In this group of Glorious Writing Bastards… thing, I am pretty much the biggest Tolkien geek to have ever graced it. So with that out there you can assume why I lost my shit when Shadow of Mordor came out. Granted, it may not be a perfect Lord of the Rings story, it is still a kick-ass, and I risk sounding pretentious saying, it might also be a revolutionary game. After what happened with Destiny, I decided to wait it out and watch a few reviews. I never heard anything catastrophic so I ran to the nearest game store and bought it for the PS4. Somehow I got all the Pre-order DLC, I don’t know why though, but I’m not complaining!
Was my excitement well worth it? Well its a complicated answer.
The game as a whole was really good. Combat was great, voice acting was superb. But its crowning achievement was the Nemesis System, the system that simulates the Orc “hierarchy” in the game. Orcs you encountered will recognize you, they’ll remember your actions throughout the story (although not that many) and what you did to them if they survive their encounter with you. Hell, there was even a small unspoken detail in which they can be brought back from the dead and the proof of this can be seen on their bodies: Bleached skin and blue eyes is one of them. This adds a lot of role-playing opportunities to the game, cause you know, I’m into that. But to fully understand what I meant by “complicated answer” I need to dissect the game a bit. Here goes!
The story was by far the most disappointing part of the game. You play as Talion, another damned bird referenced name, a ranger in the Black Gate of Mordor who not only is murdered but used in a blood sacrifice along with his wife and son by servants of the Dark Lord Sauron, The Black Hand. You are denied death by an Elf Spirit that sticks to Talion and is essentially immortal until he can kill the one that cast the curse on him. It seems like your typical revenge story. The thing that ticked me off was the fact that the campaign itself was really short, in fact it felt like a giant tutorial. But further analysis by fans indicates that the story is SO much deeper than what was presented, though don’t count on it until it’s confirmed.
The most frustrating thing is the fact that it just ends with… no ending. There was no ending to the game. I remember beating it, and I was just sitting there for 5 minutes asking myself “That’s it!? What happened?!”.
Look at it this way, You are receiving the best blow job ever, its great, you’re having a great time and then, out of nowhere, the girl or guy just leaves. Without a word. Nothing, that’s it. And you are left confused all alone in the room. That’s how the game and story played out for me at the end. With the way the game ended it left me a sign there might be a sequel or a post game DLC. To be honest, I don’t understand what happened during the development. There is a story DLC that was announced Day one after release but it won’t be available until Winter. The game just fell short at the end, was it time constraints, budget cuts, both? I don’t know.
Afraid of this being just an Assassin’s Creed clone? Yeah, throw that out of the window. The game has its own unique charm when it comes to gameplay. Picture this, Arkham City’s combat and Assassin’s Creed’s Stealth had a baby and this baby made a system in which your assassination targets were unlimited and unique in their own way. THAT is what Shadow of Mordor is. It borrows a bit from other games, to make its own formula. And it did a good job at that. In some ways you can say that it did better than Assassin’s Creed.
In the Nemesis System, Orcs have their own personality, their own names and ranks. The difficulty on each target can range from completely pathetic to “hardass motherfucker that’s immune to every special attack and has to be killed in honorable combat or the shadiest way possible”. Let me give you an example from personal experience. There was ONE Orc that would not go down, the dude had a shield, I couldn’t vault over him and had a poison weapon… oh and his health regenerated for each hit he did on me. That’s how hard the game can be sometimes. But the rest of the game is filled with the generic Orcs, you can take a about 40 of them, but you CAN be overrun so you should avoid huge conflicts, especially since there are 2 ranged classes in Orc society and they don’t always wait for their turn A la AC.
Should you get this game with its annoying Mass Effect 3-ish ending and vast DLCs problem? I still say yes. Story aside, the game is wonderful and the new Nemesis system makes it one of the most unique games currently for this generation. I assure you that you will probably have fun with it, killing legions of Orcs and assassinating captains and Warchiefs for maybe 15 to 20 hours and it will still have a bunch of replay value. But if you want to be smart, wait a couple of months, when they (undoubtedly) release a “GotY” edition with all DLCs, don’t waste the extra cash or if you got the game like me, wait for reviews and maybe get the Season Pass if its worth it, and it better be. The biggest problem the game has? Dev/Publisher decisions. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to terrifying and killing Orcs around Mordor.