Video Game Review: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Details: Released in 2014. I purchased the Game of the Year Edition (comes with all downloadable content) for the PC for $6.99. The main game took me about nineteen hours to beat. The Lord of the Hunt DLC took about two hours to beat. The Bright Lord DLC took about three hours to beat.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a Lord of the Rings story that takes place before the movies. It concerns how the Ring was forged and who forged it.

Gameplay is a combination of the Batman Arkham series and Assassin’s Creed. Combat is similar to the free flow combat established in the Arkham Series. Stealth is also similar. There are towers to discover and lots of collectibles like from Assassin’s Creed.

What differentiates this game from the Batman games and Assassin’s Creed are two things: the Nemesis system and the branding system. The Nemesis system is a persistent enemy system where enemy bosses hold positions in the enemy army and remember encounters with you. For instance, say you come up against an enemy boss (he will have a name and an introduction). You fight him, but lose and die. That enemy boss will now become stronger, perhaps being promoted, and will remember you the next time you cross paths. He will even insult your death the last time. It’s not revolutionary, but it is really fun and gives you an incentive to get revenge on these guys. On the other hand, let’s say you’re someone who never loses their fights. In that case, it’s still fun to go around killing lieutenants, captains, and everyone else up the persistent hierarchy of the enemy army.

Even with the nemesis system, I found the game somewhat boring however. That changed about halfway through the game when the Branding system unlocked. The Branding system is essentially mind control. Halfway through the game you unlock the ability to mind control enemy units and make them fight for you. This mechanic also extends to enemy bosses. The result is that you can effectively take over the entire enemy army by branding all the enemy officers. This was really fun and I wish there was more of this in the game and more systems related to this, like taking over territory or something similar.

Voice acting is fine. The music was fine and what you’d expect from a game in the fantasy genre. Visuals were surprisingly good for a game a few years old. Animations looked good.

The art direction needed work. Most of the game takes place in Mordor, which means a lot of gray to look at. Halfway through you get to place with more vegetation, which meant lots of green to look at. It is still a fairly unappealing landscape to look at however. There are no cities, details, or anything that would add color to the environment and immersion. It’s all just a big area filled with nothing but enemies to fight. I can understand why most people would  be okay with that though since the game is mostly about killing orcs.

The DLC was fun, but I wouldn’t buy it individually. There are a lot of skins and other DLC, but only two that add story. Lord of the Hunt adds story and mostly concerns animals and riding and hunting them. The Bright Lord adds story and deals largely with the Branding system and allows you to control orcs and territory.

Overall, I enjoyed the game and recommend it if you liked the combat from the Batman Arkham series, like climbing towers and collecting things from the Assassin’s Creed series, like Lord of the Rings, and can get the game for under ten dollars.

Score: 6.8/10

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