Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is one of the most infuriating games I have ever played, it may also be the most satisfying. It’s a magical & beautiful world featuring a new story, new characters, new controls, and the much-awaited nemesis system.
The game takes place in the time between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books and focuses on Mordor and Sauron’s rise to power. It’s a unique and different story from what most casual Middle-earth fans have read or seen, as it pulls details from some of Tolkien’s other works such as The Silmarillion. You play as Talion, a Ranger of Gonder, and as Celebrimbor the wraith that possesses him, both connected by a shared desire for vengeance.
As you journey through Shadow of Mordor you can’t help but be impressed by the beautiful open world that’s been created, from the grimness of the dark gate to more fertile and lush area of Núrn along the southern part of Mordor. Along with the orchestral soundtrack that backs the game, it’s often easy to feel like you’re a part of one of the movies as you fight your way through hordes of Orcs.
My favorite was when taking out an orc sitting at a campfire with an arrow to the head one of the other Orcs said, “He didn’t even have time to scream”.
Speaking of Orcs, they make this game. The Orcs acting, commentary, and of course the new nemesis system (which we will get to later) are the best feature of SOM. Brutalizing an orc right in front of a bunch of other Orcs elicit fear and trepidation from the rest. Killing their captain can also bring about the same result. Once, after cutting off a captain’s head one of the other Orcs yelled out “Did you see that? He cut off his head”. My favorite was when taking out an orc sitting at a campfire with an arrow to the head one of the other Orcs said, “He didn’t even have time to scream”. Add to this the Nemesis system and fighting the Orc’s becomes incredibly “interesting”.
The Nemesis System in SOM is one of the most interesting game features I have seen in a long time. The first time the Nemesis System came into play for me was when I ran into Akoth the Forsworn, a lowly level 9 captain, who with his crossbow bested me in a battle quite quickly. And that’s when everything changed, Akoth leveled up in power, and so did a whole host of other Orc captains from various activities. I should have paused and taken a second to think at this point, but I wanted my revenge against Akoth. So I tracked down Akoth and tried to get my revenge, and once again I died, in two shots no less. At this point, I needed a change of pace, so I picked up a side mission to infiltrate another captain’s hunt and disrupt it. It seemed simple enough, help the caragors defeat some low ranking captain before he kills them and levels up. Then something strange happened, Akoth showed up with another captain, Gorgum the Battle-Hardened, to help out the other captain. Gorgum quickly took me down to near death health but walked away as “I wasn’t worth killing”. Akoth, unfortunately, didn’t have those same feelings and eliminated me with an arrow to the chest.
At this point, I decided to change my strategy, so I rounded up a couple Orcs and interrogated them for information on Akoth and Gorgum. Each had only one weakness, fire for Akoth and stealth kills for Gorgum. For a while, I tried to avoid both captains as much as possible, but it felt like they were hunting me. They started randomly showing up on my missions or even when I was just out exploring. And all the while they were making a name for themselves as part of the orc army, challenging other captains, having feasts, going on hunts, and leveling up very quickly. Before long, both captains were legendary captains with a power level of 20. For a while during the first half of the game, they made my gameplay interesting, to say the least. Eventually, I managed to set Akoth on fire with an arrow to a nearby barrel. He came back though, this time looking like he was recovering from severe burns, but from that point on I had his number and after his third death to me, he stayed dead. Gorgum, on the other hand, was a different story altogether, he hunted me everywhere I went, and by the end of the game we had fought eleven times. I would like to point out I did manage to kill him three times out of the eleven. This is what makes the Nemesis System in SOM so great, I could have played the game for hours just avoiding or trying to kill Akoth and Gorgum.
If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed or the Batman Arkham series you will be right at home with the combat and controls of SOM. Ground combat revolves around attacking, dodging, parrying, and executing, the last three of which are all done via QTE’s (quick time events). Using your wraith skills also gives you several ranged attack options. Your primary ranged option is Elf-Shot which is a wraith arrow and you also have other skills such as shadow strike which teleport you to the enemy to hit them. Like in the Assassin’s Creed series, rope walking, hanging, sliding along ledges, and stealth killing enemies from above is a large part of the gameplay at times, but it does have its issues. Camera angles and movement can get a bit switched around and lead to you moving the wrong way several times, or being unable to drop or hop up to the next level of a wall when you want to.
Shadow of Mordor is the best Middle-earth inspired game I have ever played. It borrows a lot from other games, but add’s its own distinct touch with the Nemesis System & Tolkien lore. It’s not perfect, but it’s as close as a Middle-earth based game has ever gotten.
Second Opinion:Although it is disappointing that Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor is another game that carries the theme of revenge, players will not be disappointed with it. Perhaps the greatest feature regarding this game is the nemesis system. Briefly, it is an all-in-one wanted poster of the player’s primary opponents throughout the game. These opponents called “captains” will be constant nuisances to the player, to the point that if one happens to kill the main character, that specific captain will obtain a promotion, become stronger, and become more problematic for the player. In addition, behind the scenes the captains will combat each other; consequently, this will increase their power levels to the chagrin of the player. As a final note to this system, the members of it are almost impossible to kill. Even if it appears the player has killed their nemesis, there is a decent chance he will make an appearance in the future, usually at an exceptionally inopportune time. They will even bear the scars from the previous battles. The game, despite its numerous positive points, is not without its flaws. The reward value of side quests is not beneficial enough to bother straying from the main campaign. Captain slaying provides the same secondary reward for side quests, making side quests irrelevant in the game. Another drawback is the game’s controls sometimes do not conform to the camera direction, making certain maneuvers in combat, such as jumping on a building, frustrating to perform. Although not a flawless game, it is close, Shadows of Mordor easily earns 8.5 out of 10. – Brandon Filler
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was reviewed on the Xbox One using a retail disc purchased by the POCG staff.