Monolith and Warner Bros brings us the sequel to the very successful Shadow of Mordor. It has a huge open world full of new characters, new stories, and new adventures to explore.
Middle Earth Shadow of War follows on from the story of the first game, Shadow of Mordor. The lore in the game is not exactly taken from Lord of the Rings. If you’re a diehard fan of Lord of the Rings then just take the story as it comes and try not to get yourself too worked up that it doesn’t line up with the original literature.
If you’re willing to accept this fact you’ll find that the game play is definitely worth it. The campaign and main story itself are between 20 and 30 hours long. But if you’re enjoying the game you can easily get 50 hours or more playtime with side quests, perfecting your build and finding all the secrets in the game. Combat is similar to that of Batman Arkham series but with one huge game changing difference, the Nemesis system. When you’re fighting basic enemies, you have the ability to attack, parry and dodge at base level.
You get to perform brutal executions and these will become more frequent and fluid as you level up. There is ranged combat and stealth too. You can decide to either go in stealthily or head first in this game. I usually go the stealth route most of the time until they see me or I caused to much of a commotion then it’s down to your sword skills and abilities. The leveling system allows you to unlock awesome abilities that make you feel amazingly powerful and choose the type of combat you prefer.
The game also includes free running which allows you to parkour through areas and again as you level up this becomes faster and more stylish with abilities you unlock. Individual orcs will not pose any challenge but you can be flooded with them in no time if you’re not paying attention and soon, you’ll be dancing and weaving attacks, dodges and executions together, then looking for the back door so you can retreat.
If you can single out a basic enemy on his own you can use an ability to drain his life and then rejoin the fight. If you break line of sight you can then go into the stealth meta. Stealth kills are easy enough to pull off but hugely satisfying and using the stealth system you can do things like poison nearby water sources or unleash traps on unsuspecting orcs. The Nemesis system basically allows you to create your own story as you move through the game.
The stars of the show are the randomly generated orc captains. This part of the game is amazing. Each captain you encounter has strengths, weaknesses and personality of his own. You can find out their abilities by tracking down and interrogating weaker orcs and then target the captain’s. If a basic orc manages to kill you, he automatically becomes a captain. At this point you can hunt him down for revenge and some special loot. This is also true of captains; they gain rank and level up if they manage to beat you and eventually becoming war chiefs or overlords.
By killing captains, you gain experience and gear to help boost your character abilities. The gear can be game changing, randomly generated abilities can be found and unlocked by completing mini challenges while wearing the armor or weapons. There are a whole host of builds you can make using a combination of skills and armor bonuses to make your experience individual to your playstyle. The beauty of this system is that it’s constantly evolving. The orc captains throughout the game are engaged in their own battles, the outcome of which we’ll see some die and others gain rank and higher levels themselves.
You can intervene in these battles if you choose to and help determine the winner and dictate which higher level enemy you want to face later in the game. In my own gameplay I was killed by the Tark Slayer. I then hunted him down, cut off his arm and thought he died, only to have him return and come at me at a random ambush with modified skills and a metal claw to replace the arm that I had cut. This system is absolutely brilliant and makes every encounter with a captain entertaining, just for the fact that you’re never sure how the story will play out.
Captains are randomly generated with hundreds of variations and can give the game a lot of replayability. Some of these captain fights are epic battles, some of their skills can include being immune to stealth or execution moves but they might be weak or afraid of fire for example. Each captain if you take the time to learn his weaknesses can be approached in a strategic manner and setting them up for the perfect fall. As you progress through the game you can unlock abilities to turn orcs and captains to your own side which eventually leads to building your own army which in turn leads to sieges and fortress attacks on a huge scale as the game builds in pace.
The campaign will take you through this process but there is a huge world to explore and many side quests to undertake. You can gain abilities to subdue other types of enemies too which include beasts you can mount and even drakes. Eventually you’ll have the ability to summon them to help you in your war. This is especially fun, turning enemy beasts against the enemy and wreaking havoc. The game is awesome.
But it isn’t perfect, I encountered the occasional graphical error and the parkour running can be a little finicky every now and then. Grabbing on to ledges I didn’t want to for example and the story isn’t true to the Lord of the Rings lore. These things are all very minor assuming you’re not too worried about the lore. Overall, this game is amazing and you can build your character to your liking and the Nemesis System is brilliant. So definitely check out this months PS Plus title as it is a great game.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a great sequel to Shadow of Mordor. The Nemesis System is the core of the game and is its stand out feature, the gameplay is amazing as the main story missions might seem boring by comparison, there's enough content to keep you busy for a while.