**Disclaimer: Before we get into this review, we got an e mail recently asking if we were fair in our assessment of a game previously reviewed. Let us assure you that with anything we review, we get them just like the average Joe. We go out and purchase them just like you do, we don’t get any promo copies or pre builds and if we do, we will say so. We also do not have any NDAs at present for anything that we review. With that said, anything we review is in our own opinion and not any spin from a company to make it look good. Thank you. – Aitch
With that said, I have been keeping track of this game for a very long time since it was mentioned at the PS4’s release last year. For many of you who didn’t know, the game’s story was created by Christian Cantamessa who also did the story for Red Dead Redemption. When that was said, I knew this was going to be good. The biggest draw of this game for me was the promise of not only an open world game that felt truly alive but one which could grow on its own with little influence from the player but also the Nemesis system which I can say really works. Many of you know the plotline by now which is the story of the murder of Talion, which takes place at the Black Gate, the entrance to Mordor. He comes back to life with help from a wraith to exact revenge for himself and the death of his family.
As you can see from the title, the game itself liberally takes from other franchises and it executed decently throughout the game. Talion is able to move freely throughout the game with little chances of being caught and the fighting is a nice blend of Batman’s chain attacks with God of Wars combo meters and executions along with some of Assassins Creed parry attacks. What really sets this game apart of course is that as advertised, and quoted from Gimli, “This is no rabble of mindless Orcs. These are Uruks!” This is a living and breathing society that you are in and things that you do or don’t do can change the balance of the game and it really works. There are destructible environments you can use, places to hide to evade pursuers and challenges you can take as well. This game so far has done a lot that even Metal Gear has yet to do. For instance, if you kill a guard and leave his body out in the open and it’s discovered, that orc will run back and tell everyone that there has been a murder and the behavior of other orcs changes. This AI doesn’t forget, they get jumpy and it could be bad news for you id you decide to charge in. Another thing I have seen and this gives you more reason to choose your approaches wisely, is that an orc captain I was after had a ton of minions around him so it was impossible to take him out and get away so, I created a double diversion. In the game world there are beehives you can use to your advantage so first I used that and once some of his retinue ran away, I broke open a cage with a caragor (a type of wild dog-thing) which set upon the remaining orcs, then I did a stealth kill on the captain which was great, except for one thing. One of the orcs that didn’t get pulled in, sounded the alarm and of course more came and I died…brutally. And that’s another thing with this game. Even with the best laid plans, you will die, a lot. It feels a bit like Dark Souls but in this case as you have read, when you die, that orc can get promoted and when you make time you can disrupt the chain of command that begins with your death and hunt your killers down. Of course the interesting part is when you do face your killers, as advertised, if for some reason you can’t kill him, they CAN run away as I have experienced this as well. Overall with the way that the story is set up, it’s easy to get into this game and get lost among the fights and also when you die enough you can get a serious thirst for revenge, just plan it out well. Another aspect is the RPG feel of the game. It’s really easy to level up in the game as early on you can open up some really neat power ups that can get you through some tough fights but what you really want to do is kill Captains as they drop runes that seriously powers up your weapons. This is a great way from keeping the game’s combat from getting stale too fast.
For the most part on the PS4, the game controls well but still can feel a bit wonky at times. I am not 100% with executions having to be 2 separate buttons as I still wind up doing grabs instead of the execution itself. Occasionally, I feel like Talion gets stuck at stuff he should be able to get over but climbing is a breeze. I am not sure why Monolith felt that there was a need to have a separate button for pulling oneself up over a wall. Everything else though from Talion’s entering Wraith Detective Mode…wait I mean Wraith World to getting to the maps is really easy. The controls will take some time getting used to but thankfully it’s not game breaking.
Even though the world of Mordor looks depressing and gloomy (as a land filled with orcs should), it’s a gorgeous game. The depth and scale of things to see in the game is incredible and one that hasn’t been seen since Skyrim. The model of the characters of the game is good as well and this is one of the few games that really takes advantage of the PS4’s engine to give a good presentation. I did notice a little bit of pop up occasionally but what I have not noticed is any slowdown within the game itself thus the creators delivered hugely on this game for next gen systems.
Overall, this is the game that I like to see from open world games. Shadows of Mordor delivers on a promise that I feel that Watchdogs couldn’t do which is puts players in an environment that they could change or watch change before them. Enemies are not mindless but once encountered can change how you play the game even if they escape you. This is the Lord of the Rings title we have longed for since the PS2
4 out of 5 stars.