Ahh, there’s nothing better than taking a stroll through Mordor, the fires of which can be seen in the distance, as you serenely rush through the surrounding greenery, on the back of what can only be described as a fleshy, humongous, cat like creature. All while using an invisible Elfs bow, to slow time and deliver gruesome head shots to surprised Uruks.
In short, that is the greatest thing about Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the immense power it not only makes available to you, but the power it makes you feel inside as you tear around Tolkeins land and deliver justice to the ugliest enemies ever invented. This great feeling of power is subtly balanced mind you, never removing that fear of failure. You may want to rush headfirst into battle from time to time, but thanks to the games nemesis system, you’ll feel the shame and burn from defeat which works to convince you that stealth is wealth. Or best, I just wanted a word that rhymed with stealth.
The game opens with the story of Talion, an ex ranger of Gondor who suffers the dark fate of being executed, along with his wife and son, as part of some demonic ritual courtesy of the Black Hand, who doesn't love a stereotypical evil organisation eh?
Refusing to die, or denied the pleasure as the tone suggests, Talions spirit is then bound to the ghost of an elf and sent back to the world of the living in order to exact his revenge against the dark forces of Sauron. A straight forward set up, which perhaps doesn't stick so closely to known Tolkein lore, but when the acting is top notch (As much as you could ever expect anyway, lets not nit pick) and well known characters such as Golom are thrown in and mixed well with brand new frenemies all tied together with clever missions that are ultimately satisfying, then you cant help but smile about whats on offer.
Similar to Batman: Arkham Origins, Shadow of Mordor leaves you open to choosing the stealthy option of sneaking around camps and decapitating Orcs as you go along. You can hide in bushes and scale rooftops to find that sweet vantage point, letting you rain arrows down of the scum of sourness army, or simple charge right in and get ready for the brawl to end all brawls. Well, if you go into a busy camp that is. During battle, SoM makes use of a rather extensive catalogue of gruesome executions which once chained together with other abilities available to you, make for a beautiful ballet of blood, bone, steel and death. It truly is captivating.
This is easily the most enjoyable sword fighting mechanic I've ever experienced, blending all the best pats of similar titles while fixing the inherent bugs that would come along with them. Its not all a cake walk however, its surprisingly easy to go from king of the ring to floundering hobbit, for any number of reasons in fact. If you take on a camp and allow any of the Uruks to raise an alarm, you're in for a barrage of ugly spuds to deal with. As you move along the game, even the standard enemies are mixed up with shield bearers and berserkers who are all together immune from front attacks and cant initially be hurt unless stunned first.
This is all challenge enough, but on occasion you may also mistakenly start a brawl in the same camp as an Uruk captain, who’ll have his own strengths and weaknesses (normally strengths to my dismay) and will be nothing but a huge spanner in the arse. Or is it pain in the works? No, I was right the first time, its just down right hard and painful when it occurs.
Health doesn't really recover on its own and you start with a fairly small pool of vitality to expend so if you’re not yet upgraded to silly proportions, you’ll need to plan every battle. Picking off the tougher enemies first and delivering as many executions as possible. From time to time you may even have to simply retreat from battle all together, it's not cowardice it just makes sense.
Of course, as mentioned before, stealth is an option. You can even opted to poison the Uruks much loved barrels of Grog, it wont kill everyone in the camp, but it will take a few down and cause some in fighting over “what pilock would poison the grog!”.
However you decide to expel your enemies, which you’ll be doing for basically all of the game as it is a revenge story, its what happens once the dust settles that really makes SoM stand out from other games in the genre.
The nemesis system gives every enemy a name and a back story as well as a place on the hearty of Saurons army. Kill a captain and you’ll see he’s swiftly replaced by the next Uruk in line. If you fight a captain and he tears you a new one, not only will his power increase but he’ll remember crushing you into dust and the next time you fight, wont hesitate to rub salt in the wound!
It's a clever battle tactic, a great addition to the game and boy did that psychological warfare work!
I was decimated twice by one poisonous archer and the second time I died simply because his taunts infuriated me enough to make charge headfirst into a trap!
This hearty of Uruks is even active when you’re not involved, with many of the lower rank foot soldiers all dreaming of promotion and starting fights amongst themselves to work their way up the ranks. This can be used to your advantage, if you are having trouble with a particular captain, you can wait until someone rattles his cage and perhaps turn the tide of battle against them.
You learn early on in the game to use your new elf friends powers to gain intel from enemies by squeezing their cranium and reading their minds, which while highly useful, is no where near as impressive as the mind control you’ll be offered later.
In an inception style take over of the mind, you can ‘brand’ your quarry and implant the idea of rebellion into their hearts, leaving you open to shuffle the chess board however you see fit! Its like house of cards but without all the shameless product placement!
The nemesis system is so unique and engrossing in fact, that I admit to spending many hours simply chasing down my enemies, taking out his successors and shaking things up, rather than progressing the story.
This, in reality, is probably my only negative about the game. Something that I cant even be sure is really even a negative, but with such a deep game mechanic in the nemesis system, I didn't feel hugely compelled to finish the story as my completionist side took over and I was always being sidetracked to take out, just one more Uruk captain.
Overall Shadow of Mordor is the game that Lord of The Rings fans have been waiting for!
With some beautiful scenery and character designs thrown into a living breathing Tolkein world, that allows you to roam free and be the ranger you’ve always wanted to be, Shadow of Mordor is simply stunning! You’ll easily spend hours in battle, doing side quests and generally having a blast at the expensive of some ugly looking Uruks!