, the character models look great, with one small exception. I’m not sure why but I thought Talions face looked a little......off someehow. I can’t really explain it but something about it just looked weird. IDK, in any case, I thought I should mention it. While we are on this topic, I did not notice a little bit of slowdown when fighting massive groups of orcs, but it was not enough to ruin my experience. There was also little pop-in which is rare for an open-world game, so that was a welcome surprise. Overall, the graphics, while not earthbreaking, they are some of the best on the next-gen consoles in my honest opinion. I give the graphics and overall feel of the game a 4.5/5.
GAMEPLAY- Anyone who plays Middle Earth:Shadow of Mordor will immediately notice the similarities to the Batman Arkham games, and the Assassins Crred saga. While some might complain that this game “ripped-off” these other titles, I found it to be a similar yet different experience at the same time. It has the free running mechanics from Assassins Creed, allowing you to climb sheer cliff walls with ease, and also vault over certain debris in the world, such as rocks and logs and such. It also has something similar to the view points from Assassins Crred, except in this case they are called Forge Towers. You find these throughout the world, and when you climb them and activate them you can unlock potions of the map which reveal side missions, and other activities.
Now it’s time to looks at Talion and his combat mechanics. Overall, Talion is a pretty well rounded character, and can use everything from his long broadsword, his bow, his dagger, and even the environment.
1.The Sword- Sword combat works similar to the Batman games, with the hit-counter system playing a huge role in the majority of combat. Also similar to Batman, you can also vault over enemies and execute special attatcks and combos, such as executions which are BADASS!! However, I don’t consider this a bad thing. I think it works really well for this type of game and integrates seamlessly into the feel of the game. Occasionally, Talion would not do what I wanted, such as hitting the wrong orc, or not obeying my button press, but those are minor complaints.
2.The Bow- In case you don’t want to always rush in headfirst into combat, the game also offers you a different alternative to use- your bow. You can use this to thin out the ranks of orc archers on the roofs, which helps in large encounters. You can also use your bow in close encounters, buy using your focus meter which behaves strikingly similar to the reflex mode of Metal Gear Solid:Ground Zeroes. In simple terms, all it really does is slow down time to make it easier for you to nail a few orcs in the head with arrows. However, in combination with the sword combat, this can be a cool way to mix it up when fighting orcs.
The Dagger- Since every player plays games differently, some of you might want a more stealthy approach. This is where the dagger comes into play. The game has a sneaking mechanic, and while it is a basic one, it works just fine. You can sneak up behind orcs and stealthily assassinate them. There are also drop-assassinations, and things of that nature. However, it is worth mentioning that if you were hoping to stealth the entire game, that is not really possible in that sense. You can certainly be stealthy as much as you like, but there a quite a few encounters when stealth is just not an option, and you will have to go in with sword. I thought this was worth mentioning.
The Environment- Now it is time to look at Talion’s final weapon- the environment. Talion can interact with certain objects in the world which really make the big encounters fun and different. There are bee hives that you can drop on unsuspecting orcs, which makes them scream and run away in terror. There are campfires that you can explode with your bow to burn, and likely kill, any orcs in the vicinity. There is also caragor bait that you can drop, which attracts big carnivourous dogs, which attack the enemy. You can also ride these, and other animals such as graugs into battle, which is extremely fun to do. Finally, Talion can also “brand” orcs to get them to do certain things, and even get them on your side! (More on this in the next section) Overall, the gameplay, while similar to other games, manages to find its own innovative footing and gives us a fantastic, different experience. I give it a 4.5/5.
4. The Nemesis System- Now i’m sure that anyone following this game has heard of the nemesis system. Simply put, it is pretty astounding. This is the game’s bread and butter, so I thought that it deserved it’s own section. The nemesis makes things much more personal, which in an open world game is important, because we want to think that our actions have consequences. Also, and even more importantly, it makes dying matter. Everytime you die in this game it has consequences, because the orc that kills you get’s promoted to captain and levels up. In addition, other captains level up as well, which essentially makes the game harder. While some of might balk at this idea, it’s such a cool idea that you almost forgive the game for being a uneccessarily difficult at times. A good term to describe the nemesis system is struggle. It is a constant struggle between the orcs to determine which one will come out on top. Also, it is worth mentioning that everytime you encounter a captain that you killed, or a captain that killed you, there is a short cinematic in which he remembers the last encounter with you which adds another layer of personal struggle to this game. One thing that does bother me about this system is that the orcs come back to life. For example, I was fighting this one nasty orc called grish bone-cruncher, and he killed me about 10 times. I finally got the opportunity to chop his head off, and then a few in game hours later, and I found him again, and was pissed because he had come back from the dead. While this might seem like a small complaint, it frustrates because it takes away the sense of scale when fighting these orcs if they just come back from the dead later. It takes away from the experience in my opinion. Overall, I give the Nemesis system a 4/5.
5. Sound/Audio- This review is already long enough, so I will make this portion quick. The audio is extremely well done in this game. The voice acting is awesome, with Troy Baker doing a great job as Talion. The environment feels like a living vibrant world, with the wildlife ruuning around and getting in fights with orcs. Finally, the sound in combat is extremely awesome as well. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to get in a fight with an orc I hated and then listening to the glorious wet bloody sound as his head was separated from his shoulders. That was really well done. I give the Sound/Audio a 5/5.
6. Achievements- Allright, last section. I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the achievements. Overall, this game has an extremely fun and a few challenging achievements. You can play through the story, and then go back in free roam and clean up any missed ones. The game itself is not that difficult to perfect. I give the achievements a 5/5.
7. Verdict- Overall, Shadow of Mordor has enough content to satisfy an fan of Lord of the Rings, and for the newcomes, it is easy and accessible to learn about the world thanks toe in game codex. The game has a high degree of replayability which makes it worth your time and money. I think Monolith did a really great job with this game and I hope that I convinced at least one of you how awesome this game is. Therefore, since I know everyone is tired of reading this, I give this game a final verdict of 4.5/5. Thanks for reading everybody. :)