For starters, I can vouch that this review is written with a clear and unbiased mind, despite of the fact that I am not a big fan of “lord of the rings”. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the Peter Jackson trilogy, but I guess that was it for me. I will admit to reading the “The Silmarillion” cover to cover, even though I failed to understand half of it. Duh…
Let’s accept this with an open mind that J.R.R Tolkien’s universe has mesmerised a multitude of admirers, and surprisingly has easily managed to become the inspiration for many video games. Not to mention, about 20 video games have been produced on this concept, ever since the Rings trilogy was publicly announced.
However, the response to those games hasn’t been as impressive as was expected by the general audience. To my amusement, the history of Lord of the rings in video games is as complicated and complex as the story line itself. Having said that, I do appreciate the work done in another one of Tolkien’s ventures; Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Keeping the cost in mind, I think Shadow of Mordor has the capacity to become one of the biggest games of 2014. Although this game has its own set of flaws, however, it still manages to keep you captivated with its action packed animation.
The game starts with you as Talion, a Ranger from Gondor, at the verge of calling it a day. The game eventually develops into Tailon’s quest to strike vengeance upon the army of Sauron, which has somehow cursed him to roam Mordor in the form of an Elvish Wraith soul. In other words you are part wayward spirit, which is kind of cool as it makes you immortal-ish, and part human.
The movie itself saw excellent costume work and make-up design of the Middle-earth’s ugliest creatures. We saw the Orcs and Uruks with their weird faces, and limited vocabulary – seems as if their motto of life is to eat, drink and kill men.
However, to add to the adrenaline rush, Talion is the only non-slave man left in Mordor. So basically you have every Captain and war chief in the land trying their best to impale you with a flaming sword or a pointy battle axe.
The creativity of this game centres on these creatures and successfully captures the intricate details to them. This is one of the things which make you want to go and play the game again, only to track down these enemies, just like a child’s obsession to a bunch of candies. The best part of the game is how well articulated the enemies are against you, which will be explained in a bit.
On a broader perspective, this game isn’t like your normal open-world games, and you might find some similarities between this game and Assassins Creed. Perhaps I should have said, “a hairline level of similarity between SoM and Assassins Creed.” The map which you are using is basically torn apart from several places and is anchored by a tower. Once you activate a tower, a set of collectibles and side missions are unlocked on the map, which is a regular method in games these days.
We will find the main objective of Shadow of Mordor in two layers. Talion needs to complete 20 main story missions along with conquering Sauron’s army of Captains and War chiefs; the autonomous bodies of this game. That’s where the fun begins, plotting and scheming against these powerful characters. And it’s not just the lust of slaying them, but how you have to think through, considering the personality, memories and unique behavior of each character.
When you come face to face with a Captain or a War chief, the game itself gets in to the mode where you find yourself in this tangled web of difficulties. Get this; war chiefs even have bodyguards to protect them. When one emerges, you can hear the entire stronghold chanting his name, creating an effect which stimulates the magnitude of your enemies. In addition to that, if the battle doesn’t go your way, considering you lose, the opponent will remember this instance and is likely to remind you of this in the beginning of next battle.
When I approached a Uruk Captain whom I had previously fought with, he seemed to have retreated like a coward just because I had blown up a nearby camp fire which had burnt him pretty viciously. When swords clattered again, the chanting had an effect of, “that’ll be the last time you set me aflame!” and all I could think off was “Oh boy! This guy clearly remembers the last time we had a fight, and he surely isn’t happy about it”. But yes, was I impressed!
And folks, this is why playing Shadow of Mordor is so much fun. It just gives this realistic feel to the game, and the emotional attachment makes you feel so proud that you have finally taken the guy down!
To add to this marvel, Talion has the power to “brand” Captains and War chiefs, bending their strategy to a point where they betray their hierarchy. This gives you the flexibility to design your own campaign against the enemy, by conspiring from within and driving the ambitious soldiers against each other.
Coming back to the nitty grittys, Talion is going to need a lot of stealth while maneuvering to find his way. However, I figured that as I levelled up and unlocked lots more perks, the fight against several enemies at the same time was much easier to go with.
Since Talion is bound to a Wraith soul, he has the power to make use of the time-slowing Bow and enter Wraith mode to see enemies through walls and uncover hidden items. The continuity of character advancement leaves you feeling content. Half way through the game, I started to realise how powerful I was becoming, and my strategy changed accordingly; from defensive to offensive. The sense of empowerment which it gives you is simply amazing.
But of course as you move on, there are a number of bow and dagger attacks which you would need to master. The combat has certain common points with the Batman: Arkham games, with a particular button for countering and dual-button hits for special moves.
Although there are many things which I absolutely adored about the game, but there were points of frustration too. Controlling Talion can be tricky at times, especially when you’re in the defensive mode.
During few instances, I found camera movement to be annoyingly troublesome, particularly whenever I was cornered with a stronghold. The frame rate is often budging when there are a lot of characters present onscreen at once, especially if you’re to blow them up.
But quite amazingly, the list of pros in this game is quite short. You will find this game to be highly entertaining, filled with state of the art effects and animation, with a powerful story line and details to garnish.