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Middle-earth: Shadow Of War

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 24 - 2017

Talion is back and brings with him that fear that every Orc you may have upset during your jounrey will suddenly return, wanting revenge, at the same time.

 
What would you expect from the sequel to the best Middle-earth based videogame so far? Well, more of the same, but bigger and better would be a good start. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a personal journey through Tolkien’s fantasy world, made up of a unique story and excellent gameplay. Even now, some three years later, memories of my time in the game are still fresh in my mind. Monolith now return with a sequel to Shadow of Mordor, and the game has some mighty Orc boots to fill.

 
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Following on from the events in the first game, Shadow of War once again finds the player in the company of Talion and his ghostly companion Lord Celebrimbor. They are still bonded with one another, and they have the arduous task of saving the world from Sauron. This will be no meager undertaking as Shadow of War embraces the concept of the sequel being bigger than the original game by offering an absolutely huge open world in which to adventure. When compared to Shadow of Mordor, this world is far, far larger, and encompasses a very nice variety of different environment types, from your usual desolate wastes to forests and volcanoes. There is even some snow thrown in to keep things interesting.

 
With such a big open world, players will need plenty to do, and Shadow of War dopes not disappoint. The world is packed with locations that fans will recognize, and there are plenty of characters that that they will know as well. There are all manner of different missions or quests to take on aside from the core story, and players also have a wealth of choices as to how they approach these missions. As is often the case with games as large as this, it is quite overwhelming as the player is presented with more and more to do, and there are times when the game loses its focus as a result. Players will need to immerse themselves in the world and try not to be distracted, because no matter what they do in the game, it will all count towards something.

 
Talion and Celebrimbor’s epic quest is not something they can take on alone, but there will be no fellowship forming here. Rather, it is all about dominating. Players will need to build up an army of their own in Shadow of War, and this will mean dominating Orcs and bringing them to the side of good. There are so many different types of Orc in the game, and players will force many of them to become part of their pwn force, weakening the opposing forces in the process.

 
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Forts are a major part of the game before long, with the opportunity to wrestle control of them from whatever Orc commander may be in charge taking up a lot of the time in game. Again, there is so much freedom in how the player approaches these tasks, whether they infiltrate the fort through stealth and take out some of the major players to weaken the defenses before the full on siege begins, or have Orcs under their control do the dirty work of joining the opponent and then double crossing them at the crucial moment. Interrogate defeated Orcs, find out the weaknesses of their captain’s and then take advantage of those weaknesses. Take control of a fort, and then the player can install their own Orc army to hold the structure while the player goes off to do other things.

 
It’s a great system that adds a lot of management and strategy to the game, which brings more variety. It is also very tense, as Orcs are not the most reliable of species and there is always a chance that the best laid plans will be scuppered by an Orc thinking for itself at the most crucial moment. When plans play out well, resulting in weakened forts and a successful takeover, it is time for joyous celebrations. When it all goes wrong thanks to a duplicitous Orc, then it is time for revenge.

 
Revenge is perhaps the driving force of Shadow of War, thanks to the excellent Nemesis system. When an Orc betrays the player, revenge will most certainly be an option, as long as the offending Orc is still alive. But Orcs love revenge too and the Nemesis system ensures that any wronged Orc will remember, and chances are they will turn up hours later, changed by their previous encounter with Talion, and pick a fight. This system brings the world to life. Talion’s reputation increases and is spread around the world, but the individual Orcs also improve and adapt, becoming stronger or learning Talion’s fighting style to better counter it next time they meet. They can also develop weaknesses as a result of their encounter with Talion, something the player can exploit. It is great to see a familiar face suddenly turn up and want a fight, and because this will be different for each player, it makes the game much more personal and allows players to build their own stories of their time in Shadow of War.

 
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With the constant possibility of a muscle bound Orc suddenly ambushing the player, it is fortunate that Talion is quite capable of taking care of himself. Massive skill trees give the player a wealth of new abilities and improvements, keeping Talion at the top of his game. Different branches allow the player to tailor Talion to their own style of play, and the options are huge. The combat is once again similar to the system that was born out of Arkham Asylum, which is easy to pick up but still offers plenty of depth for the more skilled player. Newly acquired abilities will unlock yet more options and make the player even more powerful. Talion can quickly become a powerhouse, perhaps lowering the challenge in the game too soon, but I would not complain at that. The final parts of the game are still very challenging, so a lull in the challenge mid-game is all good as far as I am concerned.

 
So, loot boxes and microtransactions. Yes, the game offers loot boxes filled with random gear and Orcs to join your cause. Yes, it does feel a little cheeky in a full priced single player game. And no, they are not required. Everything you need can be found in the game, so the existence of these loot boxes and any imagined offense can be ignored so that players can get on with enjoying this great game.

 
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Middle-earth: Shadow of War is exactly the sequel that it needed to be. Bigger in every way, improved in all of the ways that matter. The Nemesis system returns and is better than ever, adding individual stories that are personal to each player. The combat is engaging, the story is solid and the open world is huge and packed with things to do. Middle-earth: Shadow of War is yet another essential purchase in a year that has been packed with great gaming experiences. Grab it now and upset some Orcs.

 

 ★★★★★★★★★☆ 



 

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