Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor… I’m going to come right off the bat here and state that this game has got to be one of the best this year. And I’m not talking like neck and neck with other AAA titles, I’m talking a full head and shoulders above the rest. I’m totally aware of the titles that have hit so far this year so I know how much of a bold statement that is but, DAMN this game is so awesome it doesn’t seem legal. I have barely slept, eaten or completed any task worthy of mentioning in the last 48 hours because of this game and I don’t regret it one tiny bit.
It’s been far too long since we have all seen a really good, immersive and above all just fucking fun all round open world game. What Shadow of Mordor offers up is a true example of an open world title. Play the game how you want, complete the missions you want, upgrade your character the way you want. It’s all 100% up to you. Do you remember the first time you played Grand Theft Auto, found you had been playing for hours but not completed a single campaign mission? It’s just like that here, just with more middle earth awesome drenched over everything. Shadow of Mordor takes place in the lord of the rings universe, the timeline is right in between the events of ‘The Hobbit’ and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Take control of a human (ish) ranger by the name of Talion who has had shall we say, a bad time of it recently. You are stationed by the black gate of Mordor which isn’t exactly somewhere you holiday with the wife and kids. Needless to say, this guy is double hard but then you really have to be given his surroundings and neighbors.
After the initial events of the game which of gets everything started you are plunged into open world middle earth, the shear size and scope of which is literally breath-taking. I honestly played for more than a few hours before even touched any of the campaign missions, yeah it’s one of those open world games. My main concern going into this game was that the story itself was going to be lacking. Like some kind tiny back story shoe horned out of the lord of the rings trilogy. But I could not have been more wrong, the story for this game is fantastic, great characters thankfully the voice acting is awesome too. Can’t fault the story on any level, so happy with that.
Although you mainly play as the Gondor captain Talion, you also take control of another character with Wraith-like abilities. If you’re not familiar think of a bad ass ghost with an attitude and the ability to see both the living and spirit world. Throughout middle earth there are towers which you will need to use your Wrath abilities to find and once you unlock them everything available on that section of map becomes visible. Very similar (if not exactly the same as) unlocking maps in Assassins creed. Once you have unlocked a tower in a particular section of a map you do have the ability to fast travel here. This is a huge win as the maps are MASSIVE. Seeing as you control two characters (basically at the same time) there are two separate skills trees to progress through also. One for Talion and the other for the Wrath character, both contain skills needed to move across middle earth but very different skill sets. I recommend kicking Uruk captains ass when ever possible to level up. However it’s not like you can just seek out these captains and think you can go all Chuck Norris on them, well you could but you’re going to die. A lot. Each captain has his own personality, strengths and weaknesses. You have to research these strengths and weaknesses before going head to head with them. The way you get this information (love this) is to interrogate other lower level orcs after of course killing their entourage and beating them to within an inch of their own lives. You use your own Wrath abilities to pretty much read their minds, gain the information you need and putting said orc out of his misery. The information you obtain is really up to you, you can uncover the identity of any other orc captain or gain more information on a captain you wish to hunt down and kill. Some captains for example are impervious to distance attacks such as your bow and arrow so you need to get up close and personal. Where as others you can only kill via stealth. And we all know there is nothing more embarrassing than going right up to an orc, swinging your massive sword at him only to have him laugh in your face and gut you like a fish… We’ve all been there.
Now for the game play, I’ve no idea where to begin. There is just so much to do in Middle Earth it’s ridiculous. Of course you have the main campaign, but that’s only one part of it. You could roam around for days simply completing side missions and upgrading your character and his weapons before ever seeing a single cut scene. I suppose the most obvious place to start is the games fight sequences, as there are a lot of them. Brutal, varied and get better as you progress! At it’s core, yes this is a hack and slash title but it’s far more than that and the hacking and slashing is done so well you just want to keep coming back for more. As well as the usual fighting mode, there are occasions where your enemy will go for that finishing move. You will have the chance to counter or simply this, but you will need to be fast with your finger work and pay attention. Plus this method only works once so pick your battles wisely. As with everything in the game, the fighting gets better as you progress. Once your finishing moves are introduced, oh its on baby. Orc heads fly and it’s just so beautiful it will bring a tear to your eye. Before you unlock this method of dispatching your foes however you still have the ability to wear down your enemy and grab him. Once you have a good grip you have even more choices. Drain their energy for your Wrath bow, interrogate them for information or ‘shank’ them. Yeah, that’s right… ‘Shank’ ultra prison style. You have three main weapons at your disposal, a broad sword (cause everything situation is better with a god damned broad sword), a dagger (my favorite) and a bow and arrow (all the cool kids score head shots with this bad boy) It’s your Wrath character who you use your bow and arrow with as its not exactly conventional arrows…. The further you progress, the more you upgrade your skills and weapons the more bad ass you become. And you will need to upgrade and customize your character, due to something brand new the developers have thrown into the mix. Its called the Nemesis System, it’s basically designed to make your life suck in middle earth by giving your enemies a true advantage. Gone are the days where if you keep getting pasted in games a message will flag up in the loading screen saying ‘would you like to lower the difficulty as you’re a massive pussy?’. No no, not Shadow of Mordor. In this game the enemy who kicked your ass gets a promotion (not kidding) and a boast in power level, making his that much more tough to take care of. It forces you to rethink your strategy over and over as the game will remember your playing style and adapt! HAHA, I know right. Not only that, but bad guys will literally remember you. If you burn them, when you see them next they will be scorched and out for revenge. Some enemies take more than one sitting to take the hint and die, they will keep popping back up with bandages all banged up but ready to kick your ass again. I don’t know of any other game which offers this up, just so freaking sweet.
Progress enough and you will gain the ability to tame the local wildlife, this is a great move for a couple of reasons. Only the poor walk every where and the local wildlife… Well they aren’t exactly horses, they will eat your foes. Brilliant! Take one of these bad boys into a pack of orcs and limbs fly, can’t go wrong. You can find these beasts across the middle earth maps, either tame them yourself or just free them into a group of enemies to make your life easier. The option of guns blazing or stealth are always yours, with larger groups it can be tempting to go in balls to the wall but you wont last long. They will call in reinforcements and generally ruin your whole weekend, play it smart and you have the advantage. You can break up groups with any number of different strategies available to you depending on where you are. Take on a horde of nasties in a castle setting and chances are that you will see huge bee hives to knock down etc. Pay attention to the orc captains particulars here, as they will give you a clue as to what strategy to take when going head to head with them.
Although Shadow of Mordor is a completely different story arch to that of the Lord of the Rings trilogy there are of course a few similarities for you, such as Gollm showing up from time to time to lend a hand in his own little way. He has access to areas and things you do not due to his familiarity with the ring.
For such a huge game I was honestly surprised that it looked as good as it does. Normally you get either one or the other, good game play or stunning graphics. It’s rare to get both but on this occasion you do. I haven’t seen so much going on in one screen since Dead Rising 3. If the orcs over power you , you will know about it in more than one way. Trust me on that, there were a few times where I couldn’t actually tell where I was and just had to hope for the best. In a good way of course, there were just so much orc and only one of me. Pretty much every foe is different too, each more horrible than the last and each with his own name and station. Even if a random orc takes you out, that orc will be promoted and receive a power boost. If all the orc captain spots are taken you actually see a dual between the orc who just killed you and a current captain. The winner getting the captain spot! The monsters of Middle Earth are always fighting for power, which makes up a large part of the available missions in the game. As well as the main campaign you can take part in the power struggles across Middle Earth, giving the game yet another dimension.
I was going to wrap this one up with if your a fan of open world games such as Skyrim etc you will love this, but really if you’re a fan of video games in general you will love this title. The story arch alone is with the money you pay for the game, it will have you hooked no problem. With so much do to and see in Middle Earth, I would say you’re going to need a sickie on this one!
See you all in Mordor.