Middle Earth: Shadow of War
After the Lord of the Rings films, quite a few games were released that wanted to piggyback on the success of the films. However, only a few of them were really worth it. That is why it was so surprising that Shadow of Mordor was released in 2014 and turned out to be a big hit. In terms of lore, it did not resemble the well-known film and book series in the slightest and that is on the one hand a relief. For a fan of the series, it is already a pleasure to encounter familiar characters such as Smeagol and the Witch King, let alone to walk around in the varied areas that Shadow of War offers you.
In this sequel, you’ll take on the role of Talion and Celebrimbor again to seriously thin out Mordor. The two main characters have created their own Ring of Power that gives you special powers, but you almost immediately lose them to Shelob, the giant spider that was also present in the films. But as I said, the development studio Monolith does its own thing with lore and has turned Shelob into a voluptuous lady with a very daring wardrobe. This begins your adventure in this new open world game.
And it is an open world game, the areas and cities are again quite large to run through to bring the story to a good end. To make those large areas interesting, Monolith has completely filled them with the well-known collectibles and sidequests. And this brings me straight to my first major criticism. Everything not related to the story missions has been done a hundred times before in open world games. There are again artifacts to collect, you can find certain characters on walls and after having found an x number per area you get a reward. And unfortunately but true, the well-known towers are there again that you also encountered in Assassin’s Creed and also in Far Cry. It all feels very “been there done that” and that’s a shame. The Story missions, on the other hand, are interesting so during Act 1 I mainly focused on them.
After going through Act 1 quickly (sorry little spoiler) you get your own Ring of Power back and you can dominate the various opponents and build your own army. And that’s when the game starts to get really interesting. In 2014 Shadow of Mordor was especially furore with its Nemesis system. Basically, that’s a system where the army of Orcs have different ranks, from Captains to Warchiefs. During your adventures, if you came across an Orc with his own name, you were in for a tough fight. If you won that battle, your opponent disappeared from the army and you could continue with the other Captains. However, if you lost such a duel, your opponent was promoted within the army. The best part was that he remembers you and when you meet each other next time you will also get a comment about how you were beaten last time. In this way, duels with certain Captains seemed to get really personal, making you so eager to chop his head off the second or even third time.
In Shadow of War they have of course taken this system again and expanded it quite a bit. In Act 2 you have to start building your own army and you can do this by dominating the Captains and making them fight for you. And it’s not just simple taking over every Captain you come across until there’s none left to take over. In addition to the Captains, you also have Warchiefs, who are even further up the ladder of the hierarchy. Each Warchief has one or two bodyguards assigned to protect him if he is attacked. If you find out who his bodyguards are and if you dominate these bodyguards, they will betray the Warchief during the battle and join you. As you can see, this system gives you so many options to play the game that keeps it interesting.
Man your own fortress
Another extension is the ability to attack and manage your own fortress. The more Captains you join your army, the more fortresses you can attack and man. At the beginning you don’t have your own fortress yet and you have to attack the first fortress with your army. You choose the Captains you want to attack with and give them upgrades where necessary. This means that, for example, you get extra troops or special troops with large shields or crossbows. The feeling you get when you run towards such a fortress with your army is great and will never get boring. Once you have taken over the fortress, you choose who becomes Warchieft and which Captains stay behind to guard the fortress, because you can also be attacked. You can also give the fortress various upgrades such as stronger walls. It’s an excellent addition to the already good Nemesis system.
Although I am very positive about the Nemesis system and building my own army, there are also many negative points that bother me. I already talked about the standard open world aspects like the towers and the collectibles, but I also miss a lot in the combat system and the story. The combat actually consists almost only of pressing a square and when it can counter with a triangle. In the course of time you will gain some skills, but for the most part you are clicking on a square or triangle and that quickly starts to get boring. The story is not really a reason to buy this game. I must confess that it is still not entirely clear what exactly is going on in the story except that you are up against Sauron and the Ringwraiths.
Graphically, it’s not all that great either. For example, if you watch Uncharted or Horizon, you know that the PS4 can conjure up more beautiful images on your TV than what Shadow of War shows. The areas you play in are varied and atmospheric, but never really impress. Talion’s animations are nothing to write home about either. At some point you have to free captured soldiers from a pole with your knife, but if you’re not quite perfect behind it then Talion is just cutting somewhere in the air and the soldier is suddenly free. Finally, I would like to mention the AI. On the one hand, it’s impressive because Captains adapt to your fighting style during a battle. For example, if you are jumping over him all the time, he will learn that and then knock you out of the air. But the AI of the ‘regular’ Orcs is deplorable. They don’t react if you literally stab another Orc in the head next to them and miraculously don’t see you sneaking in while you’re just standing in their field of view.
The gameplay of Shadow of War is good and the Nemesis system is brilliant but the (partly) bad AI, the weak story and the ‘been there done that’ feeling you get from the towers and collectibles give me a sour aftertaste. That is a shame because it is certainly an entertaining game, it could only have been so much more.
facebook messenger Twitter whatsapp reddit E-mail print
Author: Daan Nijboer | Genre: Action | Release: 14-10-2017 | Publisher: Warner Bros. † Developer: Monolith ProductionsGraphics: 7.0 † Sound: 7.5 † Gameplay: 8.0 † Controls: 7.0 † Playback: 7.5 7.4+ Nemesis System+ Attacking Fortresses+ Duels with Captains/Warchiefs- Animations- Basic open world pursuits- AI of common Orcs