Middle-Earth: Shadow of War by Warner Bros. Games and Monolith is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Shadow of Mordor. The first game had a strong debut with its awesome Nemesis System. The sequel does what most really good sequels do and expands on all of the great things about the first game while trying to iron out any of the wrinkles that reared their annoying head.
The story picks up where the DLC left off. The player takes control of Talion/Celebrimbor in order to fight back the forces of Sauron. For the most part the story is good, and the writing and voice acting are top notch. Some of the things that come out of the orcs mouths are hilarious, and without this extra humor it would be easy to fall under the weight of all the pieces constantly moving due to the expanded functions of the Nemesis System.
The Nemesis system has returned in all its glory with it not only making a difference on individual enemies, but entire orc armies. Once an orc captain is dominated, numerous options open up for the player. You can get orcs to stab each other in the back, shun them to lower their level, banish them from your army, or just kill them and get that oh so sweet loot. There’s also the ability to establish captains as your own personal body guard that may show up for you in a clutch moment, or he may get upset with your poor leadership and decide to kill you. The best part about this is the fact that it’s all happening in the background. One minute you could be on your way to find a secret item when out of nowhere you’re ambushed by an orc captain. It’s fun and it makes the game world feel alive.
Killing captains gives you gear which brings up a point to be made about the inclusion of micro-transactions. Micro-transactions are present throughout most of the game’s campaign in the form of chests that contain orc captains to add to your army. It is possible to purchase these chests with in game currency, but it’s also possible to buy them with real cash and speed up the process of taking over enemy fortresses.
For those folks who think it’s possible to just buy your way through the campaign will be disappointed once they get to the very end of the fortress assaults to fight the orc overlord because you can’t use the extra orcs you purchased against them. Although, it is possible to kill your orc captains and receive loot which could help with taking out the overlord, but regardless of gear you still need to level up your character and that is done with the old-fashioned earning of XP. Even still it is possible to purchase an XP boost with your hard-earned dollars bills.
The unfortunate part is not the lack of challenge in the game, instead the disconcerting fact is the padded-out parts of the game can be skipped by paying money. It’s almost like paying a few extra tokens to skip certain levels in an arcade game, or paying a few extra bucks to skip the side missions present in most RPG’s. This alone may deter some gamers, but it doesn’t necessarily ruin the experience. Other than those issues the fortress assaults are by far the highlight of the game. Running into battle with hundreds of screaming orcs at your bidding while catapults destroy walls and archers shoot flaming arrows into your enemies is an experience that hasn’t been created in a game before. At least not in the sense of controlling your own armies whilst literally walking the earth among them as a “Bright Lord.”
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War seems to be developed with a long endgame in mind. The endgame mostly consists of protecting your fortresses from the ceaseless attacks of Sauron. It’s also possible to attack other players fortresses similar to what Metal Gear Solid V did with its motherbases. The majority of gameplay reeks of polish. The combat feels as smooth as it did the first time with a good pace to the fights that are not only fun to play but fun to watch. The combat has its strength in the passive uses of the Nemesis System. The movement controls still need work. Even with the game’s addition of the double jump, it was way too easy to jump somewhere you don’t want to go.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is a good sequel to a great game. The Nemesis System has been expanded in interesting ways, the combat is still fun and visceral, the stealth works like it should, the graphics and framerate holds up, and only the Tolkien purists will be a bit frustrated with some of the story elements. Overall Middle-Earth: Shadow of War brings back all the good stuff from the first game with even more to boot. The unnecessary inclusion of micro-transactions staring you in the face is a bit of a downer, but Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is a solid 9 out of 10. Oh, and there’s a Balrog! A Balrog!!!
For all your gaming news and reviews stay right here at Gaming Cypher.
Check Out the Middle-earth: Shadow of War Launch Trailer:
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is now available for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.