Story by Liam Oliver
The follow-up to Monolith Productions’ Shadow Of Mordor, Middle Earth: Shadow of War continues the story of Talion, a Human Ranger possessed by the Elven-Wraith – Cerebrimbor. The two march across Mordor and the surrounding lands undermining Sauron’s control over the region, whilst slaying a few orcs along the way.
For Lord Of The Rings lore enthusiasts, the game takes place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Many iconic locations feature in Shadow Of War, including Minas Morgul, Gorgoroth and Mount Doom. You will also encounter a number of familiar characters, such as The Witch-King of Angmar, Shelob the Spider and Gollum, whilst making a wealth of new friends and enemies across Middle Earth.
The story itself is not particularly groundbreaking, and often a little predictable at times. However, it’s a lot of fun and you most certainly don’t need to be a The Lord Of The Rings fanatic to get in on the action. In fact, this is one of the things that the game needs to be praised for. The setting and events of the previous game are well established in the early moments of this latest addition and characters are well explored and quite memorable. It’s often the randomly generated orcs who present themselves with rather humorous and zany dialogue that stand out. However, this characterisation could not be achieved without the truly wonderful voice acting found in Shadow Of War.
As for the gameplay, you’ll not find anything particularly innovative. Shadow Of War presents itself as your typical RPG open-world action game. There’s towers to climb, collectables to find and challenges to be met across the various Middle Earthen maps. In fact, lovers of the Assassin’s Creed franchise will most certainly find themselves at home here. The parkour is often frustrating and clunky and the combat is very similar; finding yourself pitted against hordes of orcs and other nasties smashing the attack button and parrying when cued by quick time events (of which there are PLENTY).
Whilst this might at first glance appear rather dull, the Nemesis system helps to liven things up. Orcs can ascend and descend through the ranks as captains. They’ll fight one another (or stab them in the back!) for the title of Overlord in their specific region – and even target you, given the chance. Talion, however, has the power of domination, enabling him to add these powerful foes to his army.
Once you’ve built a large enough army in a zone, you can begin a siege for the Keep governing the region, using whatever tools you have at your disposal. This includes your own captains, troops and even drakes. There are a lot of truly epic moments to be had when playing within the Nemesis system as you fight alongside your army for control of an area. These moments are made even grander by using your own unique fighting style when making use of the talent tree options in Talion’s kit and Cerebrimbor’s Wraith abilities.
Overall, Shadow Of War is a solid game and deserves your attention. Whilst not adding anything particularly innovative to the genre, like its predecessor did – its in-game systems do more than enough to ensure that you’ll have a blast. It is a shame, however, that the developers and publisher chose to include paid loot boxes in the game (especially given the game is full price and has no real multiplayer aspect to speak of). For a lot of people, this kind of decision will tarnish the franchise and only worsen the controversy surrounding 2017 and in-game micro transactions.