written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
One does not SIMPLY walk IN to Mordor... unless you're this guy. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor takes place between the events of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You are Talion, a ranger who after watching his family brutally murdered at the hands of an army of Uruks and Orcs enacts good old fashioned justice at the tip of a blade. When the Uruks attempted to summon the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimor to serve Sauron, the wraith instead merges with Talion giving him wraith like powers and more importantly denies him from every dying.
Death has serious consequences courtesy of the nemesis system. Talion's interactions with the characters he comes across change depending on how you play the game. An Uruk that kills Talion may get promoted to Captain status or a Captain or Warchief you fought but survived may celebrate the victory by toasting a mug of grog. Overall, the interactions you have with the characters have real consequence, and dying is more than just reverting to a spawn point.
Shadow of Mordor is set in wide open world, the map isn't incredibly large and can easily be traversed on foot, but fast travel via silver pillars you unlock as you traverse the map make getting around much easier. From sidequests to the main story, Mordor has lots of content to be had. Some familiar faces make cameos, but the narrative is largely an original story. The developers went to great lengths to make this a truly authentic Lord of the Rings experience, Monolith worked closely with Middle-Earth Enterprises, Peter Jackson, and Weta Workshop to ensure this experience was the genuine article.
Combat is similar to such contemporaries like the Assassin's Creed franchise while also implementing mechanics from the Arkham franchise. If you've ever playing any of the Arkham games (like Arkham Asylum or Arkham City) controlling Talion in combat will feel right at home, one button is used to attack with another is dedicated to stun, dodge, and counter attacks. Achieve a high enough combo and you can perform execution maneuvers that instantly kill a Uruk or other moves meant to control the crowd. Some enemies require different tactics which can really ramp up the difficulty of battles, knowing when to attack and when to pull back can mean the difference between life and death. Combat is snappy and if other games that try to mimic the Arkham style combat are any indication, there can be imitators but just implementing the system isn't enough to make it work. Shadow of Mordor accomplishes this but doesn't really add much to it, I say if it ain't broke no need to really fix it... but I would have liked to see some more innovation to the combat.
It feels right, every part of this game is carefully crafted. Monolith went to great lengths to ensure this was a genuine Lord of the Rings experience. Snappy combat, an engaging story, with a breathtakingly gorgeous world to play in... sign me up... and you should too... I mean, who says you can't just walk into Mordor?
+ Satisfyingly visceral combat
+ Genuine LOTE experience
+ Engaging story
- Lacking some innovation
- Difficulty spikes