Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – Full review

A brief and shocking opening scene sets a dark and brutal tone as Talion, a former Ranger of Gondor, is ritually executed along with his family, by one of Sauron’s fearsome commanders. Talion’s spirit is then bound to an amnesiac elf ghost and returned to Middle-earth for vengeance against Sauron’s forces. It’s a story that isn’t completely as you would expect, but it’s well-acted. It makes decent use of Gollum, and there are a couple of memorable new characters – particularly Ratbag the comic-relief uruk, who guides you through the process of infiltrating the enemy army, and the Elven spirit that is your guide and friend throughout the game. This unusual partner brings a very interesting atmosphere to the game that I really enjoyed.

The game mostly consists out of battle with fearsome officers in Sauron’s army, as the storyline is optional for you to follow or not. I have spent a good 6 hours playing the game and leveling without even playing by the storyline. Something I also experienced in GTA, although this is a completely different game. The thing that makes this game special is the spirit of an Elven lord which you, playing as Talion, share your body with. He was banished to same void like place that talion was send to by the ritual performed by the “the Black hand”, one of Sauron’s commanders. You share a bond and are both send back to middle earth to help each other find what it is you seek. For the elven lord, it is his memory. He has almost no memory from before he was killed in the same ritual as you were. For your character Talion, it is vengeance you seek. Vengeance on the Black Hand and hopefully finding a way to leave the limbo you are in, and pass on to the afterlife to be with your family. This elven lord lives with you in the same physical body. Besides creating an amazing atmosphere in the game by intense speeches via great script and amazing voice acting by Alastair Duncan, he also gives you great power, by partially taking over your body. Examples of these powers are :torturing uruks and orks by reading their minds, and uncover important information about uruk commanders, Slow down time while aiming with your bow to get a precise shot, or even giving you the power to kill an enemy with a single powerful blow.

You are not fighting alone

You are not fighting alone – The Elven spirit grants you power in battle

On your journey, you will not only possess the powers of the elven spirit, but you will have a sword, dagger and bow to slay your enemies. Maybe you think you’re strong enough with a sword and attack your enemy head on. Or do you not feel too confident about that and do you rather attempt to stab in the back from a bush, or jump on top of him from atop of a tower and plant your dagger in his neck? The choice is yours, but choose wisely. Not all enemies have the same strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps interrogating an ork will give you the information you need to defeat a mightier adversary. Maybe the giant armored uruk you see, is a little wussy when it comes to bees. Suddenly that beehive looks tempting, does it not? These strategic options will also help you greatly in your quest.

When you are not following the quest line, there is a very entertaining thing to do. Hunt down and kill uruk captains, servents of the Dark lord Sauron. There is a thing that looks like a ranking list for uruk captains, called the Nemesis system. To elaborate: Each ork and uruk has a rank in Sauron’s army. Everytime you kill one of the officers, another orc will take their place. The same thing happends when a uruk kills another uruk officer, for these guys are always fighting eachother to get to a higher rank in the army. This occurs quite often when you follow the story line with the orc named “Ratbag”. But should you fail to kill a certain officer you attempt to kill, than he will become your sworn enemy. Killing him will give you bonus points. And beware, the higher the rank, the harder they are to beat. But you can always try to interrogate certain orcs to gain information that will help you defeat them. They will show you their location, strengths and weaknesses. For example, some guys are immune to special moves and stealth attacks, but vunerable to arrows. Some are also scared of beasts and bees. Set them loose to scare him so he won’t attack, but don’t let him run away either. This activity is a great way to level up and unlock new skills. Killing officers will also give you enchantments for your weapon that they will drop upon death. A good idea for when you are stuck in a harder mission in the main storyline.

nemesis system

You better avoid this guy for now – Example of Uruk info in the Nemesis system

Some of the bad parts of the game are going to be named as well of course. Almost every game ever made had its flaws, and this game is no exception: The Cat-like monsters in the game, can be rode on. This seems a really cool thing to do, but unfortunately it doesn’t work too well. They are a bit hard to control and kind of lumpy. Some people claim that there is a similar problem with the parkour in the game, like assassin’s creed, though have not encountered this myself. Sometimes, especially with killing the orc officers, the game tends to repeat itself in location and tactics you need to know to hunt them down. As much as I like the idea of the parkour from assassin’s creed, they are letting you down a bit on this game. It works very well, but the world is 50% just wide plains with no rocks or buildings to climb on. So there are moments where you will just be running for 5-10 minutes to get to a locations without much excitement. Yet these are the only flaws for me, and the pros are in a much larger number than the cons, so don’t be discouraged by this.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor stands out from other open-world action games by taking the best aspects of multiple games and movies and merging them together beautifully. I’ve had many memorable and unpredictable battles with its randomized Warchiefs and captains than I did in the scripted campaign missions, and I expect those to keep on coming. Using the mighty power of my Elven spirit guide I will bring them all down to their knees. Combine the greatest of the Assassin’s Creed games, The Lord of the Rings movies, The newly released Thief, add a big spoon of darkness and you will get The shadow of Mordor. If you like to have the choice between a stealthy or a hack and slash with amazing agile movement kind of approach, like the lord of the rings movies, and like games like Assassin’s Creed, do not miss out on this game, because you will love it.

Pros

  • Nice looking graphics (more realistic feel than other games)
  • Choice in stealthy or loud approach
  • Great characters + voice actors
  • Great animations
  • Plenty of hours of fun
  • Enjoyably varied skill tree to unlock

Cons

  • Beast riding isn’t very well designed
  • Open world has a lot of plains, and not a lot of buildings to climb on
  • Battling uruks has moments of repeating the same thing
  • Some enemies are very easy to beat
  • Beasts are a little too strong when in group, forces you to run

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