Name: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Entertainment
Released: 10, October 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Acquired: This review is based on a self bought copy of the game
Shadow of Mordor sneaked itself into the market with a huge positive surprise back in 2014. And the sequel Shadow of War is much like it with a little more content. But can they live up the hype? Especially now with all of the marketing this game has received before launch.
Okay, let’s just get this subject out of the way instantly; the lore. Yes both Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War has some topics a hardcore Tolkien fan might wonder about. And without spoiling to much of the new sequel I will try to explain a few. “Lore breaking” such as the most obvious one is the new ring who pretty much is an inverted version of the ring most of us know from The Lord of Rings books and movies. Shelob (A huge spider) is not a sexy women in a sexy black dress. But as for both the new ring and Shelob, this is something that I can live with. As for a not-named (in this review for not spoiling to much) wraith is something I truly do have some problem figuring out of what I feel. Not that all of the lore breaking stuff that I mention nor the topics that I didn’t mention ruins the game or story, I can see why they did what they did and for the people who isn’t a hardcore fan of the lore might not even see it.
Shadow of War begins with the ancient elf lord Celebrimbor (ringmaker) and Talion a ranger from Gondor forging a new Ring of Power, and then immediately loses it. During the story we meet up with Shelob, the Witch King, Sauron himself, Balrog and even more familiar characters. Even though some of the dialogue might feel a little drawn out or clunky, there are some strong and funny moments as well. Me personally found Shadow of War’s story intriguing and funny, there are some depth into the new characters and old ones. And the story keeps me wanting more of this universe / version of Middle-Earth.
(Even with the lore breaking and wrong year of the foundation of Minas Morgul – they actually say is several hundreds years later than J.R.R Tolkien suggested)
Let’s start off with the positive of Shadow of Wars graphics. Overall the game looks amazing, each region is not to big so you won’t be overwhelmed of tons empty environments. And you can spot the difference between regions easily, icy mountains, swamps, forest, volcanic is just a few of them.
But if we’re taking a little closer look, there might be a few things that can take your attention. Some of the lightning work isn’t quite finished on some areas, some stone walls looks more like they was imported from a remastered version of Minecraft, and other textures as well. Overall that didn’t bother me, as the graphics is stunning except for one thing that truly did bother me. And that was the facial animations, I can’t exactly put a finger on it and say what is wrong with it, but there is something weird going on there.
The Batman / Assassin’s Creed combat system is back it again, one button to counter, one to attack and another to dodge. For me this works perfectly, and it is almost a dream coming true from what I expect from a Middle-Earth game. Every single open world games struggles to keep players interested and tries not to be too much repetitive, and it was here Monolith added their Nemesis system to Shadow of Mordor. Shadow of War doubles that down ensuring anything can happen during a mission or just free roaming the world. Ambush, betrayals, and much more can happen. A simple grunt can suddenly become your new antagonist, every player’s story is different.
Approximately the first five to six hours of the game might work as a tutorial or recap to get you familiar with the game mechanics. One thing I found annoying is that sometimes the AI of your companions might be a little confusing, and by that I mean regarding mission where you’re prompted to follow them. They want you to run / jog behind them, and then suddenly they jumped left, and then right and stopped, and then back again, make up your mind already!
The best part of Shadow of War is the nemesis system, character building (orcs / uruks part), each and every one has their own set of abilities, voices, and armors. I still keep seeing new elements after well over 30 hours gameplay. Killing warchiefs, dominating orcs to add to your own army is crucially satisfying. And the adrenaline rush I keep getting every single time I prepare my assault to an enemy fortress is extremely fun.
You can earn ingame currency in Shadow of War, and sadly you can pay up real money for ingame gold to use in the market. But luckily even though you can get Epic or Legendary orcs to add to your ranks, they do not matter regarding an online conquest or something like that. I won’t say it is pay to win there, but the microtransactions is there and that’s bad..
But one thing that might keep players coming back for more Shadow of War is acquiring different gear sets. You can find rare, epic and even legendary gear pieces that you can use. And each one has their own challenge to do, if you want to upgrade them, some of them even have special abilities. Such as bringing back dead orcs to fight alongside you in the battle.
Leveling up your orcs in fight pits (almost like sending your orcs in a Pokemon fight) and then attacking high level fortresses. Collecting different type of collectibles in each region, there is tons of stuff to do even after the endgame. And more is about to come in future expansions.
The controls is easy to learn, and if you’re familiar with the Batman series and or the Assassin’s Creed series, then the combat and climbing system will feel pretty much the same. Even a few tricky combinations or other types of special attacks aren’t that hard to learn as well.
Shadow of War is bigger and even more ambitious than Shadow of Mordor, and Monolith does an great job. The nemesis system far greater and fortress sieges makes it even better. The story itself is great and intriguing besides some of the lore breaking. Taking that aside does Shadow of War deliver a fun game with tons of stealth, combat and warfare with glorious killing moves. If you love the Middle-Earth universe I would dare to say that you’re up for a good 40-50 hours of gameplay at least.
+ Fluid combat system
+ Nemesis system and army building
+ Voice acting / soundtrack
– Micro transactions
– Some “muddy” textures
Replay Value: 9/10
Total score: 9/10