Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Much more than more Mordor.
October 9, 2017 2:47 PM
October 5, 2017 1:00 PM
Asshadow of mordorBefore that, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is much more than just another open-world action game featuring Batman's fight. Its amazing Nemesis system sees nearly every named enemy duke it out in a memorable fight, and the new Keep Sieges give you legs beyond the campaign with asynchronous multiplayer.This story plays with Lord of the Rings lore just as quickly and freely as last time around. It intensifies after the combined spirits of the ancient elf lord Celebrimbor and Aragorn's stunt double Talion forge a new ring of power...and quickly lose it. Their fights, which feature the strangely sexy human form of the giant spider Shelob, the Witch-king, and even Sauron himself (again) feel stretched out and filled with a lot of clunky, derivative dialogue, but there are some strong moments.
Flashbacks to the corruption of the Ringwraiths lend a tragic side to the ghostly Nazgul, battles with the ferocious Balrog are quite the spectacle, and witnessing the founding of Minas Morgul (several hundred years after J.R.R. Tolkien suggested it) are stellar stuff. , if you can, you can put up with the non-canon version of events. A growing conflict between the stoic and pragmatic Celebrimbor and the empathetic and Gondor loyalist Talion gives both characters some depth, though with all the setup I was hoping for a choice between their philosophies that never came. And there are some original characters, notably the returning Ratbag, who offer decent comic relief in the absence of dwarves or hobbits.
Each of the five zones looks distinctly different.
Each region is a respectable size, which means you'll have to run around quite a bit while looking for quest markers, but Talion's moves make moving fast and fun. You quickly start or unlock most of Shadow of Mordor's endgame dash powers, requiring you to work to increase your speed by tapping the dash button while jumping over objects and jumping between grab bars on walls. You'll also get a new must-have double jump ability that allows you to jump longer distances and change directions in the air. I hardly ever jump without it, even if I don't need it, because it feels so good. The problem is that, like most open-world games where you can climb just about anything, there's an annoying tendency to get stuck on the wrong thing or briefly get stuck on a ledge when you're about to roll.
There is a remarkable variety of voices, faces, and types of armor.
Some Uruks get mad at literally anything.
Uruk captains also carry meat pinatas filled with game-changing loot, ranging from a sword that has a chance to set things on fire to armor that actively heals you while on fire. The higher the level of the Uruk you kill, the higher the potential of the fallen team. That makes killing an Uruk Captain instead of brainwashing him and recruiting him into your army an interesting compromise.Each piece of rare, epic or legendary loot comes with a challenge to unlock its most powerful properties: for example, kill X enemies while sitting on a tiger-like Caragor and your sword will suddenly do more damage while your health is low , or Throw Knock enemies off ledges to activate the power of your cloak, allowing your allies to deal more damage in battle. Thanks to these sub-goals, there's always something new to do while you're fighting, and there's always another reward waiting for you. Some of these challenges revolve around absurdly forgiving stealth (you can run right up to an Uruk and backstab it before anyone notices), but most are active and interesting. There's also a Diablo-like gem crafting and allocation system, allowing you to customize your build on any piece of gear to suit your playstyle, with enhanced damage, health, or high-value drop chances.
Dozens of orcs can flood the screen at once.
Knowing when to retreat and finding a way to heal up is key - thanks to Talion's mobility and the relatively slow speed of most Uruks, it's almost always easy to escape when needed. But, especially when you're in tight quarters, Shadow of War is much better at keeping up the pressure than Shadow of Mordor, and the high-level Uruks keep coming, so their fights towards the end are never that easy. Considering it's really impressive and kind of fun to die from the way enemy Uruks level up, that's a pretty good thing. Any nameless Uruk who gets lucky becomes a captain as a reward, and also makes a great target for some satisfying revenge.
Dragons are among the most impressive dragon battles since Skyrim.
Aside from Siege Trolls and Pathfinders, the only other notable new enemies are the Nazgul themselves, who appear as ghosts during boss fights and each require specific moves to make them vulnerable. These fights can get difficult, especially when you're in the middle of a bigger fight where it's hard to focus on countering everything at once.
Fighting Stronghold Overlord is no joke.
Uruks that you loot are essentially loot.
It is in these battles and preparing for them that you will probably spend most of your time with Shadow of War. Campaign missions are in the 15-20 hour range, but again I easily spent that time fighting Uruks to build my armies and running both campaign and online sieges. Plus, there are plenty of challenging quests presented as throwbacks to Celebrimbor's heyday and plenty of collectibles to keep you busy.
Shadow of Mordor takes over the other online feature: if you get killed, other players have a chance to kill the Uruk that killed you, and vice versa. Taking part in one of these vendetta missions is a good way to ensure you get a time-tested challenge - if an Uruk has killed someone, they're usually not pushovers. This is a great way to get some of Shadow of War's somewhat superfluous loot boxes if you want to.With that in mind, a quick word on controversial microtransactions: you can and should completely ignore them. Buying loot boxes is just one way to get loot that doesn't kill Uruks, which is the best thing about Shadow of War. It's particularly weird that they exist because Shadow of War is so engaging that its enemies are basically loot boxes to begin with. So when you buy them, you're basically paying to avoid scratching off the metaphorical lottery ticket, which is the head of an Uruk, to reveal the loot you're about to acquire. Plus, I had more than enough of the in-game silver currency to buy the upgrades I needed (it's used to upgrade gear or unlock commander slots for sieges and defenses), so there was no need or desire to spend a dime. .
Just as Batman: Arkham City was built on top of Arkham Asylum, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is bigger and more ambitious in scope than Shadow of Mordor, with great results. The way he expands the Nemesis system with much greater variety and fortress sieges, he makes even better use of star-spawned characters, and his battles with Uruk's memorable captains remain challenging throughout the campaign and into a intelligent asynchronous multiplayer mode.
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Middle-earth: Shadow of War
The production of the monolith
Review of Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Middle-earth: Shadow of War expands on the already strong action and variety of Shadow of Mordor in many great ways.Dan Stapleton