The long awaited sequel to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is finally here and it doesn’t disappoint!
A few disclaimers before I get started: I played this game on the Xbox One. The install time (65.63GB space needed) plus update took forever so I wasn’t able to play the first night. I can’t tell you if the wait was due to server issues or my own personal internet connection (which was a little weird) that night. I also purchased the Gold Edition with its beautiful steel book case. I’m a bit of a LotR nerd so I’ll try to keep the lore references to a minimum. Onward!
The game picks up right where Shadow of Mordor left off. In case you forgot what happened in that game, Shadow of War gives you a nice quick refresher before starting the story with Celebrimbor and Talion working on that ring they talked about making in the first game. Unfortunately, Shelob interrupts them, wanting the ring for herself. The scene also establishes the recurring presence of Shelob for the rest of the game.
Some might be a little thrown off by her female form, knowing her only as a giant spider who chased Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (or The Two Towers for the book readers). I was curious too and found out that the Michael de Plater, creative director for Monolith, played on the concept that Shelob is the daughter of Ungoliant, a being that chose to take the shape of a spider. If Ungoliant can choose that shape, he assumes that Ungoliant can take any shape. So, naturally, Shelob can do the same thing, switching to a human-like being when interacting with humans she deems important. It’s an interesting interpretation on Middle-Earth lore, but I don’t mind it so much. I hate spiders anyway.
Rather than having a tutorial level, the game throws you in with the assumption that you played the first game. Each action is preceded by a pop-up text, explaining all the different moves you can perform. Not all your abilities are unlocked at the beginning, which I found made for smooth transitioning into the game play. Players of the first game will find the same type of game mechanics, though I found this one ran a little smoother. Newcomers shouldn’t have a hard time getting into the game either, as the mechanics are similar to other games in the genre.
Leveling up is the same as the first game: kill lots of bad guys and complete missions. You receive bonuses depending on how well you execute the missions. Like the first game, it looks like you can repeat missions if you didn’t do so well the first time.
The Nemesis System looks the same, but there’s another section to it that I haven’t yet encountered in the game. However, I’ve figured out that the system is broken up by region. There’s a Fortress run by an Overlord, followed by his Warchiefs, and then a scattering of Captains underneath. You can get intel on these guys by hunting down Worms (weak Orcs willing to give up information), dead Orcs, or papers you find on a table. This intel gives you information on their strengths and weaknesses which is really important if you want to play this game right.
The final impression I want to share is about the controversial micro-transactions in the game. In the first part of the game, there is nothing you need to pay for. The micro-transactions will supposedly become relevant after you’re well into the game. However, IGN has this fantastic article on how to make enough in-game currency that you don’t have to worry about opening up your wallet. If the game keeps playing at this pace, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about having enough in-game currency. Then again, I love grinding and farming so I could be a little biased (and a little weird).
Despite the negative feedback prior to release, this game looks like a solid addition to the franchise with improved graphics and more time with our second favorite Ranger.
5 Orcs out of 5