In the past Lord of the Rings games have always fallen short of the promise created by Tolkien’s Lore. However, Monolith Studios’ Shadow of Mordor manages to be not just a great game, but also builds upon the goldmine that is Middle Earth.
The game follows the story of Talion, a ranger of Gondor, on his quest through Mordor to avenge the death of his family, and discover the mysterious past of his ghostly companion.
With the plot being set after The Hobbit, but before The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien fans will appreciate the subtle nuances to the world, and will enjoy finding out more about the culture of Mordor and Orc society.
The process of finding these nuances is through the merciless slaughter of Orcs. Lots and lots of Orcs. In fact an unnecessary amount of Orcs. One of the few failings of this game is that when you get right down to it, it’s a game about killing hordes upon hordes of Orcs.
Not to say that the evisceration of endless amounts of Orcs isn’t done well, the combat here is akin to that of the Batman Arkham series. However with the addition of swords, supernatural powers and gruesome combat finishers, the combat feels more brutal than in the Arkham games. The wanton beheading of Orcs helps here.
The real strength here is in the nemesis system, which procedurally generates random enemies for you to encounter, this creates an individual experience with truly unique enemies every time. These enemies have their own strengths, weaknesses, character traits, and will carve out their own rise to power.
Within this system death has a genuine consequence. Rather than transporting the player back to a checkpoint or ignoring the fail state, time will pass, orcs will do their thing, and the one that killed you will be promoted, and will remember that the next time you face off.
By doing this Monolith creates enemies who the player has a true rivalry with; in my play through I had a long standing nemesis, Skog Hook Hand, who killed me no less than 3 times, as well as rising from the dead twice. This made it all the more satisfying when I was finally able to behead him later on in the game.
A slight problem the game encounters is that of power creep, meaning that eventually the player will reach a point in the game in which all challenge is removed. I experienced this about 17 hours in, and it made the game nigh on unplayable. Fortunately it happened after I had completed the main story and therefore didn’t affect my experience too much.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor impresses on many fronts, be it gameplay or story Monolith has created an excellent experience for player to enjoy for a solid 20 hours. If making a sizable dent in the Orc population, whilst exploring a rich world of lore appeals to you then this is the game for you.