Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

A dark and treacherous realm

It is no secret to anyone that interactive incarnations of Tolkien’s legacy have been appearing on our screens in various forms, from children’s arcades to MMORPGs, for about thirty years now. And it would all be fine, if only five or six out of the thirty-something products were of good quality. So no one paid much attention to Monolith Productions’ intention to make their own contribution to virtual Middle-earth. And that was a mistake.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor tells the story of Sauron’s forces invading the lands of Mordor. Under the hot hand of the Dark Lord’s generals, the ranger Talion falls into their hands, and he and his family are promptly executed by the villains. All hopes of reuniting with his loved ones in the afterlife are shattered when the spirit of an elven lord possesses Talion, and the tracker is condemned to eternal resurrection. The heroes have no choice but to embark on a quest to find their tormentors, albeit unwillingly.

Whether you like it or not, the plot takes a backseat here. The story of ruthless revenge is expressed through twenty short missions with a series of the most banal events and characters of concentrated stereotypicality. Nevertheless, you don’t feel much indignation about it, as the authors chose a minimally covered period of fictional history, and Talion’s adventures are accompanied by various memories, notes, and diaries from that time. Players familiar with the universe will have a unique chance to delve into an unexplored time period and gather tons of intriguing information, while others will have an excellent foundation for the activities offered.

Epic battles in Middle-earth

We will give change, of course, with the help of a reliable blade. Shadow of Mordor openly borrows mechanics from Assassin’s Creed and the Batman Arkham series, which makes it easy to get used to here – a matter of a couple of minutes. Our protégé skillfully jumps through impregnable fortresses and wields a sword just as skillfully, deflecting orc attacks and making counterattacks. Each successful hit in battle increases the combo counter, at a certain level of which special abilities can be used. Quoting prominent colleagues sometimes turns into shameless repetition of other people’s ideas in different settings. At least, that’s what you think until the first enemy general appears.

As is known, the main feature of the project is the Nemesis system. Designed to breathe life into the game world, it creates a dynamic hierarchy in Sauron’s army. Formally, “Nemesis” is presented in the menu as a field with several rows of commanders and leaders, each with their own appearance, thoughts, set of character traits, and subordinates. The dynamics consist of a constant struggle for power: brave commanders often die at the hands of their comrades vying for a higher rank, they stage coups and betray. In general, enemies exist perfectly well without the player, but the player’s intervention makes everything even more interesting.

Leading the charge against evil

Only a direct clash with one of the generals on the map demonstrates the practical application of the above-mentioned delicacies. If the information about the opponent indicated that he is afraid of fire, then he really retreats from the battlefield when he sees a bonfire nearby. Another, for example, becomes fierce at the sight of blood, so it is better to eliminate him quickly and quietly. Someone does not panic at all, someone is invulnerable to long-range attacks – there are so many small hooks that different characters and, accordingly, tactics of resistance are formed from them.

The consequences of battles also play a big role. Every military achievement affects the strength of the enemy. This applies both to generals, advancing through victories in their career, and to ordinary soldiers. Absolutely any “six” can get the upper hand over you, after which, with a triumphant cry, it will take its place among Sauron’s entourage and acquire a personal model of behavior.

A merciless warrior

Roughly in the middle, by the way, Talion learns to recruit enemies to his side, inserting his “representatives” into orc feuds. Meanwhile, the game literally opens up a second wind, and the waning interest ignites with renewed force.

Actually, Nemesis is what carries the rest of the game. Fortunately, the developers are well aware of this and encourage player freedom. You can step away from the dull plot by engaging in randomly generated missions or collecting artifacts, and the battles are always unique combat sketches. In 20 hours of intensive orc genocide, not a single line of dialogue was repeated, no identical commanders appeared, and it was impossible to defeat all the leaders using the same method.

Monolith wanted to create an original, brutal, and harsh work based on the theme – and they succeeded. However, as a result, all the content is concentrated somewhere on the side of the main storyline, which noticeably leans Shadow of Mordor towards being a “sandbox” rather than a plot-driven adventure. It is difficult to say whether this is good or bad. But it can definitely be said that Nemesis has a great future ahead, which, one hopes, will not be constrained by imitating someone else’s mechanics.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Action, RPG
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Monolith Productions
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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