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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor – PS4

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor – PS4

Platform: PlayStation 4real boxart

DeveloperMonolith Productions

PublisherWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Release Date (NA)September 30th, 2014

GenreAction-Adventure, RPG

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Ever wonder when we’d get to see the good, open-world LOTR game that we deserve? I did too..until this gem fell into my lap on a visit to GameStop’s “Games under $20” bin. Since I played Bug’s Life on the PlayStationI’ve despised games based on movies to any degree, however, as a fan of the Lord of the Rings series (books, movies, and some of the games) I figured I would give this game a try. While no game is perfect, and games based on movies never meet their full potential in my opinion, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor does a damn good job of trying to change my opinion.

Players assume the role of a ranger, Talion, who lives alongside his family inside his garrison at the Black Gate of Mordor. It’s not prime real estate, but it’s peaceful enough. This introductory area serves as the tutorial; it’s nice, but something always has to go wrong. One day, an army of Uruk (progenitors of the orc race) led by the Black Hand of Sauron and the Talons of the Black Hand attack the Black Gate, killing all who stand in their way. Talion along with the other rangers posted at the Gate attempt to defend it. While Talion’s efforts to fend off the assault are valiant, they are not enough. Talion is captured,  and his wife and son are slaughtered before his eyes (mind you, this game is BRUTAL).

badguys

Yes, these are the bosses. Sadly, they are easily defeated.

After it is revealed that the Black Hand is attempting to summon a powerful Elf Lord, Celebrimbor, (creator of the famed Rings of Power) Talion is slaughtered alongside his family. Despite the treachery the Black Hand’s ritual fails and the wraith of Celebrimbor and the ranger become one, keeping both alive, while granting Talion the powers of the wraith. With his new powers and weapons forged by Celebrimbor, Talion must exact his revenge, restore Celebrimbor’s memory, and take down the Uruk army ravaging Mordor.

The story of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor takes place between the events of The

Even in the midst of battle, The scenery is beautiful

Even in the midst of battle, The scenery is beautiful

Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It is Monolith’s unique telling of the events that occur between the two stories. Therefore, the world is not destroyed by the armies of Sauron, and Frodo’s epic journey has yet to begin. Because of this interesting section in the LOTR timeline, the world is more beautiful and vibrant than previous games or the movies; there are beautiful meadows, towering cliffs, and raging seas that all blend together seamlessly. Animals, plants and all forms of wildlife flourish in this untarnished land. On top of that, the world feels massive! Just when you finish up the story in one part of the map, an entirely new area opens up for Talion to discover. One can tell that time and effort were put into the nitty-gritty details throughout the environment (despite some texture loading issues I experienced while playing). Even the huge numbers of Uruks and NPCs seem to each have their own unique wardrobes, attitudes, and fighting styles.

wraith

With the right timing, Celebrimbor will aid Talion in battle, Noob Saibot style!

Combat in Shadow of Mordor is fun, albeit a little too easy later on in the game. Essentially, Talion has three main weapons in his arsenal: A dagger (named Acharn), a sword (Urfael), and a bow (Azkar). Through a series of side missions for each weapon, Talion may inscribe powerful runes into each weapon that provide stat boosts and other effects, and ultimately unleash incredible attacks. Utilizing each of these weapons in different combat scenarios is a key feature in-game. Acharn is great for stealthily taking out enemies without a fight, Urfael is perfect for up close and personal combat or for taking out groups of baddies, while Azkar is excellent for picking off enemies from afar. Along with an array of melee and ranged weaponry, Talion has a great deal of Wraith abilities associated with each weapon, thanks to Celebrimbor. There is a huge selection of abilities; among them, Talion is able to teleport from one enemy to the next, become invisible, enter a blind rage, and even turn enemies into allies, a feature that becomes important later in the game. Without giving too much away, Talion is able to control and befriend the various Uruk generals found throughout the world.

nemesis

Each Uruk can be hunted, interrogated, or “branded” to do Talion’s bidding.

This is where I explain the ever-changing AI of Shadow of Mordor: the Nemesis system. Talion must eventually use the massive number of Uruk to his advantage, however, in order to do this, he must intervene in battles between Uruk generals, prevent (or aid in) their assassination, or challenge their power through various trials. If he fails, the Uruk deal with the problems themselves.

Since Talion is immortal, he returns to life each time he falls in battle at the last Forge Tower he visited. During that interim where he’s between life and death, the world around him changes greatly. A sequence is shown upon Talion’s demise briefing you on which Uruks come to power, which ones died, and which ones still do Talion’s bidding (much later in-game). The Uruk generals, each with their own name, fighting style and abilities, change, fight, and grow stronger as time goes by. It’s important for Talion to take out a stronger Uruk general earlier so that he doesn’t become a War-chief (which serve as the game’s mini-bosses) later on. Some of the Uruk abilities include: invulnerability to stealth attacks, immunity from ranged attacks, and poisoned weapons that deal great damage over time to Talion.

My favorite dynamic of this Nemesis system is that the Uruk adapt to your fighting style; in other words, they remember you! This is noted in many ways: facial scars, armor in heavily damaged areas, a new title, and so on. Many of the Uruk generals will recognize Talion and shout your weaknesses or battle patterns during a fight. So a forward approach on a powerful Uruk that gets Talion killed will more than likely not work at all the second time around. Therefore, it’s important to practice all fighting style and abilities to change the pace of battle as needed.

rider

Talion can brand Uruks as well as some of the badass critters that roam Mordor.

All-in-all, Shadow of Mordor is a great game, especially for fans of LOTR lore. The story and plot are interesting, though it seems to run short if the player only does story missions. There are plenty of non-story related side missions for players to power up their weapons, abilities, and to unlock pieces of lore to keep them busy if they are so inclined. Upon completion of the game, players are free to continue searching for unlockable items or do side missions to 100% completion. However, the abrupt ending to the story, the lack of a relationship with most characters, and some patchy loading in the game’s graphics grant a 3 point deduction. Shadow of Mordor has greatly changed my perspective on games based on movies, so in my opinion it’s worth looking into, LOTR fan or not.

 

Written by Poseidon

Poseidon

NC, born and bred.

I love my girlfriend, my dog, and I guess I like video games.
Also, I’m vegan so there’s that.

Twitch: PoseidonNB (schedule TBA)
PSN: MilesBirch
RuneScape: Not Zack

 
 

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