First Thoughts on Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor finally hit the streets last week and the world finally got its chance to test out the Nemesis system that’s been all the rage online leading up to this launch. I picked up the game last Tuesday and so far have been really impressed by what they’ve achieved with this storied license.
Shadow of Mordor takes place between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and revolves around an all-new ranger character named Talion. The story starts with Talion and his family being slain by Uruks (orcs) and he now finds himself reincarnated and bound to the spirit of another long dead warrior. The two set out for revenge on the clan leader called ‘The Black Hand of Sauron’ but must first learn his identity and location through killing and interrogating his underlings.
Throughout this journey the two come across many of the captains and warchiefs that work for the Blank Hand which leads in to the function of the Nemesis system. The Nemesis system tracks each of the leaders in the hierarchy and their successes or failures against you and the other Uruks. When a leader is defeated, another is promoted in his place, and if they are successful in defeating you, they gain their own notoriety in the world. This all leads to unique experiences for everyone that plays the game; literally no two playthroughs are exactly the same.
The rest of the game actually ends up being pretty standard fare by blending elements from a handful of other very successful franchises. The world and combat feel very similar to Assassin’s Creed in that you are free to move through all of the axis of travel. Talion is able to scale most surfaces and vault over anything that gets in his way, there’s also tons of sidequests and collectables to grab along the way.
Combat borrows a lot from AC and also the Batman: Arkham games. Most fights are between you and a half dozen Uruks at a time, but are easily managed through familiar ‘point-to-fight’ mechanics and well communicated counter attack opportunities. As you land successful attacks and counters you have access to multiple finishing moves as well as the ability to drain ability points or interrogate your foes.
It’s through these interrogations of the Uruks that you find out details on the leaders of the clan. You can select which mystery Uruk you want more info on and the rat advises of their individual strengths and weaknesses. These details give you insight in to how to best assault your target; details like he’s weak against ranged attacks or animal attacks, even what they’re afraid of. It will also outline their better defended areas as well; which will explain why your arrows are bouncing off their head when your thought your little sniper plan was so great…
Overall the game does a lot of things really well. The graphics are really impressive with lots of detail and a great view distance. Also, all of the Uruk leaders are completely unique and even the standard generic orcs have a ton of variety in their appearance. It’s been a great game so far though it’s not without a few little issues.
There are a lot of times where I get hung up on the edge of a wall or other object and can’t really move in the direction I intended, and the climbing and fighting are a little over simplified in my eyes. Talion looks funny and doesn’t carry any real intimidation factor for me, and I don’t feel like the balance of the open world and enemy density is quite right, but in the end I’ll be seeing this one through to the end for sure!