Shadow of War
“Shadow of War” returns to Middle Earth to continue the story of Talion, the living dead man who is powered by an Elven wraith. After Talion forges a new ring to battle against the return of Sauron, he loses possession of it, and an epic quest of power, vengeance, and loyalty ensues.
When “Shadow of Mordor” Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War - PlayStation 4 came out in 2014, it caught some gamers by surprise when it wound up being a lot more than an “Assassin’s Creed” knock off set in the “Lord of the Rings” universe. “Shadow of Mordor” introduced the Nemesis System, which provided a crazy hierarchy to Talion’s enemies that constantly fluctuated as Orcs were killed by Talion, killed Talion themselves, or killed each other. In “Shadow of War,” the Nemesis System has been expanded to include Orcs that Talion controls as he builds an alliance to fight off Sauron.
Pretty much every aspect of “Shadow of Mordor” has been upgraded and expanded in the sequel. Attention to detail is the name of the game here. Like Oprah giving away cars, Monolith Productions looked at every corner of their game and said, “Details! You get details, you get details, and you get details!” With a much bigger map to roam, interactive environments, more character and weapon upgrades, fluid combat, and the unique Nemesis System, “Shadow of War” is a bigger, better, and worthy sequel all around.
Now, for what you came for:
- I’m a sucker for graphics and this game made me happy in that department. The landscapes are full, rich, and diverse. The world feels lived in and more alive. In the first one, it sometimes felt like I was roaming a barren, apocalyptic version of Middle Earth. It definitely does not feel that way here. It looks great all around.
- The menu system is nicely organized and allows you to easily navigate and plan your upgrades that will make Talion all your own.
- There are tons of upgrade options that allow you to personalize your experience. Some include: advanced wraith abilities, like poisoning, freezing, burning, and blinding attacks; the ability to summon spiders and Ghuls; and brutal finishing moves that scare nearby Orcs and just look pretty damn cool.
- Very fluid combat that rewards careful timing and does not punish for button mashing, if that’s your thing.
- You can upgrade and personalize your fighting style to make Talion enter a battle and crush enemies with brute force or emphasize button timing that allows him to dance his way through a ballet of violence.
- There are now more enemies in any given fight. A lot of the battles feel like scenes right out of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” with enemies attacking from all angles. Since the combat system is so smooth, this never feels overwhelming but instead makes you feel like a bad ass Ranger as you take on a crowd of foes.
- The beasts are a bigger part of “Shadows of War.” You can fight and fly dragons, storm enemy strongholds on the back of a Graug, and even convert a pack of Caragors (!) to fight alongside you.
- The 3D map is a really nice touch. It allows you to have a much clearer picture of the world you are roaming, and with the ability to look at different angles of structures on the map, you can be much more tactical when planning your approach.
- The open world and Nemesis System allow for random moments of awesome that are unique to the player. For example: While getting swarmed by Orcs, on my knees and about to be executed, the head of the executioner was all of the sudden removed by the sword of another Orc that I had previously saved in another, random fight. He happened to be in this battle, remembered my deed, and decided to return the favor. It was unexpected and completely bad ass!
Movement and Camera
- The climbing aspect of the game (which is a major part of it) can be clunky at times. This becomes particularly annoying when you are in the middle of some action and find yourself getting killed only because a ledge was not registering or Talion just all of the sudden refused to move from his current spot. This was a problem in “Shadow of Mordor,” and although it has improved, it is still an issue I struggled with throughout the game.
- I was not a fan of having to hold X to run. This occupies the same thumb that controls the camera, and it is difficult to do both at the same time. It became especially annoying in combat, when trying to run away, or during one of the many quests that require you to follow (while running) an ally. I found myself having to awkwardly hold X with my index finger so I could shift the camera with my thumb so I could see better throughout the game.
- Although it is highly original in some aspects, there are times where it borrows a little too much from other games for my taste. For instance, to unlock a fast travel point and clear out a portion of the map, you have to climb to the top of a tower like the “Assassin’s Creed” series. Once at the top of the tower, you scan the area to highlight points of interest almost exactly like “Mad Max.” Those aren’t bad things and don’t necessarily take away from the game, they are just too obviously similar, and it takes away a little bit of their credibility when trying to establish their own franchise.
- The repetition of some of the quests and gameplay mechanics aren’t necessarily a bad thing for me because I could kill Orcs all day long and never grow tired of it. However, the repetition (hunt captain, kill captain, hunt warchief, kill warchief, repeat) could get very old for some, especially for gamers that are not big fans of “The Lord of the Rings” universe.
Is it worth the money? Yes. “Shadow of War” is a great sequel that really delivers while taking what the first one did well and making it better. If getting a lot of time out of a game is what makes it worth spending $60 on, it delivers there as well. This is not a game that can be fully completed on a rental. There are hours and hours of entertainment here, and although it may seem repetitive at times, it still manages to avoid becoming stale throughout the overall quest. At one point I thought to myself, “This is the ‘Lord of the Rings’ game I have always wanted!” It is hard to imagine any fan of “The Lord of the Rings” being disappointed as they fight their way through Middle Earth, annihilating and befriending Orcs.
Personally, I place a lot of value on entertainment that gives me a little bit of escape—some time to forget about all the crazy things going in life. This completely transported me to another world (I even had dreams of fighting Orcs with my dog at one point), and it often had me thinking about going back in when I wasn’t playing. Pick it up and start building your legacy in Middle Earth.