Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor — A Fun and Challenging Game
I’ve been looking forward to playing Shadow of Mordor for a very long time. Ever since I read about it in Game Informer, I was excited to try it out. I finally got it, and I’ve had my hands on it for a few hours now, and it’s not what I expected it to be.
I don’t typically read other reviews about games after they’ve come out. I’ll watch the initial trailers, and read some reviews beforehand, but I like being surprised when I begin a game. So, I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I started up the game. I was expecting it to play similar to Skyrim, but I was wrong.
Before I get to the gameplay, though, I want to mention that I really liked the opening sequence of the game. It jumps between different times, gives you the tutorial in a seamless way, and explains the opening very well. I thought it was awesome.
Playing The Game
The first thing I noticed when I started getting into the game is that it plays a lot like Assassins Creed. The combat system, where you press “Y”/”Triangle” to counter, “X”/”Square” to attack etc. is how the combat is setup in this game as well. More than the combat, though, things such as climbing buildings, stealth take-downs, the enemy alert system, and climbing towers to reveal a larger portion of the map all makes the game play like Assassins Creed.
Using that combat system isn’t a bad thing though. I can see why this, and the Batman Arkham series adopted it. It works really well, and it makes you feel like a badass when you take down multiple enemies without getting hit much yourself.
One thing, with the combat system, that’s new is the fact that once you’re dealt your final blow, you’re not necessarily dead yet. There’s a short mini-game that comes up, and if you’re successful, you counter the enemy, gain some life back, and are able to continue to fight. Also, you’re able to unlock an ability where if you are knocked down, you can deal a counter death blow. This not only gets you back on your feet, but also leaves one less Uruk that you have to worry about. You’re able to do this as many times as you can “win” the mini-game, but it gets harder and harder the more you’re knocked down.
The next thing that I noticed is that the game is kind of difficult. Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself dying quite a bit. Each Uruk is hard enough to kill on it’s own, and as your fighting one, more and more show up. They also have alarms that they raise, to bring more Uruks to kill you. Before you know it, you’ve got 20+ Uruks around you, plus a captain or 2 and the combat seems never-ending. I think I need to retreat more often and come back with a better strategy so I’m not dying as often.
Traversing the map, and simply getting from A to B is a challenge as well. Instead of just being able to walk wherever you want to go, and only being attacked when you’ve provoked someone, uruks are always on the lookout for you. You have to be stealthy the entire time, unless you want to be constantly in battle.
The nemesis system in this game is awesome, though. When you do die, the uruk who killed you becomes more powerful and, possibly, move up the ranks in the army. If he was already a captain, his power increases, and if he wasn’t, he’ll become one. You’ll encounter these same enemies again and again in the game, but each time, they’re more powerful (if you haven’t killed them yet).
Killing the powerful captains can be a daunting task, but it’s one of the main aspects of the game. Before you attack one, though, you can do things to find out their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes there’s intel around the map, but usually you can interrogate certain lower-level uruks to gain the intel. Once you do, you’re able to pick which captain you’d like more information on, so if there’s one you’ve really been struggling with, you can try to get an advantage.
The uruks sometimes fight each other as well. They want to increase their rankings in the army, and the only way that they can do that is to kill current captains. You’ll see on your map where the power struggle is happening and you can go there, take advantage of the distraction, and kill both of the uruks yourself.
You hear game developers talking about “living, breathing worlds” often, but not often do NPC’s especially enemies fight each other to increase their ranking and power without you being involved at all. You can really tell that you’re just one part of this entire open world.
When you look in the menu, you can see all of the missions that are available. In the main story, there’s only 20, but there’s a lot more to the game. There are hunting challenges you can do, you can collect artifacts that’ll give you an insight into the history of Mordor, there are challenges that will help you increase your and your weapon’s power and a lot, lot more.
Twenty missions may seem like a short game, but it’s everything else that makes this game so deep. Plus, even if you were to just do the main story line, you’ll have trouble getting to each starting point because you’ll be getting attacked and probably killed by a mob of uruks.
There are a lot of abilities that you can unlock as well, that’ll help you along the way. Different move upgrades, weapon upgrades, and more are available to make your character more powerful and the game more fun. In addition to the abilities that you can unlock, each one of your 3 weapons can have runes attached to them. Each rune does something different, making the weapon and your character a more formidable opponent. You can mix and match up to 5 on each weapon, so you can create weapons that suit your play style the best.
One of my favorite abilities that you can unlock, which you can get really early on in the game, is the ability to ride a caragor. These beasts are pretty powerful, and if you try to fight them they’re kind of difficult to kill. But, you can jump on their backs and tame them, and use them to attack uruks. You can easily knock them down while on the caragor and have the caragor eat them while they’re down. It’s an awesome way to clear out a lot of uruks.
The caragors are fast and can climb well as well. You can use them to get around a lot more quickly than you’d be able to on foot, and not a lot of obstacles will stand in your way. Even if you end up inside an uruk camp, it’s not as big of a deal because of how much easier it is to kill them while on the caragor. I really enjoy riding around on them.
This game is beautiful, a lot of fun, and really puts your gaming skills to the test. I’ve been playing for around 10 hours, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I can’t wait to get back into Mordor to see what else this game has in store!
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