09242017Headline:

Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor Review The Killing Fields

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By Kamel Benyahia

Let me start this with mentioning that I have never actually stayed awake during a complete Lord of the Rings movie. None of them. That being said, I absolutely loved Monolith’s Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor. This is a pure revenge story that has Talien, one of the legendary rangers of Lord of the Rings lore, slaying every orc in Sauron’s army that is unlucky enough to cross his path. The story is set up after witnessing the murder of Talien and his family. Talien is not allowed to die, meaning he is in a limbo between the world of the living and the dead.

This game is brutal and uses combat mechanics that improve on similar systems seen in recent Batman Arkham titles and Sleeping Dogs. You will find yourself surrounded by enemies frequently, but Talien’s seamless transitions from quick strikes to parrying blows are instantaneous as long as you time your inputs correctly. Small skirmishes can quickly turn into large battles with impossible odds as orc captains and war chiefs join the fray.

This brings up the most interesting feature of Shadows of Mordor, the nemesis system, which creates an ever-evolving orc chain of command. Talien will come across orc captains and eventually war chiefs that will carry ongoing rivalries with the ranger. Every battle Talien has with one of these orcs has repercussions. If the ranger loses, even to an unranked grunt, the orc will level up and receive their own unique look. A victory over a captain or war chief allows you to upgrade Talien’s gear and abilities.

The story is serviceable, Smeagol the Gollum makes a few appearances along with other familiar references to Lord of the Rings lore for fans of the movies and books. I was distracted quite a bit from the story considering how easy it is to pick a fight with a horde of patrolling orcs. If I lost a fight, I would feel compelled to hunt down the orc and get my revenge.

The game looks good for next gen, but doesn’t hold up to other blockbuster titles like Destiny or Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. The combat animations, however, are beautifully orchestrated executions, bone-crunching techniques, and more Tarantino-worthy blood-soaked decapitations than the whole French Revolution.

The map is a decent size for a sandbox style game like this, and the fast travel system makes it easy to get around the map. With plenty of side quests and missions to unlock upgrades for your weapons, the game gives you plenty to do between story missions.

I would strongly recommend this game to Lord of the Rings fans and general fans of open-world action games. The combat is brutally satisfying and the game mechanics are simple and intuitive.

 

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