JRR Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings Series has been something of a guilty pleasure. It’s tales of heroism in darkened times where the fires of industry churn onwards, while a lighter more simple down to Earth society dwells in the days of knights and fantasy. I’ve long sought after a game that makes me feel as if the series is being rightfully catered to. Taking the best bits of lore and tweaking them, just ever so slightly, in order to reward us with something more. Middle Earth: Shadow of War is the successor to the massively popular game, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It places the players in the boots of Talion a man long since dead, but being kept alive by the spectral wraith of Celebrimbor. This Second Age smith was responsible for helping Sauron forge the rings of power and thus dooming Middle Earth to a sickly darkness for thousand of years to come.
Shadow of War takes place right off the heels of the first game and brings us right into an alternate timeline. For most of you out there this game will make your stomach churn with the use of characters in ways not directly implicated in the books. It takes lore and playfully sculpts it into something that suits the needs of game; plus plot. However if you are like myself and carry with you an open mind and just general love for all things Tolkien inspired, then you are in good hands. The game centers around Talion and Celebrimbor’s rise to power after crafting their own ring of power that is free from Sauron’s taint. It is through this ring that they wage of war throughout Mordor to the border city of Mines Illith (Mines Morgul). It is in this game that the beautifully implemented Nemesis system is implemented. The goal of the system is to give players Orc, Uruk-Has and Olog-Hai that are dynamic, ever deadly and memorable.
Players are thus able to weave their own stories of heroism and betrayal with these passive NPC companions or rivals. They also make up every boss you will fight, not counting the Nazgul (Ringwraiths) you encounter. This keeps the game feeling fresh, feeling personable and challenging. It takes some thinking on how to counter these ever deadlier enemies on the battlefield. Now yes, the game lacks originality in the essence of fighting as certain combo’s are required to down an opponent with relative ease. It is tedious and it is most certainly dull in the long focus of the game. By the time you reach end-game grinding you will find yourself countering and sniping your way in a similar manner. That is not to say that the game is without tact.
The final chapter of the game sees the player defending all the forts captured in game from the endless horde that is Sauron’s army. It feels almost impossible and for the most part it is. The enemies faced here are deadly and downright frustrating. The Nemesis system does a good job of making sure I am throughly raged and annoyed through its use of Orc that can down me once I lose health without a second chance, thus putting me into crisis-management. Even running into the same foe you defeated twice before doesn’t get old; they just get harder and harder.
The game mechanics themselves are not as hard. The skill system as well as the equipment systems are all bearing a new coat of arms. The skill tree, while massively confusing and convoluted, is a much welcomed addition and opens the door to new gameplay possibilities. The addition of equipment to done is also a wonderful touch, giving the player a choice in what stats and weapons they prefer to use with incentive. Sure your main weapon difference comes from either a bow or throwing-hammer option for range, but still it is nice to have some variety. While I have recorded a hefty 43 hours of play, I still have yet to fully grab all optional additions to the game in the form of in-game collectibles. Sure it is not necessary, but if you cannot get enough of the Tolkien inspired lore then you are lost on me.
Will this game rock your socks? It would depend on how fond you are with the Lord of The Rings inspired series and that of the first game, Shadow of Mordor. It also depends on how much you like having to grind for the best weapon and armor as it requires a bit of that. While the game also boasts a controversial loot box implementation, it is not required at all in order to progress through the game. It just gives you an addition of having a shot at better Orc’s or Gear. Shadow of War can be enjoyed on current Xbox, Playstation and PC platforms of choice.
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