Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Reviews

  • Funeral-WindFuneral-Wind178,357
    06 Oct 2014
    13 0 6
    It finally happened LOTR fans! A game worthy of the license. They have been making LOTR/Hobbit games since the early 80's and while there has been some memorable titles nothing really lived up to the books (and later Peter Jackson's film adaptations). Something was missing in the way of expanding the universe and taking bold risks. I'm happy to say Shadow of Mordor does that and more.

    Without ruining the story (Which is excellent) the game lets players explore Mordor and Orcish society to a degree never done before. In the films Orcs are somewhat down played in intelligence (Evidenced by only a handful of lines in the trilogy) SoM explores them fully. Instead of a mindless barbarian horde they are portrayed more like ancient man. They are brutal, cunning and adhere to a strict hierarchy of survival of the fittest. Our protagonist is tasked with manipulating each of these facets to turn enemy against enemy in a epic tale of revenge and intrigue. Sauron himself is not only a major plot point but actually has depth as a character himself which is unheard of until this point.

    Gameplay is a very smooth mixture of Assassins Creed meets Batman: Arkham City. But don't expect to be bored as innovation is aplenty here. Combat and Stealth blend perfectly and each mission in the game offers the player to approach it however they like. Will you go in rambo style? Stealth? Or maybe you're a prep master and want to build your own army first. All these are viable strategies for most of the games challenges.

    I'm also going to touch on the most important feature of the game "Nemesis". Basically it's a system that generates a infinite amount of unique bosses, rivals and even allies for you to take on in a open ended war for Mordor. I had epic confrontations and personal rivalries (That I took seriously) with NPC's unique to my own game. Each encounter you have with enemies in this game leaves a lasting impact on the world itself. This is extremely unique and I fully expect it to be copied and improved upon in the gaming world for years to come.


    Story: A unique Middle Earth experience unlike anything else. You will meet new characters and a few old favorites as the gap between the Hobbit and LOTR is explained. Talion might seem like the usual anti-hero but he's not alone. His "Partner" is anything but typical and his past is a major revelation.

    Sound: Everything from the music to the voice acting is superb.

    Mechanics: While it borrows from other games it is unique enough to stand out. The stealth and combat are very satisfying and the Nemesis system makes this a title that delivers far beyond it's completion time.

    Polish: I observed no game ending glitches or crashes. The attention to detail from the devs is obvious.


    Camera: While it's functional I felt the camera works against you in large scale battles and to a lesser degree stealth. Often my character was lost in the crowd as I fought off 30+ Orcs at the same time or it impeded my view at a strange angle and I was discovered by a patrol.

    Graphics: Don't get me wrong they are gorgeous but I feel the character models could have been a bit more crisp. It's not quite on the level of Destiny or even Killzone so it's more in the middle of the pack visually speaking.

    Trials of War: I feel like this was a tacked on mode. The campaign itself is designed to be constantly evolving so why add a generic challenge mode? A co-op mode featuring the two protagonists would have been more interesting. Even Beyond Two Souls offered this.

    Conclusion: Shadow of Mordor is the game LOTR fans have dreamed of since the 80's. If your a fan of open world action adventure games that offer great combat, stealth and a great setting then you just might be in heaven. (Did I just refer to Mordor as Heaven?)

    Overall score: 9.5/10
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    boldfox85Oh fantastic. I may have to get this soon. It really is shocking how few amazing LotR games are out.
    Posted by boldfox85 on 06 Oct 14 at 11:24
    BigFriendlyGeekBang on. It's a fantastic game, a genuinely pleasant surprise after the disappointments of so-called AAA-titles like Watch_Dogs (which I liked, but not as much as I wanted to) and Destiny (which I found rather dull and uninspiring).

    Can I point out one niggle in your review? In the conclusion, you saying "if your a fan..." and it should be "if you're a fan...". Other than that, great review!
    Posted by BigFriendlyGeek on 07 Oct 14 at 10:38
    Funeral-WindI agree with that statement. It's probably the second best game on PS4 right now behind The Last of Us remastered.
    Posted by Funeral-Wind on 15 Oct 14 at 19:12
  • ExtremePhobiaExtremePhobia170,313
    24 Nov 2014
    4 0 1
    In the first five minutes of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the main character Talion is murdered. The proceedings aren't particularly unique from other stories, but much like the rest of the game, the delivery is full of heart, and it's hard not to care about what's happening. This powerful beginning starts off the games similarly powerful adventure.

    ME:SoM Logo

    As the name suggests, the entirety of the game takes place in the land of Mordor. A good understanding of Middle-earth and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien are not necessary, but a passing familiarity is assumed, as the story frequently references "The Dark Lord" and "Gondor" without giving you context as to what they are. As long as you have a vague recollection of seeing The Lord of the Rings movies or reading the books at some point, you'll likely have no problem enjoying the game.

    Review 8

    When Talion awakens after being killed, he finds that he has been cursed and is bound to a wraith. The only way for him to find peace is to exact his revenge and kill those responsible. Luckily, being bound to a wraith gives Talion abilities well beyond those of most mortal men such as the ability to jump great distances, drain energy from his enemies to use as ethereal arrows, or even control the minds of the terrible orcs that inhabit Mordor.

    Review 9

    The story is nestled somewhere between Bilbo finding the One Ring in The Hobbit and Sauron's return to power in The Lord of the Rings. While the story could have been bland, the voice acting in most cases are top notch and add some weight. The dialog between the wraith and Talion in particular is interesting, and grows organically from tense companions bickering over what to do next to trusted allies discussing if even the cruel orcs deserve to have their wills subverted and enslaved. Other characters such as an ex-Ranger deserter trying to save his wife or a jolly Dwarven hunter are similarly well acted, and fit perfectly with the themes of Talion's journey.

    Review 3

    If there's one fault in the story, it's that it has a few issues with pacing. While the story can span as much as 15 hours, much of that time is spent manipulating the Nemesis System to get orcs in place for a big mission. While this is hardly a poor use of your time, the story missions tend to be rushed through in rapid succession before being interrupted by several hours of largely unrelated gameplay. This happens twice in the game before the two biggest missions creating a huge drop in momentum just before the climax.

    The game doesn't appear to openly conflict with the lore of Middle-earth, though the idea of a wraith and man being bound together may be stretching it for some ardent fans. Interestingly, much of the magic in Tolkien's works revolve around magical items, and growing in power requires you to seek out certain artifacts that help the wraith remember who he was. Shadow of Mordor has more than enough tiny details like this to make it feel like part of that same world, and it may even encourage people to seek out more information about the Tolkien universe.

    Review 1

    And so Talion sets off for revenge, using his new found abilities. The most important and interesting of these is his ability to dominate the wills of the orcs. At first, Talion will only be able to suck information from the minds of his enemies to gain an understanding of orc society and how it can be manipulated. Later in the game, these powers evolve, allowing Talion to impose his will on them, and form an orc army of his own by controlling their captains.

    Review 5

    Mind controlling enemies could have easily been a gimmick, but like much of the game, it shines as a labor of love. Under the hood, the Nemesis System creates unique identities for each of the captains in the game. As you gain intel, you'll be able to discover the name, location, and attributes of these enemies. Each orc will have strengths, fears, and weaknesses to avoid and exploit, such as being able to deflect ranged attacks or becoming anxious when one of their orc rivals are nearby. Learning this system and manipulating it to your own ends is not just rewarding, but incredibly empowering as well.

    Review 6

    Each orc will have different looks, scars, hair styles, armor, names, and more. As time passes, each of them will form rivalries, assassinate enemies, and attempt to climb to the position of Warchief on their own. Any time an orc succeeds in something, they grow in power, presenting a tougher opponent in the future. Even your own death plays into the system as orcs that succeed in killing you will grow in power and might be promoted to a vacant captain position, creating a new threat to deal with.

    Review 7

    As with many great gameplay experiences in recent years, the best part of this system is how it creates emergent gameplay experiences. In one instance early on, I set up an attempt to assassinate a captain so that I could elevate one of my minions to a better position. Without looking, I attacked, only to have a nearby captain jump to his aid. After a grueling battle with the two captains, I finally succeeded. Battle scarred, I slowly walked away in search of herbs to heal only to be ambushed by a third captain. Without knowing, I fled past a scaly wolf-like creature the captain was afraid of. The captain ran away, and about a minute later, I was informed that the creature had caught up with the captain and killed him.

    Really, the only nagging flaw with the system is that when you run into a captain, they tend to taunt Talion in a short cinematic that is unskippable. While these segments last only a couple of seconds and tend to be pretty varied, the fact that all of the orcs sound the same and perform the same animations can be momentarily jarring or even irritating. That said, every other aspect of the system is so varied that even after more than 20 hours of play, only a few partial duplicates have appeared and it's more likely to make you wonder if perhaps a particular name is just a popular one among orcs than it is to pull you out of the game.

    Review 4

    The combat itself is nothing to shake a stick at either. Fans of the Batman: Arkham series will feel right at home with this combat system. While some of the special abilities might differ, such as the ability to convert enemies to your side mid-battle, the execution is almost identical. Enemies will give tells when they are about to attack allowing you to hit a button to counter. If you manage to continue striking enemies without getting hit, your combo counter will increase, allowing the execution of special attacks. Finding your flow in combat is very satisfying, and the only major issue is that the camera can occasionally wind up facing a terrible angle or behind a wall in tight spaces.

    With the drastic difference in setting from Arkham, much of the navigation and stealth involves a fair amount of parkour very similar to Assassin's Creed, albeit a fair bit clumsier. Climbing structures is largely competent, but sometimes Talion will come to broken sections of wall or archways that seem to completely break his ability to climb. Talion's running speed is a bit on the slow side at first, but certain powers and eventually the ability to ride beasts add some speed, while fast travelling takes only a few seconds once the fast travel points are unlocked.

    Review 10

    Mordor itself is an interesting enough place, though forgettable in some ways. The art style is does well enough showing what this land would have looked like at some point before The Fellowship of the Ring. The various locations you visit tend not to feel too repetitive, but they do tend to lack identity. Barring a few very large strongholds, it's hard to get your bearings based on your surroundings. While the environments aren't the best ever, they are certainly detailed in their own way and occasionally pretty atmospheric.

    Review 2

    Much of the game's trophies involve either story completion or the various side activities that we've come to expect from this style of open world game. There are sets of challenges revolving around your three weapons that are fun enough as well as the prerequisite assortment of collectibles which provide backstory on Middle-earth. Most of these are pretty easy, especially if you've already completed the game and have an understanding of the mechanics. The Hunting and Survival Challenges may be the most time consuming as they have you tracking down particular herbs and creatures that are generated semi-randomly across Mordor. Aside from that are a collection of interesting trophies that have you doing things like dying by the hands of a generic orc to promote him to captain, helping him get to Warchief, and then killing him. All told, the story can be completed in probably 15-20 hours while the other trophies may take you an additional 10-15 to complete.

    Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor makes no effort to hide the influences behind its gameplay, and has a somewhat cookie cutter story at times, but these aren't necessarily flaws when the execution is handled so well. When a game manages to build on the foundations of other games and stories in such a way, it's hard to not wish for more, and exciting to think of where a sequel might go.

    The reviewer spent 35.5 hours playing the game, unlocking all 52 of the game's trophies. The reviewer used his own personal copy of the game for this review.
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