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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review


Shadow of Mordor is so good that this is the second time I've written the review. Yes, the save button failed me, but thankfully developer Monolith did not.

Like many Lord of the Rings fans, I've been waiting a long time for a decent Middle-Earth video game to come along, sure there's the LEGO games, but sometimes you just want something a little more grown up and in that respect everything before Shadow of Mordor has been a bit of a disappointment. Luckily the same can't be said for Shadow of Mordor and while I did have pretty high expectations for Monolith's new title, it surprised me just how much I enjoyed it.



Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor takes place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings and follows the family of Talion, a ranger of Gondor responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor. Soon into the game he is killed at the hands of Sauron's army, along with his wife and son, before then being revived and joined with the spirit of Celebrimbor, an elf being that allows Talion to gain new 'wraith-like' abilities.

The aim of the game for Talion is not just to get revenge on those who wronged him, but also to find out more information about his new partner, so that they may go on to find out why they are there and what they must do in order to gain access to the evil force behind their deaths. 

Eventually they both find out that in order to get to the top, Talion will have to fight his way through the ranks of orcs and uruk-hai, which can be found in and around Mordor, and this is where a few familiar elements come in to play. You see, rather than take its influence from the movies, Monolith seems to have looked closer to home, therefore you'll see a lot of both the Arkham games and the Assassin's Creed series when playing through Middle Earth. Combat is particularly reliant on what the Arkham series brought to gaming, although Monolith has added its own twist thanks to the wrath like abilities that Talion finds himself possessing.

These abilities are varied and get stronger as the game goes on, so while at the start you'll be stringing together combos and combining them with simple stun attacks, as Talion grows in power you'll find yourself gaining access to more powerful attacks such as the Lethal Shadow Strike, which allows you to teleport to an enemy and take them down, generally without being noticed. Ranger attacks also grow in strength, although it depends how much you put into the game as to how much Talion will get out of it.

What really made me stand up and take notice of Shadow of Mordor is the nemesis system. You may think that taking on Orc after Orc may get repetitive after a while and in some respect it does, however thanks to Monolith's innovative system this is lessened a lot and more importantly, made more enjoyable. So how does it work? Well, the thing is, Orcs are a backstabbing bunch and they are not very nice either. So, throughout the game, as Talion fails in battle, the orcs will gain in rank, with those who defeated him being promoted, as well as growing in strength, both in terms of power and followers. Not only that, but these same enemies will take on each other, challenging and killing for positions of power.

Since this is an entirely dynamic system, no two games are the same and no one Orc will have the same name or personality from one game to the next. The other great thing about it is that they'll remember you. For instance, after being defeated in one battle and upon meeting the same foe again, he taunted me with the words, "going to run away again are you," while another was quick to remind me that last time I faced him I wasn't so successful. The nemesis system is very interesting and in a way feels very personal to you, which is a great twist on the standard action RPG's out there.

Thankfully you can use this system to your advantage too. When working your way up the ranks you'll soon discover that some enemies are quite keen to talk. Interrogating these individuals can get you some valuable information, such as learning an enemies phobia's or weak spots, for example, one Warchief I had to fight was particularly prone to long ranged attacks and fire, so by luring him into a certain situation I was able to take him down fairly easily, something that I would otherwise have struggled to do.

As part of playing through the game, you'll want to make sure that you tackle all areas and not just the main story. This is because the more you fight, the more you'll gain in strength and 
equipment, allowing you to gain new abilities, improve your attributes and earn runes, which can be placed on your weapons for important bonuses. All of this combines to make you stronger and therefore, a more formidable opponent for your foes.



It's important to note that Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor offers a pretty large world to explore, so make sure you do so instead of just rushing through and missing everything it has to offer.

Graphically Shadow of Mordor surprised even me. I did set my expectations to a reasonable level but it easily surpassed them. I was expecting some level of polish, but I've been extremely impressed with the final game's presentation. The cutscenes look wonderful, while the environments, main characters and enemies are extremely well detailed and designed. The lighting is also fantastic. To add to this, the voice acting is pretty spot on, with Smeagol in particular standing out from the crowd. Add all of these elements together and you have what makes for a pretty impressive package.

There's probably a lot more I can say to convince you that Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a game worth having, but I've already written and lost one review, so I better stop before I do the same again. All I will say is that this is the best Lord of the Rings game to date by far, not only that, but probably one of the best action games of the year too. Give it a try, you won't regret it.

Words by Joe Anderson.
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/Xbox LIVE: wotta

(Version Tested: Xbox One)

Pros

+ Fantastic Graphics
+ The Nemesis system is excellent  
+ Great Voice Acting
+ Fun Combat

Cons

- Can get a little repetitive sometimes

Edited On 03 Oct, 2014

Comments
( 18 )
jay.hamilton's avatar
jay.hamilton 2 years ago
good review Joe, spot on, played for about 4 hours last night, like a breath of fresh air, also is not interfering with Tolkien's various stories, The memories are loosely based on the Silmarillion and some of his other novels which include the history of Middle Earth, stories of Mordor's past etc, also talks of Souron's past and heard Melkor mentioned too, so the Lore seems spot on too, also I was made up when I was stalking an orc from the bushes and it started to hail, hailstones bouncing everywhere, all in all ive been very impressed
Spear 25's avatar
Spear 25 2 years ago
Great review. I enjoyed playing it yesterday, and the nemesis system really makes the game quite unique. The wraith powers are fun to use too.
 TruDarkAssassin's avatar
TruDarkAssassin 2 years ago
Loving it so far graphics look really good , the steel book i got is fantastic with the lead characters head coming out of the case with glowing eyes 3d style
superniceguy's avatar
superniceguy 2 years ago
What is going on with the Legions edition? I only realised its existence yesterday when Jay thanked Shopto for it. I emailed Shopto about it and they claim they never had any!!! Also no other retailer has had it advertised either. I bought the Xbox ONE version from Amazon as it was cheaper and had awesome DLC, but if Shopto had advertised the Legions edition for PS3 and PS4 I would have preordered the PS4 version on shopto even if it was for more money, as the Legion edition content was more awesome than Amazons bonuses. Now all I have been doing is trying to get hold of a Legions edition copy, instead of playing and enjoying the game, so I can return the Xbox ONE version unopened for a refund, and no one knows anything about it, but according to Monolith the Legions edition is in ALL PS4 versions. http://shadowofmordor.wikia.com/wiki/Thread:16129 There is no point buying one and it is no longer available and have to return it. It is still available on the PSN store, and no longer a preorder version. For months I had it on preorder and chuffed with it, looking forward for it to arrive and play it this weekend, and then I find out about the Legions edition, not able to play it, and now feeling gutted. These exclusive codes are getting ridiculous now, and seriously putting me off gaming.
DynamiteWhyte's avatar
DynamiteWhyte 2 years ago
Dunno how it can put you off gaming, like.
superniceguy's avatar
superniceguy 2 years ago
Correction- puts me off buying / getting new games, will still play old games and games given for free. You pay good money for a new game and then find out it is incomplete and sours the experince - not bothering buying them in the first place means less disappointment. The legion editions has extra missions / more gameplay. How can you play these missions if you do not have the content? Also I can not play the game atm until I get the Legions edition or give up hope getting it. I have the game and can not play it, and everyone you contact about he matter is acting clueless. All these various exclusive DLC makes it seem that the game is incomplete, and I am an all or nothing person. With Destiny the exclusive content was clear, this was not, and I still chose I did not want the Destiny PS4 missions, but I want these Legion / Warband missions, but it was not fully advertised. There is also some conspiracy about this, as shopto were trying to say that jay bought the game elsewhere, also the publisher is not replying to shopto with the info yet they tell customers in that forum
Dead's avatar
Dead 2 years ago
PMSL
Bindiana's avatar
Bindiana 2 years ago
So the person who bought 5 or 6 versions of watchdogs is complaining about DLC and pre order bonuses when there the reason publishers do it cause they know gullible punters will go out of there way to get it. So it didnt put you off Watchdogs but did this game. The same with season passes it feels a lot of the time stuff is stripped from the game in order to sell as DLC. As long as people buy them they will keep doing it.
jay.hamilton's avatar
jay.hamilton 2 years ago
I never said it was the legion edition, it just had the legion edition code inside, as well as the dark ranger code, ShopTo wouldnt have a clue as its not them who seal the games, also another 5 people i asked from ShopTo also had the code
jay.hamilton's avatar
jay.hamilton 2 years ago
also im not big on season passes but im having so much fun with SOM that i went and got it, ill hang my head in shame for ten mins
Bindiana's avatar
Bindiana 2 years ago
So you should jay haha. To be fair this game should have better dlc then most not just cars, guns or maps. Well hopefully you haven't purchased 3 different copies of the game just so you get all costumes.
superniceguy's avatar
superniceguy 2 years ago
I only ever bought 2 copies in the end of Watch Dogs, Xbox 360 and PC, and at the time both were cheaper than what Shopto were charging for the 360 version alone. The season pass has not carried over to the Xbox ONE and complained and got the game refunded, because they said I should have gotten the pass but now I have a PS4 may get that once I have fisnihed and sold the 360 version, but I have not been in any rush and may not bother with the Xbox ONE version. and I have briefly played it by borrowing a copy, to see if it would unlock the pass The Wii U version has not been released. The exclusivity of those games were not a problem because they were clearly stated, and with destiny shopto clearly advertised the PS4 exclusivity, so do not know why this is such secrecy. Trying to get hold of the Legions edition seems to be luck of the draw. If you had the legion edition code inside then it is the legion edition. Following further investigation official sources which I linked to above state that ALL playstation editions have the code in them. Is there anybody who has a retail PS4 version that did not have the Legions edition code?
Dead's avatar
Dead 2 years ago
Nobody cares.
PrometheusFan's avatar
PrometheusFan 2 years ago
I got the Legion edition code in my copy. The stuff you get for downloading it is pretty sweet.
Sp00kyMulder's avatar
Sp00kyMulder 2 years ago
I got it with my copy too :) I've just got the platinum trophy!! What a game!
Gecko2013's avatar
Gecko2013 2 years ago
Was annoying constantly running into captains everywhere you go and being forced to listen to their introduction speech even in the middle of a massacre or desperate retreat. I'm only x4 achievements away from 100% then am trading it for evil within.
Gecko2013's avatar
Gecko2013 2 years ago
Was annoying constantly running into captains everywhere you go and being forced to listen to their introduction speech even in the middle of a massacre or desperate retreat. I'm only x4 achievements away from 100% then am trading it for evil within.
Gecko2013's avatar
Gecko2013 2 years ago
Endless captains popping up and forcing you ( in the middle of killing anything that moves ) to listen to their introduction speech. I pretty much blitzed it in a week then sold it as all the add ons are * coming soon * aka. Next year. Err folks next month is call of duty, halo, assassins creed and Gta v - just to name a few. Why play a watered down Lotr game when you could play one of those! ;)

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