Middle Earth: Shadow of War
is the long-awaited sequel of the highly acclaimed game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
. So, how does the sequel compare both to the parent game and Tolkien�??s unrivaled fantasy universe? Let�??s find out.
I�??m writing this review under the assumption that anyone reading it has played the original game, so it will be light on story. If you haven�??t played Shadow of Mordor
, what are you waiting for? Go get it so that you can then enjoy its successor.
Shadow of War
continues the story of Talion, a dead Gondorian Ranger, and Celebrimbor, an ancient and extremely powerful wraith who keeps Talion shackled to the world of the living. Continuing from where the previous game left off, Mordor has invaded the rest of Middle Earth and you, the Grave Walker, are working to undermine Sauron and his dark armies.
If you�??ve played Shadow of Mordor
, Shadow of War
will feel very familiar. You�??re playing the same characters with the same control set-up, so it�??s very easy to jump right back into gameplay. Once you�??re in, however, you will find that everything else has changed. Runes have been replaced with gear, and the Nemesis System has been greatly expanded. The level system, too, has been expanded with changeable perks added, and the map system is now a sprawling mass containing collectibles in iconic LOTR locations. While a great deal of new material has to be absorbed, most of the new additions are for the better.
Talion still fights with a sword, dagger, and bow, but instead of upgrading his gear with runes, he now finds new and better equipment. New gear, including armor, is acquired from Orc Captains and Warchiefs, their levels dependent on the enemy you defeat to get them. The base status �?? common, rare, epic, and legendary �?? can further be upgraded with modifiers, such as vendettas and death threats. Some may find the new system grindy, but I love it. It makes perfect use of the Nemesis System, giving one constant motivation to stay on the hunt and providing great rewards for sending death threats to high-level Captains. Gear is further enhanced by a simple but effective gem system that allows you to equip your gear with improvements such as health steal or increased experience gain by simply filling slots with the appropriate gems.
The expanded Nemesis System generates the names of high-level Orc Captains and Warchiefs and their levels. These are powerful variants of ordinary Orcs with particular strengths and weaknesses. Strengths might include the ability to throw bombs or dodge attacks while weaknesses might include vulnerability to stealth or a crippling fear that disables strengths. Epic and legendary enemies are given even stronger traits, such as riding a caragor. The game continuously creates these Orcs with myriad differences and levels, replacing any you kill with a new variation.
While the system does provide a great variety of challenges and rewards, one downside is that you can never �??clear the board,�?� so to speak. A new Orc always rises to replace the ones you�??ve defeated. On the upside, however, it is amazingly satisfying to finally nail that one Captain who has beaten you many times and gloated over it.
Combat is similar to the original game, but it can be very frustrating early on because you have no good way to deal with swarms of Orcs, making it difficult to survive and move forward. Later perks (Fatal Counters in this instance) can be earned, however, to make up combat shortfalls.
The progression system is a mixture of levels, choices, and perks. Divided into multiple categories are skills that can be unlocked at any time provided you have the skill points, which are acquired through levels or challenges. These skills are augmented with perks requiring skill points and specific levels to unlock. For example, well-timed counters can be unlocked at any time with a skill point, but the perk Fatal Counters, which kills, requires you to be level 16. This is the game�??s biggest grind, requiring more and more experience to attain new levels and skill points. Some of the higher-level upgrades, however, are almost blissful in their usefulness, shoring up gaps in combat and making them well worth the effort.
The game�??s graphics are great with fast frame rates and no lag. The developer has done an excellent job of creating Middle Earth and its denizens for the most part though some liberties have been taken. Shelob, for example, can appear as a lovely young maiden, which is not something I remember from Tolkien�??s books. Generally speaking, however, the game is true to its roots.
One other thing that bears mentioning is Talion�??s character design. Talion looks significantly different than he did in the first game. Considering he�??s dead, there�??s really no good explanation for why he�??s changed so much; it�??s not like he�??s aging or beefing up. I found the change in the hero�??s looks off-putting simply because I didn�??t feel like I was fighting with the same person, but one eventually gets used to it. This is a small thing, but it did bother me a bit.
All in all, Middle Earth: Shadow of War
is an excellent game. Any fan of the original title or of the Tolkien universe should be all over this title. Not only does it serve as fitting homage to J.R.R. Tolkien, but it�??s also an enormously entertaining game that would fit beautifully into anyone�??s collection.
Score: 8 out of 10
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Platform: Xbox One and PS4
Written by Vulcan1770