Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

Just put these four things together: an Open world RPG, intricate combat / parkour controls, a touch of Dark Souls II and a Lord of the Rings backdrop…  Doesn’t that sound nice, like something you’d really like to test drive?  Well, it’s certainly the sort of concept that LOTR and role-playing sandbox fans have been eagerly asking to see for the last decade or so.  Yeah, I’m hinting at the fact this could very well in fact be THAT game.  Ok, well, I’ll just be blunt – that IS this game indeed.

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There are so many neat little elements which seem to seamlessly fit together into a patchwork of rustic digital goodness, all amidst open vistas.  Translation: this is probably going to be a fairly memorable experience, both one that will challenge you as well as ignite your exploration instincts.  Somehow, even more amazingly, developers Monolith Productions and Behaviour Interactive have managed to turn out a completely original story as well.  The fact that it is actually of a decent quality in terms of its narrative and not just some throwaway story also adds a great deal of polish.

Aside from its monumentally awesome and inspired conglomeration of gameplay ideas, Shadow of Mordor possesses some really great graphics too.  The lighting, models, levels, shadows, frame rate, movements and voice acting are all top notch.  This is all delivered inside of mapped out areas which, while not large in a purely “Skyrim-like” sense, are definitely big enough to explore without feeling like you’re completely lost.  Likewise, each section of the map tries to do its own thing, offering the sort of diversity that you’d want in a game of this type.  Visually, it’s just hard not to draw comparisons to the Assassin’s Creed series, which isn’t a bad thing at all.  Little touches in the way your character moves, jumps, grapples, or even the style of the map just scream “Black Flag” to me.   Again, however, don’t interpret this as any kind of knock on the game, but rather yet another reason to pick it up.  It seems as though the parties responsible for the direction of the LOTR video game franchise are really stepping things up a bit.

It should be noted that this game requires your attention and might even challenge you more than a fair bit.  Now, if you’re the type of pure-blooded gamer who hears something like this and affirms “oh yeah, time to ascend mount Olympus and play hero again, yay, my favorite thing to do” (imagining all the exploits you’ll have) then all will be fine.   However, if your aims are more casual or perhaps not as entrenched in fantasy RPG lore, you might have a bit of a bad / hard time.  Aside from that, it’s really difficult to bash this game in any serious way, it seems like the devs really tried to reach out with this one and deliver a very special game that’s rife with opportunities and possibilities.  Even more surprisingly, this one just seemed to have came out of nowhere, suddenly appearing and apt to gain a massive cult following.

Hands down however, the thing that will undoubtedly draw many more fans to this title has to be its combat system.  Aside from the somewhat easy to grasp basic controls, which include direct attacks and grappling as well as countering, you can unleash your wraith abilities upon enemies. This, when used in tandem with dagger-throwing and a solid sense of CQC, ends up lending you a variety of methods for dispatching baddies with style.  Even better, as you progress and begin to level up your character, you can add various upgrades to the skill tree which will grant new abilities, some of which are disturbingly brutal and efficient.  Being able to decapitate a large orc in one slice while simultaneously dodging and countering other attackers is every bit as awesome as you can imagine.

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Shadow of Mordor really feels like an incredibly detailed game, whereas older LOTR titles teneded to focus mostly on basic hack and slash mechanics.  Within this game you have a certain level of nuance you can execute, which ends up making the entire gameplay experience feel much richer indeed.  It is highly recommended that all RPG fans and adventure-seeking PlayStation 4 owners definitely pick up Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor as soon as possible.  The simple truth is that it brings alive the Tolkien universe like no other game I can think of right now, while at the same time merging a number of well-known gameplay elements from other series.  You’ll find a bit of Elder Scrolls, a dollop of Assassin’s Creed, as well as a similar feel to Dark Souls I or II.  Don’t’ get the wrong idea though; they’ve done a wonderful job of making each element their own here and finding ways to splice everything together into one cohesive model.

Rating – 8.6

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