Review: Middle Earth: Shadow Of War
The sequel to the well-received Game of the Year Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is finally here. Here at Gaming Boulevard we tried it out on Xbox One. It’s also available on PC and PS4. When starting the game, I was not getting the vibe of playing a brand-new game. It felt, played and looked just like Shadow of Mordor. But when getting farther into the game you notice all the changes that were made. And that makes it a very easy to get into game with a good learning curve of the new aspects of this game.
The game picks up right after the main character Talion and his conjoined-by-spirit associate Celebrimbor forge a new ring of power and almost instantly lose it again. The rather sexy human form of the giant spider Shelob holds the spirit of your elven lord captive and demands the ring from Talion. This is of course not the only antagonist of the game, there’s also a Witch king and, you’ve might already have guessed it, … Sauron himself.
The conversations in the game aren’t as good as they could have been. It feels like the conversation were too short at first so they decided to lengthen them a bit without really adding more to the story. If you remember the mechanics of the first game, you might also remember getting stuck on a small ledge instead of jumping off or having trouble targeting specific enemies in a bigger battle. Well, this was not changed one bit. Because of this, the mechanics feel a little outdated and more like the earlier Assassin’s Creed games.
The nemesis system has gotten a really nice update and makes battles against captains and other named characters really exciting. There are also quite a bit of new execution animation but not as much as I would’ve liked. The animations of stealth kills are all the same as in the previous game. The siege battles are new, you get to brainwash an army of Uruks and use them to take over strongholds and when you do, appoint your own captains to defend them from future attacks.
They’ve added some new beasts as well. You have the siege beasts, these are mountable beasts with a catapult on the back to shoot fireballs at incoming troops of enemy Uruks. And a drake on which you can fly and spit fire. There are also some war trolls and that’s about it. The fact that there is such a big variation in the captains does make up for the lack of new enemies. Even after numerous hours of gameplay you still see traits on new captains that you might have never seen before.
The captains now drop new weapons and gear for Talion to wear and this adds a feature to the game that was really missing in Shadow of Mordor. The higher-level gear might require you to do some side missions in order to unlock their full potential, which also adds to the game. Even with a lot of high-level gear, the battles remain exciting and do not become too easy or dull. In fact, the Battles in Shadow of war are a lot more enjoyable than in the predecessor Shadow of Mordor.
The skill menus are a little overcomplicated and filled with text. This makes it quite a task to put your hard-earned points into new skills, each skill now has 2 or 3 subskills. On one hand this makes the game a lot bigger than its predecessor but on the other hand, it may be a bit too much. The extra perks that come with the rarer weapons aren’t good enough to make you keep a low-level weapon just for its ability, so you just constantly change your gear for new and better ones.
The map of Shadow of War is divided into 5 areas. These look very different, from icy mountains to swamps and grasslands and much more. However, they are all inhabited by the same creatures and wildlife. It would’ve been nice to see the uruks a bit more clothed in the colder areas, but it’s all the same. There are some very cool battles in the game, for instance fighting a Balrog is just awesome for the fans of the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien.
To sum up my review of Shadow of War, it’s still an awesome game that’s really built on its Nemesis system which is just greatly improved and really nice to play with. However, there isn’t as much new stuff in the game as I would have liked. This does not take away the fact that there are hours of fun and a new story to go through. Even though they are a bit loose with the lore of the Lord of the Rings. The controversial microtransactions can just perfectly be ignored, you would just be paying to spend less time playing the game, which seems a bit counterproductive. Shadow of War is very powerful and deserves to be played by the fans of the first game and new players alike.