It’s always great to play games that have had no hype behind them and they manage to surprise you to such an extent that you can’t stop playing them. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is one such game.
There have been many Lord of the Rings games but no one has managed to do what SoM has done i.e. captivating the player just like the LOTR books and movies did. SoM is set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings where Sauron’s minions are running rampage over the land of Mordor.
You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor. The game shows Talion in his happier days until all goes wrong and this is where his struggle begins. He and his family are brutally killed but he is revived and possessed by the spirit of an elven smith whose story you have to discover by playing the game.
This makes Talion gain extraordinary powers fit enough to slaughter hordes of Uruks (stronger and aggressive than Orcs). It’s all about revenge from this point as you are dumped into the desolate world of Mordor with a lot of questions on your mind.
Killing Sauron’s best won’t be an easy task. You have to level up and gain new abilities. The beauty about this game is that the Uruk’s level up and gain abilities alongside you as well. No, no, this isn’t like the ancient Elder Scrolls: Oblivion’s leveling system, the Uruks of Mordor have an hierarchy system that is filled with internal battles and each one has desire to become a warchief.
Now Talion’s personality isn’t really his strong point but man can he slaughter Uruks with some blistering swordplay. This is where the Wraith comes in with his time slowing and bow abilities. The combination of both makes them an unstoppable force until you get overwhelmed by a bunch of Uruk captains and learn how the Nemesis system works.
When you are given control over Talion, the movement and combat will take getting some used to because I felt it was a bit rigid. Obviously, with some time under your belt your brain gets used to it but I wish it was a bit more fluid. I am not really sure whether it is input lag or something else but considering how the battle system works, it really isn’t a big issue.
It feels like Monolith borrowed some mechanics from Assassin’s Creed and Batman games, because the general platforming and combat reminds me of those games. The platforming is pretty straightforward you just have to hold the run button while facing a wall or, say, a rope, and Talion will do the rest.
The combat is where the meat of the game is. The freeflowing nature of the combat will absolutely mesmerize you as you use the combination of sword, dagger and bow to take down enemies in style.
There are variety of moves you can perform, including execution moves and you will learn many of them as you play the game and level up. All your gear can be upgraded as you defeat captains and gain runes which gives your weapons different abilities.
The lore of the game is fantastic as well and there are many collectibles scattered across Mordor. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, it isn’t a chore to go on a treasure hunt because the lore is so captivating that you want to learn more about Talion and his Wraith friend.
If you are killed by a lowly Uruk, he gets a promotion, gains new abilities and moves up in the Uruk hierarchy. You may even die repeatedly to a Uruk’s guerrilla warfare until you figure out how to kill him. That’s what makes this game’s combat so good, each fight is personal. The dynamically generated Uruk hierarchy system is one of the best things about this game.
Eventually you will get a lot more powers that allow you to build your own army. This drastically changes the gameplay as you can now formulate various strategies to kill warchiefs.
The overall template is just like any other open world game–explore, level up, take the fight to the enemy. SoM adds many new ideas to this which is honestly very refreshing to see. Your entire playthrough will take you about 20-30 hours if you choose to do the side missions and other activities.
The main story itself is about 8-9 hours long, which is a bit less than expected but the game offers you so much more in terms of additional things to do.
Once you finish the main story, you can choose to clean up the other side activities for that elusive 100% completion rate.
Mordor isn’t a place where you will encounter a lot of beautiful scenery. Yes, there are few places, but considering the history of the place what you are going to be seeing and doing is faithful to the LOTR lore.
LOTR fans will have a blast with this game and people new to the series in general should have their interest spiked due to the decent story, which is becoming rare in video games nowadays *cough* *cough* Destiny.
The game isn’t perfect, it has a lot of performance issues and the framerate feels like it hovers around the 30-40 range instead of 60, but you will eventually get used to that as the combat system will not let go of its hold over you so easily. This is one of the best Lord of the Rings game ever made, and honestly that isn’t a big achievement considering the past games.
If you are craving for a good open world game with spectacular combat and a decent story then you can’t go wrong with Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It’s one of the biggest sleeper hits of this generation.