This has been one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to do in a while, but that’s not a bad thing.
Rather than be handed an easy to play, easy to win, easy to complete game, Shadow of Mordor threw me completely off kilter. I expected your run of the mill hack-n-slash game with a few thrown in special abilities to make me feel like an orc slaying mother trucker. Instead I was challenged, annoyed, frustrated but ultimately rewarded.
The works of Tolkien are somewhat sacred grounds for fans of The Lord of The Rings series, so to attempt a fresh game that takes place within the already established lore took some balls, great big swinging gargantuan balls. Get it right and you’ve conquered the hardcore fans, get it wrong and you’ll no doubt feel the wrath of the Tolkien’s faithful fellowship.
Thankfully Monolith seem to have done themselves well with Shadow of Mordor. They’ve crafted a story that blends seamlessly within the franchise with the game’s setting tucked neatly between the events of The Hobbit and the following stories in The Lord of The Rings. It doesn’t interfere with what is considered the standard canon, though it does throw in a couple of surprises that offer a knowing nod to the future of the fictional universe.
You’re character is Talion, a Ranger (somewhat akin to Aragorn) who is brutally murdered, only to be revived and given Wraith-like powers. It does go against the grain somewhat, but I was willing to let it slide so long as it worked to the games advantage. I’m glad I did too, because damn it’s fun being Talion!
Remember that “one does not simply walk into Mordor?” Erm, yeah, you kinda do. Being a big fan of story driven games, I want to tell you all about the great moments in the game, but my good conscience is telling me to shut the hell up and let you find out for yourself. I will tell you that it’s certainly worthy and holds the source material up to the light in order to keep consistent. It’s a fantastically told tale, something that is becoming a bit of a scarcity these days. You’re journey with Talion will see you take on the highs and lows of life after death, the conflicts that Talion struggles with and such. It’s easy enough to give you a powerful character and let you loose on a swarm of dithering foes, but it’s real talent that lends you the sword of the man and challenges you to die many times, because you will die, lots.
It’s not that the deaths are tiresome, but they actually affect the gameplay. One of the touted features in Shadow of Mordor is the Nemesis System, whereby if you decide to burn the face of some bad guy early on in the game, you may encounter that very same ugly dude later on and he won’t be best pleased to see you, and it’s pretty much the same in reverse. If you are killed by an enemy, you’ll come across him again at some point and he’ll be stronger, forcing you to adapt your tactics and not just go in all guns blaz-, arrows flying? Swords swinging? You get the picture.
It’s a nice system that works pretty well for the most part, it keeps things fresh and you are rewarded and punished accordingly for your actions, so there’s a bit of thinking required. It’s a truly next-gen feature that just isn’t possible on the PS3 and Xbox 360, so whilst it will be present in the current-gen versions of the game, expect it to be scaled back.
Leveling up Talion is as simple as smashing your sword into enemy skulls. You’ll be awarded skills and such to upgrade your Wraith abilities, giving you even more power, strategies and most of all – fun! It’s not too daunting a task to level up your character as the RPG elements will be familiar to most players, that and they’re pretty easy to assign.
It’s hard to ignore the similarities with Assassin’s Creed, but they are there. Shadow of Mordor is set in an open-world where your player can free-run, climb and assassinate foes from the air. Sound familiar? Of course it does, I could be describing Assassin’s Creed, but that’s where the similarities end. For arguments sake you could compare Call of Duty and Battlefield, but we all know they are two completely different games but use a lot of the same game mechanics. The same holds true with Shadow of Mordor and Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed billed itself as a stealth-action series, but Shadow of Mordor takes the reign in this respect. The ability to go into open combat or approach from the flanks is nothing new, but Shadow of Mordor allows you to actively sneak at any time, not just when the game allows it. There’s a dedicated sneak mode that allows quick movements whilst being a stealthy bugger, something the Assassin’s Creed series is only implementing with Assassin’s Creed Unity, though why it hasn’t been around longer is anybody’s guess.
I don’t want to get hung up on comparisons too long, every game can be compared to another so I’ve taken Shadow of Mordor as what it is; a game that borrows features from other titles, but is its own game.
The game world is, as you would come to expect from anything Lord of The Rings related, astounding. The graphical fidelity is truly next-gen. It’s actually hard to believe that Mordor could look so nice. Yeah, even with great big ugly bitches running around trying to kill you, the world is heavy populated and is a joy to explore. I found myself wandering around one area for about ten minutes, just taking in the details. I’m a sucker for the little things.
That being said, as good as the PS4 version looked (I’ve not tried out the PC or Xbox One versions, though I’m sure they are more or less on par) it’s gotten me a bit apprehensive over the PS3/Xbox 360 version that I’ll be reviewing very soon. Why? Because once you’ve tasted cream why would you go back to milk?
Disclaimer: This review was conducted on the PS4 with a copy of the game bought by the reviewer. Warner Bros. did not pay for any endorsement nor did they threaten us with concrete shoes if we gave the game a low review score.
Have you played Shadow of Mordor yet? What did you think of it? Let us know down in the comments section below.
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