Much like its predecessor, Shadow of Mordor, Monolith Production’s Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is an absolute treat for fans of the Middle-Earth franchise. Players will once again take on the role of Talion, a Gondorian ranger as they venture forth into Tolkien’s masterfully crafted world.
As the sequel to Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War builds on and improves on the previous title in a vast number of ways. Most notably, the Nemesis system has been expanded upon greatly. Players will be expected to make extensive use of the improved Nemesis system throughout Shadow of War – Facing off against Orcs and Uruks that are not just sword fodder but rather, formidable foes.
Ah, my Nemesis
The Nemesis system involves a range of gameplay mechanics that are rather easy to understand once you get the hang of it. Interrogating enemies with green markers over their head results in intelligence being gathered about high value targets known as Captains. These enemy captains each have a unique name and a range of strengths and weaknesses. Players can encounter the captains naturally in the game world or can gather intel from specific orcs and discover them via a menu that’s reminiscent of a chess board. Hunting down these high value targets is key to gaining experience points to level up, as well as being important for completing specific quests in a given region. Should a captain kill you, they’ll level up and become your nemesis. Hunting them down again and getting revenge will net you more experience points.
Players will make use of a range of attacks to dispatch enemies in Shadow of War. Talion, having bonded with Celebrimbor, an elf spirit, has a range of powerful abilities at his disposal. These abilities are unlocked via a skill tree that players will populate as they level up and gain skill points. Many of these skills are essential in progressing throughout the story whereas others may just augment and supplement your combat abilities in specific ways. The sense of progression that you feel when levelling up is rewarding since Talion begins to feel much stronger in combat as time goes on.
Shadow of Mordor excels in its third person action adventure gameplay. The game features an intuitive combat system where players can execute sword combos that look as if they belong in an actual Lord of the Rings movie. Additionally powerful execution attacks can be used and should you want to opt for a more stealthy approach, silent takedowns can be performed too.
Shadow of War’s combat is incredible. Battles are never boring because of how downright gorgeous the game is and how cinematic each battle seems. Talion and Celebrimbor’s prowess on the battlefields of Middle Earth also allows players to mount Caragors, Graugs and even Drakes once they’ve reached a certain level. Mounted combat is extremely fun, especially when taking on multiple enemies at once.
Enough to make Tolkien fanatics proud
The story of Shadow of War focuses on Celebrimbor and Talion and their attempt to take down Sauron by amassing an army. The Definitive Edition of the game includes the post-launch DLC expansions, Galadriel’s campaign and Baranor’s campaign.
Galadriel’s campaign is a direct continuation of the base game’s story and should not be played before finishing the main campaign. Baranor’s campaign, while still containing spoilers for the base game, branches off and focuses on a side story that’s non-essential to the Shadow of War main campaign. The overarching story is by no means boring and will keep fans satisfied. Especially since it’s dripping with Middle-Earth lore.
Graphically, Shadow of War is breathtaking. The game also has a photo mode that allows for the capturing of beautiful screenshots while also offering a significant amount of creative freedom in the form of filters and effects. The combat animations in Shadow of War, as mentioned above, are worthy of praise. The soundtrack of Shadow of War is great too.
The definitive edition of Shadow of War does not contain the controversial loot boxes and microtransactions present in an older version of the game and the social online multiplayer mode still features a “Friendly” and “Ranked” option. The former being more casual while the latter for the more hardcore since it bears more consequences on the total number of followers you’ve obtained.
If you’re a fan of Middle Earth, and missed out on the base game last year, Shadow of War is well worth a purchase. The game has come a long way since the days of being sullied by loot boxes and microtransactions and is definitely worth picking up now that the publisher has done away with those.