GregoPeck gives this an astounding "Must Play" on the Ghost Scale
This achieves something special, and it would be a shame to miss it.
GregoPeck gives this a "Must Play" on the Ghost Scale
This achieves something special, and it would be a shame to miss it.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a very good game. It seems I’m on a trend with my gaming lately. I’ve been enjoying open-world games that have a combat system like the Batman: Arkham games. Shadow of Mordor is very much like a Batman: Arkham game crossed with Lord of the Rings, but there are key differences. The main difference between the two is that in Shadow of War, you can build an army of orcs.

At the beginning, you learn that a ranger, Talion, was killed along with his family, yet he is denied death. He was cursed and now pretty much lives again. He can die, but he keeps coming back. He is followed by a wraith, Celebrimbor. This wraith is special, though, and takes Talion along on a journey. When Celebrimbor was alive, he was an elf and he forged the rings of power. Talion and Celebrimbor are bound together and act as one and their main goal is to defeat Sauron, but they must get through his minions first.

Being a character who’s pretty much half ranger and half wraith means that he has many abilities, most of which are not unlocked initially. There are quests and items to collect. There are main quests and side quests. One good tip I found was to go through the main quests for a while so you can unlock different abilities. Even if you end up finishing story mode without doing all the quests or finding all the collectibles, you’ll get that chance after the credits roll.

In this game, most of your enemies are orcs. They are in a hierarchical system. You’ll see plain orcs everywhere. There are different classes of them. There are archers and berserkers just to name a couple. If you find one that has a big shield, you’re not going to be able to counter their attacks, instead you’ll have to dodge. You can jump over them, then hit them in the back. For berserkers, you’ll need to stun them. Above these orcs are captains and above them are war chiefs. War chiefs typically have some body guards, so it’s best to try to get them out of the way before fighting a war chief. War chiefs often have to be drawn out of a fortress, which means you may be required to complete a certain objective, like kill a number of units without being detected.

Every orc has strengths and weaknesses and knowing these can change a battle. You won’t know these about every one, until you gather intel. Usually this is done by branding enemies that have a green highlight on them. These are called worms. Intel is sometimes lying around and there are also slaves you can rescue, which can also give it you. My favorite orcs are the ones that can be instantly killed by stealth. I found this is usually the easiest way to kill them.

In strongholds, there are lots of orcs and there are different things you can do to decrease their numbers. You can shoot bait for creatures that will attack them, for example. You can also poison barrels of grog (their alcohol) or shoot explosive barrels. If you’re spotted, chances are an alarm will be raised, which will summon many more orcs. It’s not too difficult to hide or escape combat, though. You may often find yourself in a situation where you should instead run away. Dying in this game is frustrating at first and a bit confusing. When you die, the orc that killed you will level up. Time will also pass allowing other orcs to level up as they go about AI activities. This really isn’t a bad thing. Orcs aren’t incredibly difficult and you may want a high level orc on your side. So, don’t get discouraged here. Some day you may have to fight that orc again, but you might also be able to brand it and turn it on your side. You can have it kill other captains. For war chiefs, your orcs can betray them, if they’re already it’s body guard or it can infiltrate it and become one. Then, when you’re fighting it, it’s body guards turn on it and fight for you.

There are some really awesome things your character can do. He can see into the shadows or the wraith world. This is very helpful to get a better look at what things are around. Enemies become very visible, but there are other things that require this wraith sense. One really fun ranged ability is a shadow strike. When Talion holds the bow, ready to aim, time slows down for a brief amount of time, allowing you take get a better shot. If you have something you’re aimed at, you can press a button and you will pretty much warp to that enemy and kill it. Stealth is often vitally important. You can do a variety of stealth kills including the one I mentioned, but you can also kill enemies from behind, above, or below.

Another great ability is called branding and it’s very fun. This allows you to take control of an enemy’s mind and in doing so, you create an ally that will fight along your side. You can tell them to fight for you, or you can also sacrifice them with the touch of a button to restore health. Not only can you stealth kill, but you can also stealth brand.

Talion has a sword, dagger, and a bow. Each has slots for runes. Runes improve something, like the ability to get health from a head shot kill or to restore focus. Runes are collected from captains and the higher level the captain was, the higher level and better a rune can be. There are also challenges, which help you learn how to use each weapon and also to unlock some abilities. There are also some wild creatures you can brand, too. You can ride some of them and they’re often really great allies.

The game was a bit shorter than I hoped. I’ve spent about 73 hours playing it, though. I got all the collectibles, unlocked all of the abilities, completed the main and side quests, and also played a bit more after story mode. The game play is a bit repetitive, but I think it’s also very entertaining and enjoyable. There are some DLC, too. In one, you play as the elf and it’s a bit more difficult, because he doesn’t have the ability to slow down time when the bow is drawn, so I didn’t use it as much. Instead of a shadow strike, he has the ability to do the same action, but when he gets to the enemy, he brands it instead of killing it. He can summon allies and also sacrifice them for health.

One DLC is a group of challenges. It’ll say like kill a number of captains and war chiefs. They have bonus objectives, which will award more points if completed such as finishing in under an hour. The points you get for completing objectives seems to just be for show. You can compete with yourself to try to get more points. Instead of worrying about time, I just went along with it and had fun with it.

Shadow of Mordor has a sequel, Shadow of War and it’s very similar, but it’s a bit more like a graphical and game play upgrade. Both games are very fun. I may review War when I am finished. As I said, it reminds me of the Batman: Arkham games, because that’s the combat system. It’s a lot of fun. The amount of stealth used makes me think of Assassin's Creed, but I’ve barely played any of those games. I didn’t think I’d like being stealthy, but since I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’m thinking of giving another try.

The game can be discouraging at first, but if you stick with it, you’ll probably enjoy it once you’re used to it. Remember, there’s no shame in running away. Go restore your health, then come back to finish the fight if you want. There are a lot of other good tips, so I recommend finding some online. I found multiple helpful sources. At first I was discouraged, but those tips really helped me get into it.

Let me know if this sounds like something you’re interested in or if you’ve played it before. I picked it up on sale recently. If you’ve played an Assassin's Creed game and this, please let me know what you think about how the two are similar and different.

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