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Review: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Lord of the Rings has been one of the most beloved fantasy series of all time. Every movie of the trilogy was a well-created movie to remember and it wanted you to see more of the whole universe. Is this the ONE game, the ONE game that could rule them all?

A lot of games have tried and most of those games failed. I played the PS2 hack-and-slash lord of the rings themed games when I was a kid and they were definitely fun, but it couldn’t keep my attention for long. Then there was the RPG game “ The Third Age” which was a delight and moved the franchise a big step forward. In my older days, I played the MMO but I couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted to. Then this game comes along, and I must say it has opened my mind on how a good Lord of the Rings game should be.

Shadows of Mordor takes you to the shadowlands of Mordor, where Uruks fight each other for dominance and even the flowers have the smell of death. You take the role as a ranger who lost his wife and his son to the servants of the black hand, Sauron. Miraculously, you find yourself alive between the living and the spirit realm bound to a mysterious blacksmithing elf. This spirit gives you a good fighting chance to take revenge on the murderers of your family. Not only, will you relive to see the day but also have a new set of important skills to fight your way through the shadows that come in your way.

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The whole can be referred to an Assassin’s Creed game but set in the Lord of the Rings fantasy world and it does a perfect job of mixing those 2 big elements into one refreshing game. Your main goal in the game is to avenge your family by killing Uruk’s captains to get closer to the Uruk’s Warchiefs and eventually kill the black hand, but the stranger you’re bound to also has a past and he wants to retrieve his memory badly.

These 2 characters (blended into one) that you control have their own set of abilities. The ranger controls a dagger, bow and a broadsword to kill enemies but the elf gives you some advantages that add to the ranger’s skills. For example: your bow can be used in slow motion time, you can mess with your enemies mind and eventually combust their head, you can run faster, jump higher, brand targets, … Although this may not seem like much, all these special powers help you to succeed in your goal. The elf gives you access points so you can fast travel across the map and since it’s a blacksmithing elf, he can upgrade your weapons by branding certain runes into them. Captains or warchiefs will drop these runes and they have a certain level. The higher the level, the more powerful a rune is.

 

One game to rule them all.

 

During your gameplay, you level up (due to killing enemies and accepting challenges) and you gain power by resolving problems or certain situations between Uruks. This will give you ability points that you can use to unlock better abilities. You can even forge one of your main weapons into one of the legendary elvish kind.

One of the exciting new features in this game, is the fact that every Uruk wants to be a warchief. They are all fighting for dominance in Mordor and you can have a big influence on how certain things will evolve. If you resolve one of the situations that appear on the map, it will impact the whole hierarchy system. Some enemies will get stronger and some of them won’t survive the situation because of the fact that you killed him or you let him be killed. The survivor will challenge certain captains in the system and get up the ladder of leadership. Your death also has an impact on this system. If a simple Uruk kills you, this Uruk will get stronger and challenge the other Uruks.

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How do you handle this whole hierarchy system? Some Uruks have information about certain captains. Thanks to our elf, you can look into their mind and get to know the strengths and weaknesses of those captains. This insight will give you the opportunity to make a plan before you confront the captain. Some captains can be killed from afar or by a well-performed stealth kill while others will block your combat skills or even be invulnerable to certain attacks. The more information you gather, the better you can handle a confrontation.

This game has a good package of “already known idea’s” that has been implemented into this game. You have the whole climbing aspect of Assassin’s Creed and the counter attack system of Batman. But this game improves certain aspects of those games, which makes the game run better or even smoothly. For example: I’m a big fan of this counter system:

If you execute an enemy in Batman and someone hits you in the back, you’ll just have to take the blow and redo the execution if you handled all the enemies. In this game, you execute an enemy and you can counter another attack instantly, which gives you the opportunity to react instead of taking the blow. It’s something very similar and yet different.

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The game has good visuals, the voice acting is great but the environment is a bit simplified. You have a good open world but there’s not much of a different between areas. They all share the same feeling of Mordor: grey and full of Uruks. The story isn’t bad but it can be better. What I do like, is the fact that the developers really linked this game to the Lord of the Rings story of the movie. I’m not going to say why, but some former known characters appear in the game and the background of the Elf also has a big link with the Lord of the Rings franchise.

This is a must buy for all the Lord of the Rings- fans and action gamers. The game makes you feel like the badass you’ve always wanted in the Lord of the Rings movies. You get to play a very powerful ranger within the Lord of the Rings universe. If you’re not a fan of the whole franchise, you still want to take a look into this. Shadows of Mordor gives you all the good things you can find in bigger games, but slightly improved. If you want to get the best out of your money, you can collect all the collectibles and max upgrade your character along the way.

9/10