Shadow of Mordor: “You Are MINE!”
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the new Action RPG developed by Monolith productions who have brought us games like F.E.A.R and Gotham City Imposters. Following along the adventure of a Ranger called Talion you make your way through the pit of Evil that is Mordor, set just before the first Lord of the Rings film and after the Hobbit. LOTR games have flopped in the past, but some have also shone in the deepest darkness, can Shadow of Mordor keep its head above the orc horde?
Running alongside the canon of the films and books, Shadow of Mordor follows a Ranger Captain by the name of Talion who was at the black gate when Sauron’s forces attacked, killing almost all the Rangers including Talion, his wife and son. Before his body could leave the earth however he was possessed by an ancient spirit of an Elf long past and brought back to life within Mordor. Tolkien, the creator of LOTR, has stated that no one besides Beren could of or was brought back from death, so this is where the storyline becomes alternate.
From awakening from your death you meet your new soul-linked partner an old elf with fancy looking clothes and an adamant will, giving you your first task of wiping out the Black Hand and his forces of orc and Uruk. Through the bloodshed you gain items linking to the Sprit’s past and tell you more and more about him as you collect them, gathering information on his past, his profession and his lineage.
Travelling across the two plains of Mordor you will cut down, burn alive and Brand orcs to your bidding as well as meet some interesting characters along the way, one being a Hunter Dwarf and another being an old Queen of the local plains.
“It’s an Asylum Clone!” “Assassins Creed in Middle-Earth” “Look ma I can kill orcs!”
I’ve heard it all since release, comparisons about Shadow of Mordor, complaints and praises both, and I can say a lot of them are on solid ground.
Shadow of Mordor is played within one area, the outdoors, where you traverse the long plains, go through the ruins and hunt down orcs. Movement is simple running, with some quick time for dashing or if running isn’t your thing you can mount a Caragor or Graug for four-legged movement and colossal steps. From moving around Mordor you will find Forge Towers that act as Fast-Travel locations and are very similar to the Synchronisation points in Assassins Creed. There are two zones to travel between, the more plain like first zone and the more workshop and forge with a river-side view second zone.
Combat in Shadow of Mordor is fun and fast paced, with simple melee attacks, throwing knifes, slow-mo bow action, counter attacks, finisher moves and last-resort-modes that will leave you with so many options in open battle. The combat feels very similar to Assassins Creed games and the Batman Arkham series but with the addition of a sword and smoother more polished mechanics it feels better then both. Besides duking it out in flashy combat you can also take a stealthy approach with sneak attack and brands to the long range bow headshots.
Through killing grunts, captains and the wildlife of Mordor you will gain XP and Power depending on their level of strength, EXP giving you skill points and Power giving you access to new tiers of skills, ranging from new attacks to special abilities. Mirian is used to upgrade your health, focus and elf-shot reserves, as well as opening up new rune slots on your weapons and their last-resort-modes. Upgrading Talion is very satisfying, especially near the end part of the game when you have access to incredible abilities that make you feel so overpowered against the lowly orcs.
Besides the movement and fighting mechanics in the game it also contains an Army Screen and Dynamic recruitment system for the Orc Society. With 5 Warchiefs leading whole camps of orcs and 30 Captains leading smaller bands of Orcs. Each orc is different, with their varying Power Levels, their bodyguards, weapons, strengths, weaknesses and personalities, it is a lot to keep track of when hunting them down… or when you get hunted down. This mechanic is amazing to me, it is so unique and I can only vaguely remember one game that did something similar.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The music and graphics in Shadow of Mordor fits so well to the universe, with action packed tunes for the gore-filled battles within broken castles, to the sombre and quiet tracks for when you traverse the dilapidated plains. The music does take a side-step in some part of the game as you will find yourself getting so immersed and concentrating on the battle or stealth mechanics to realise the great music in the background. The only gripe I could find is with some textures for the landscape, as some dirt and stone looks very low quality against other parts of the game.
This game may not be the best in terms of originality or new storylines, but it is one of the best for gameplay. Fighting orcs is flawless and the way you battle them is so open to randomness, with several options for attack with enemies having varying weapons and skills to combat you, you can even get caught off guard when 5 captains come out of nowhere to join in. There are also some points where you are sneaking on a mission and a Captain has tracked you and does a stealth attack on you in a bush. There is a unique experience almost every time you start this game up which makes the whole game even more awesome.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor gets a 5/5, the gameplay is solid and extremely fun with music to compliment a majority of the scenes. The War Screen is innovative and is a fun distraction from other parts of the game. There are only some small gripes to have with the game, like its ending, some story-lines and a bug here and there but they are easily overlooked when you get past them. Fans of Lord of the Rings or Similar games will love this game as many people I know who I suggested it to have found it hard to put it down since.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.