Licensed games aren’t always great. Even if the license is fantastic, some just aren’t fit for being made into games. Perhaps that’s why it is so surprising when a licensed title becomes a major hit. Shadow of Mordor is not the first game released in the Middle Earth universe, but it’s among the best-regarded. Our goal in this Shadow of Mordor review is to look at this game objectively and to see if it’s worth your time. Here’s the Youtube trailer.
|Type of game:||Open-World Action|
|Total Play Time:||24 hours|
|System Requirements:||CPU: Intel Core i7-3770, 3.4 GHz | AMD FX-8350, 4.0 GHz
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 | AMD Radeon HD 7950
RAM: 8 GB
OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or better
HDD Space: 40 GB
The World of Shadow of Mordor
Our goal is to present Shadow of Mordor in as objective a manner as possible. As such, we will take a look at what makes the game works in terms of atmosphere, story, and location. We will also take a brief look at the DLC for the game, including the expansion packs. Through viewing all of this material, it’s our hope that you’ll be able to determine whether the game lives up to the hype.
Atmosphere & Location
Shadow of War’s an interesting game in terms of atmosphere. It takes place on the edges of Mordor, a land of death and destruction that’s well known from both Peter Jackson’s film adaptations and J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. This isn’t quite the Mordor of either, though, mixing the elemtns into a world that’s both more savage and somehow more more organized. There’s a feeling that this is a living, breathing world that works even without the character’s intervention. What goes on here is never good, but it is alive.
It’s easy to see that the bulk of the game’s inspiration comes from the films. Talion is clearly modeled on Aragorn, while many of the skills brought by Celebrimbor come from Legolas. With that said, the game also takes a great deal of inspiration from games like Arkham City in terms of character design and combat. The world seems designed for sneaking around and causing chaos, though rarely in a way that looks unnatural for the setting.
A note definitely has to be made about the use of color here. While the early part of the game is fairly drab and dreary, the second half is especially vibrant. The use of color really helps to sell Mordor as a land in decline and one that a dark force is slowly consuming.
Players are introduced to the main character as a husband and father, but anyone who’s ever played a video game before knows that Talion is much more than that. A ranger and soldier, he’s a dangerous man – albeit one who cares greatly for his family. It’s impressive that one can understand all this about the character, as one only deals with Talion in this manner for a few minutes. After that, the game introduces a radically different character – Talion, the undead ranger.
During the bulk of the game, Talion tends to waver between being the man he was in life and becoming someone colder. He interacts with a number of NPCs who certainly make it seem like he has a great deal of his humanity, but the truth is that most of the decisions he makes are largely amoral. He is a creature of vengeance, the various skills the player unlocks during their time with Talion makes this abundantly clear.
The agent of Talion’s change is Celebrimbor. Well-known to fans of Tolkien’s work, this version of the great elf smith is a wraith who has lingered for centuries due to his betrayal by Sauron. Obsessed with bringing down the dark lord, he’s a voice that encourages Talion to shed his humanity in order to make the hard choices. Celebrimbor is certainly not a heroic character, but it’s hard to call him a villain. He is incredibly drive and makes a good foil for the ranger who is usually concerned with doing what is morally right despite the personal cost.
Much of the character growth in the story comes from seeing how Talion and Celebrimbor interact. They are the angel and devil on the player’s shoulder, encouraging him to do what’s right and to do what’s most expedient. It’s an interesting contrast, especially as the two characters become more and more intertwined as the game goes on.
Shadow of War takes place in what seems to be an alternate version of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe. Mixing elements of the films and the books, it places players on the edge of Mordor and forces them to deal with the rise of Sauron between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It’s a period that hasn’t been terribly well-explored by Tolkien’s books or by other forms of media, so it’s a fantastic world to explore.
The game follows Talion, a ranger of Gondor who serves as a captain of the Black Gate. After a tragic raid, Talion finds himself trapped between life and death, fused with the wraith of Celebrimbor, the elf who created the Rings of Power. Together, the two characters work to get vengeance on the creatures who murdered Talion and who have plunged the region into darkness. Along the way, they encounter familiar creatures from Tolkien’s world.
The bulk of the game’s story is spent following very typical third-person action tropes. Talion and Celebrimbor will go to specific areas, fight hordes of orcs, and eventually attempt to accomplish specific objectives. Some of the fights might require the use of stealth or specific mechanics, but otherwise they’re nearly identical to the missions you’d find in games like Arkham City or Assassins’ Creed.
Where the game separates itself is through the use of the Nemesis system. Talion and Celebrimbor have the ability to brand orcs and convert them to their cause, allowing them to infiltrate Sauron’s legions from the inside. There is a strict hierarchy of orcs that Talion can disrupt through killing orc captains or replacing them with his own troops. The latter half of the game’s missions are centered around building up an orcish army to fight that of Sauron.
DLC & Expansion Packs
There’s a fair amount of DLC available for Shadow of Mordor, though as you might expect the bulk of what’s been released really falls into the optional category. There are a few new skins, some amazing new runes, a set of new missions and a number of excellent challenges that are included as optional downloaded content. It’s hard to say if any of these are worth the money, but they are collected in packs so you won’t regret spending money on any single piece.
There are two significant story expansions to the game. The first, Lord of the Hunt, is a mediocre addition to the game that introduces some new beasts and lets you play around a bit with their skills. Far better is The Bright Lord, which puts players in control of Celebrimbor during his original campaign to bring down Sauron. The latter DLC is vital for players who enjoyed the original game and want an additional challenge set in the same world.
Shadow of Mordor is a game that absolutely proves that there’s still a great deal of ground to be covered in the open-world genre. While the combat and the story might seem derivative, the Nemesis system is something that gamers will be talking about for years to come. At the time of the game’s release, it felt like it was on the cusp of something truly amazing – even if a few technical issues hold the game back from being all that it could be.
How was your experience with Shadow of Mordor? Did the game’s unique systems live up to the hype? Let us know by getting in contact with us and sharing your views on the game.