This article has been archived and may have some errors due to a previous design of MGL. None of the review has been altered however. Shadow of Mordor is a game My Games Lounge has tracked since it’s announcement and we were very pleased that Warner Bros. Interactive supported us with a copy of the game for review. There have been a number of trailers but the game is here and we were more than ready to review it following a great impression getting hands on at EGX 2014.
You take control of the ranger, Talion and a mysterious wrath that is bound to you as you explore Mordor in order to avenge the death of your family… and your own! Yes, Talion is dead but banished from death and no matter how many times he is killed he will come back to get his vengeance on his enemies.
Gameplay wise Shadow Of Mordor is a lot like the Batman Arkham games in a number of ways, this is a sandbox experience where you can explore the land of Mordor, taking on groups of Orks and Uruk using stealth or flowing attacks very reminiscent of the way Batman moves in Arkham City without fully capturing the same flow or fluidity. What also sets the games apart is the fact Talion has no issues with killing, in fact he’s very good at it.
But what makes the game really stand out from the crowd is the Nemesis System, a way that makes the games enemies and their level of difficulty fully dependent on how you play. In a time when dying does not really matter any more in gaming, Shadow Of Mordor makes it matter as you may well come back but the Uruk that killed you gets stronger and stronger and rises through the ranks. Your worst enemy in the game is brought on by yourself, very cool.
— My Games Lounge (@MyGamesLounge) October 2, 2014
While the game is great, there are some misses that really do bug you along the way but a trip to Mordor is certainly worth your time.
Look & Feel”]
Look & Feel
The game puts you right in the middle of an nasty attack on Talions family and immediately you get a sense of feeling for the man as his family and everyone around him is killed by The Hammer, a black captain working for Sauron. Soon after Talion finds himself at the end of the blade but is trapped with a wraith and soon ready to get some revenge.
I found myself sucked in right away and thought the voice acting and cut-scenes were very well directed from start to finish, this is also true of all characters not just Talion, voiced by the award winning Troy baker. Then there is the in game graphics that are solid, I didn’t see any real glitches in around 20 or so hours of gameplay and what really stands out is the slow motion takedowns and decapitations in combat where the game looks particularly good.
Exploring the land of Mordor can be a little bland with the constant grey but this is balanced by a more green and natural world when you get to the second area about halfway through the game. There is nothing amazing about the graphics here but it does a good job and the game captures the right emotions at the right times as you play.
Here is where the game falls into what I like to call the “Sandbox Trap” and something that I really wasn’t expecting from a title with such a cast. Basically this is an issue Assassins Creed suffers from and Grand Theft Auto too, the world they have built is so good the other missions and just wandering around getting into random encounters is so entertaining the Story missions are more of a chore than enjoyable. Sadly, this is the same for Shadow of Mordor and when you have Troy Baker, Nolan North, Claudia Black and more top voice talent on board this should have been avoided.
This is not to say the story is bad, as mentioned the cut scenes are great and the voice acting is superb but the actual missions themselves are not very inspired. Most of them involve following someone to an area, they stop while you collect things or take a few enemies out then you repeat. Some of them stand out as being particularly good, one mission has you taking on a Legendary Graug that was really fun and well done thanks to your dwarf companion.
But one MASSIVELY bad choice that left me flat was the ending to the game it was just not a fitting ending to the work that had been done in the build up, you can see my full explanation below but this reveals a few bits to do with the ending, not much but enough to be considered a SPOILER!
[toggle title=”MY ISSUE WITH THE ENDING SEQUENCE – MILD SPOILERS”]So you have completed 20 missions of the story and have control of your own Ork army which is very fun and cool. You get to the Tower of Mordor and have some good fights along with way, scale the tower to finally face the Black Hand of Sauron…
But there is no fight, just a QTE and not a very tough one at that! Talk about a cop out. Now personally I have no issue with QTEs if used properly, should the battle be me doing my best to stay alive and knock him back for a few minutes before a QTE then back into the fight like you would expect in God of War, no problem. In fact, it’s a lot of fun. But this is literally a case of press 3-4 things and win the game. It doesn’t ruin the game but it does leave you flat right at the end.[/toggle]
Now I have to stress the game is good regardless of what I have said here and the story in itself is also good and integrates into the lore of Lord of the Rings well, it’s just the mission choices for the story really needed the same level of imagination as they put into the Nemesis System. The ending should have been handled differently gameplay wise but the game does get much better just before the end as you get the power to control the Urks which leads to some more enjoyable missions.
While the Story let the game down, the gameplay is really the reason to get Shadow of Mordor, it has so many fun touches especially the Nemesis system.
Lets say you get killed in a game and respawn – as my name suggests I do this a lot – there is no real issue with that any-more but for frustration. In Shadow of Mordor should a grunt kill you they immediately go up the Ork ranks and get promoted to captain or even warchief. There were a number of times where I took on people and died and genuinely got annoyed with myself as the board played out and they got more powerful. It was also great to see them brag about how they killed you when you meet them again and, while wandering the land you can here groups of Orks discussing the people that have been promoted and that they killed you which is a great touch.
Then there is the vengeance missions, red markers that allow you to not only avenge your deaths you can also avenge the deaths of your friends on your console too. While there is no multiplayer this was a really good way of bring in other players and it made me smile to see our editors Subject Zero and David game had avenged my death!
Generally the combat is well done, it is exactly like the Batman Arkham Series in its control so it will feel familiar. It’s not as polished as Batman’s combat however but it is very satisfying to slash Orks to bits. The controls generally over relied on the X/A button as this was dodge, vault, sprint and engage a special ability, it may have been better to have some these split so you did the right thing at the right time more often.
With challenges, collectables and upcoming content for the game the gameplay really is the reason to get the game and is the reason I will be going back to it again and again.
Lifespan & Overall
Lifespan & Overall
The games story is not overly long, while you will need to level up to beat certain enemies and dominate them you can get through it in around 12 hours or so depending on how long it takes you to beat the warchiefs. But then there are the challenges, the ever growing number of missions based on what you do and who you take out in the Nemesis system and then ones that are being added in the season pass too. Your really could find you spend twice as much time on the game just exploring and enjoying the world Monolth has created.
I have been very up and down with this game, I did think this could be a game of the year contender and in elements it is but then in others, particularly the story it makes to many misses to be considered a truly outstanding game. That is not to say it’s not a very, very good one though and certainly worth getting should you like that Batman style games and sandbox experiences. Should you not be bothered about that and only here for the story you may be disappointed somewhat although the voice acting and well directed cut scenes do make up for the unimaginative main missions.
Like a few games this year, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor has some elements that stop it being truly amazing but what it does well it certainly hits just right.