When Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was first announced, I bet I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought of it as an Assassin’s Creed meets Tolkien game. After all, gameplay trailers portrayed our hero as someone who can leap from buildings, survey the area from the top and uses stealth to vanquish his foes. It had everything that sounded like a clone of Assassin’s Creed has been brought to Mordor. Thankfully the similarities stop there as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor proves to be more than just that and may just have unknowingly raised the bar for an open world assassin genre.
Enter our poor unfortunate soul of a hero named Talion, who not only has to be one of the rangers of Gondor who sees the Black Gate of Mordor taken over by Sauron’s armies but also have his entire family killed. Nothing fancy in the world of middle earth and to make matters worse (or better), he doesn’t to get to rest in pieces but gets revived with strange new powers that would even give the great Ezio Auditore da Firenze a good run for his money. How he got these powers? Well no spoilers from me so lets dive straight into the game.
Being a LOTR, The Hobbit and Tolkien fan, I have great expectations for the game and a rather cautious one as well seeing the history of games that draw upon the great Tolkien universe of middle earth. Most have not really explored the huge lore that middle earth brings and initial impressions of the lore used in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was rather blend. But as I dive deeper into the game and start meeting familiar characters and see how the game developers play with the lore, I can’t help but wonder if they have been blessed by Tolkien himself. Ok so the ending (again no spoilers here) was rather weak compared to the build-up but that’s me being extremely picky.
Gameplay wise, the idea of open world is just delicious. Yes, delicious because the more I play, the more I want to consume more of Mordor which is a vast land filled with Orcs that need to bleed for revenge and justice and for the peace of Middle Earth. Graphics are beautifully crafted on the PS4 (and even more on the PC for those who have high end cards) and the amount of things you can do will take lots of time. In a nutshell, you enter a new area, find and climb up a huge tower, observe the land and numerous activities open up for you to do. Very mechanical but very tidy and that to me is a good thing.
Combat is another interesting thing or rather combination that developers bring to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. While it is not impossible to go on a killing rampage acting like a one man hero like Rambo but with sword and bow, I would suggest taking the stealth route of planning and killing your targets. Not that Talion is a weak fighter but unless your button mashing is extremely high level to counter all the Orc swings, you will find yourself outnumbered very quickly as the Orcs are not the stupid green ones we are used to. Yes the AI is not dumb and Orcs will call for help so from 3 Orcs you initially engage, it can turn into 10 or 20 Orcs trying to bash your skull in.
Another interesting portion of the game is called the nemesis system which gives names to the Orcs you are trying to kill or brainwash or force into being your lackey. This gives the game more life as compared to just killing another nameless Orc who you think but can’t confirm were the ones who killed your fellow rangers of Gondor. In fact you can even brainwash that some of these Orcs fight for you and it does get very interesting when you have an Orc Captain under you. The options of getting more information on another Orc Captain or getting the Or Captain himself to fight another Captain is what truly sets the game apart for me. In the end, you want to raise an army of Orcs to fight and take revenge for you. Fighting fire with fire anyone?
Overall Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a fun game that comes highly recommended for those looking to add a good action title to their game library. From the open world structure to the combat and even the smaller things like how you can customise your weapons, the developers of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor sure put in lots of thought on how things should flow. Perhaps the only let down would be the multiplayers aspect as it would definitely be fun to raid an Orc Camp with fellow rangers of Gondor bent on taking revenge for the fall of the Gates of Mordor. But that’s me wishing for more and hopefully someone from Monolith Productions would read this and it would come in the sequel.
Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
by Kenneth Wong
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