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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

shadow of mordor

With its intense gameplay and relentless action, Shadow of Mordor isn’t your ordinary stroll through Middle-earth.

Lately, as my wife can attest, it takes a lot to pull me away from Destiny.  So when I was asked to review Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor over last weekend, I didn’t know how much I would want to cut into my valuable playing time with another game. I’d heard good things about this game so I pressed on.  I mean, as much as you have to press on when your “job” is to play a video game over the weekend so you can write a review about it…

So it began late Friday night as I popped the Blu-ray into my PS4.  I was happy to find myself in a familiar world.  As a casual Lord of the Rings fan, playing as a ranger and seeing the early appearance of Gollum searching for his precious helped cement my suspension of disbelief in the Tolkien-esque world.  Pristine graphics and exceptionally well done animations did the rest.

This game turns out to be so much more than just pretty graphics and superbly rendered character animations.  Friday night quickly turned into early Saturday morning as I was pulled into Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System.  This is a game mechanic that continually changes the key enemies in Sauron’s opposing army.  It allows for infighting between your enemies and even for new bosses to be spontaneously created.  Whether you choose to intervene in the side missions that affect this political maneuvering is up to you, but if you happen to die along the way you will find yourself facing a new enemy.  Early on in the game, my demise most often came from ranged attacks so I found myself up against an army of arrow and spear hurling captains!  Regardless of the story’s completion, the Nemesis System will keep the game fresh.

The open world action-adventure and combat remind me of Assassin’s Creed.  I hadn’t played that type of game in a while, so it took me a bit to get used to the cautious button smashing that the game demands.  In fact, if I have any criticisms for this game, it is that the combat system was fairly difficult to figure out at first. Then, as I leveled up my abilities and character’s power, some of that original challenge was lost.  Even after I figured out the combat system, I still had to learn to be tactful when attacking enemies; brute-force attacks rarely lead to victory.  A more cautious and thought-out strategic attack was needed for the more difficult opponents.  Luckily the game uses missions to teach you how your ranger is supposed to go about defeating his foes.

Thanks to the aforementioned Nemesis System, defeating your foes becomes personal.  There’s a good chance you’ll have to strategically plan the execution of an orc.  This is where the game wears its M rating like a badge of honor.  Stabbing a nemesis in the side of the face with a dagger or lopping his head off with an adept swing of the sword has never been so gratifying.

By late Sunday evening, after I completed 20% of the story and around 15 hours of game play, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you enjoy open-world action adventure games ripe with brutal, visceral combat, you will love Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.  The unique Nemesis System and story driven gameplay will keep you entertained for hours.  I need to think of a way to find enough time to play both Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and whatever that other game was I was playing.  I know, first world problems, right?


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