Middle-earth Shadow of War is the direct follow up to Middle-earth Shadow of Mordor which was released by Warner Brothers and Monolith back in 2014. Middle-earth Shadow of War shares a combat system similar to the ones found in the Batman Arkham series and is set in the world of Lord of the Rings.
As an open world action game, Shadow of War lets players take in the sections of Middle-earth and complete activities, quests, and story content in any way they desire. Also, making a return is the Nemesis System which gives backstory to most of the Orc captains you’ll face in the video game. Killing you not only emboldens them but actively promotes them within the army and makes them even harder to defeat the next time. This game mechanic is one of the main reasons Shadow of Mordor was seen as a bit of a revolution, and it continues to be the main reason to play these Middle-earth games.
Shadow of War is a single player, narrative-driven experience. That being said, the narrative in the game is probably the worst reason to play it. The story once again follows Talion and his Elf spirit buddy Celebrimbor as they (as hinted at by the end of Shadow of Mordor) forge a brand new ring of power (sounds like a bad idea) that almost immediately gets taken by Shelob, whom you may know as a giant spider from the Lord of the Rings novels and movies, but for some reason is half spider, half attractive female in the game (why?). I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but the story is mostly sub-par and the story missions are the worst missions in the game overall.
Now, with that out of the way, the rest of Shadow of War is rather good. The open world is filled with enemies and Captains to take out, each with their own mini-quest and personalities. There are also plenty of other side activities to keep you busy while you explore and take out enemies. The most fun I’ve had in the game has been roaming the wilds and hunting the army down to take out leaders and eliminate camps. The combat is once again the Batman-inspired quick flow, where you end up pressing X a lot until you need to parry an attacker with Y. It’s fine, and it works, but after numerous Batman games and the first Shadow game, it begins to wear out its welcome here. You also have an upgrade system and a nice loot system that gets you colored drops for better gear. This ties into the worrisome loot box system where you can spend in-game currency or real money to buy chests with random loot. I didn’t find myself buying much, but is it really needed?
Middle-earth Shadow of War Review Final Thoughts:
Overall, Middle-earth Shadow of War is a game that you’ll likely either love or hate. On one side, the plot, story missions, repetitive combat, and ugly graphics make it a drag at times, while on the other side, the world, Nemesis System, loot, and side content make it a lot of fun to play. If you enjoyed the first game and want a slightly more polished experience with some newly added content, you’ll feel right at home here. If this is your first foray into the Middle-earth games, you’ll likely have an experience as noted above, enjoying the world and systems, but finding the combat a bit slow and the story, not something necessarily worthy of the Lord of the Rings brand. I’d love to see a third game in the series, but hope Monolith improves on the formula, builds on the combat, and takes a deep look at the story before starting the project.
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