Hello folks! I’ve finished yet another game recently and I can’t wait to talk about it for a little. That game is Shadow of War, but I’m sure you all already know that by reading the title of this blog. Anywho, I loved this game and honestly can’t wait to discuss my opinion of the title. So without taking up too much time with a long and nonsense intro, let’s jump right into it!
Shadow of War
When the first title in this series, Shadow of Mordor, came out, I almost instantly fell in love with the game. I mean it was one of the games I fell head over heels for and played for hours on end, even becoming one of the games I put the effort into obtaining the Platinum trophy for. When I learned that a sequel was in the works I was ecstatic and had one of those moments where I couldn’t contain my excitement (rare for me). I even went to the point where I watched the trailers that came out it for it over and over, hyping myself up even more. I must say, the game did not disappoint me in the slightest. Enough with that game though, this isn’t my thoughts on Shadow of Mordor.
If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings then this has got to be a must play title for you. Not only does it expand on the world of Middle Earth but it also gives a much needed and deep dive into the lore of the ring bearers and exactly what caused them to become some of the horrifying Nazgul. We also get to dive into Celebrimbor and learn more about both him and the rings he created.
We see a return of our favorite hero, Talion alongside his elf wraith Celebrimbor. This is once again our main character of course and we continue their story from Shadow of Mordor as they work to “purify” Mordor in the name of the Bright Lord. With their ultimate goal of defeating Sauron once and for all. Both Talion and Celebrimbor have new abilities that grant them god like abilities, however Celebrimbor seems to be decaying in some manner after using the remaining bit of his power to craft one final ring. Is a Bright Lord really any better than a Dark Lord?
New to the game is Eltarial, also known as the blade of Galadriel. She acts as a sort of “ally of circumstance” where she hunts down any and all ring bearers to prevent the spread of corruption and greed. Talion meets here and soon they become allies to put their combined talents to use. She’s a skilled Elf assassin that wields the powerful light of Galadriel, allowing her to shield herself from the power of the Nazgul and grant her the ability to see Celebrimbor in wraith form. Her part in the story of Mordor and that of Talion/Celebrimbor, is very important important and there’s actually supposed to be DLC based around her, something I’m excited for so I can jump back on the world.
The last character, or rather characters, that I feel need to be focused on are the orcs themselves. Honestly what would this game be without them and the Nemesis system. Shadow fo War introduces multiple new Orc clans that each have their own unique gear, motives, and weaponry that they use. As you progress through the game you’ll meet quite a wacky bunch of characters, some that will stop at nothing for bloodlust, some who simply want to be poets, and some that are completely deranged. Almost every encounter is different (with some exceptions as game time increases) and can range from hilarious to terrifying and even sometimes annoying. Honestly this game doesn’t offer too much in the story or the character departments. It’s a rather bland story where revenge is the only motive and it’s essentially battle after battle for some false sense of “progression”. If you asked if anything important happened I couldn’t really answer that question. There’s not much substance there. The game does have a redeeming quality however and that is the gameplay.
Shadow of War is very similar to it’s predecessor Shadow of Mordor in too many ways to count. It’s essentially an exact copy with a few upgrades and tweeks here and there. It has essentially the same controls and move sets, the same climbing and traversal, and the same Nemesis system, all with upgrades to make it somewhat fresh.
Combat is the same it was back with Shadow of War. Playing the game it reminded me of one thing, the Batman Arkham series, which makes sense given the parent company behind both (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment). It’s almost like they reused the system from game to game. This isn’t a bad thing as the Batman series has some of the most fluid and strong combat in any game I’ve ever played. It’s essentially a mix of powerful blows, counter attacks, and various stuns. Where the combat shines is with it’s use of various upgrades and split paths for nearly every ability in the game.
As the player progresses and becomes stronger they’ll gain skill points to spend how they please on the skill tree. These skill points can either be used to gain new abilities or even augment existing skills. It’s one of my favorite parts of any game really, the freedom of customization. This augmented system of progression allows players to play the game exactly how they want to. Maybe you want to be some kind of “beast Lord” and have a horde of Caragors, Graugs, Orcs, and even Drakes follow you into battle. Maybe you want to have the about to freeze everyone around you and focus on one enemy at a time. Hell, maybe you’ll even want to become an expert assassin or archer and pick off enemies in elegance. In my case I use a bunch of stuns and vaults paired with a flurry of attacks and counters in order to make quick work of all enemies. All of these and more are available thanks to this system of progression. You can essentially tailor make a build that fits the way you game perfectl
Now to the other aspect of the game and to go along with it a comparison to another game series. Shadow of War has a traversal and stealth system that I like to compare to that of the Assassin’s Creed series. Just as with AC, almost every building can be scaled in similar fashion – jumping from ledge to ledge as you sneak around or run away. It’s a solid system that works well with what the game is trying to be. One thing I hate in games, including that of the original Shadow of Mordor is the absence of what I like to call a “run faster button”. Mordor had a single running speed that can only be slightly increased with wuick time events during every vault in the game. This quickly becomes tiresome and thankfully was fixed with this new title. Players can now use something called “elven swiftness” to close large distances in mere seconds. They even went a step further with this system and allowed it to be used whilst climbing as well. Even though climbing is solid and smooth it can occasional become repetitive and an annoyance. Thankfully the hindsight was but into the game to make scaling a quick experience when needed. They even through in a special “double jump” to make air traversal a little quicker. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see these mechanics added, I hate having one default speed to explore an entire world. As for stealth, it can also be compared to Assassin’s Creed with it’s instant kills and monitoring of noise levels and visibility. Talion with help from Celebrimbor can reach inhuman levels of stealth and silence. This includes using a wraith whisper to distract enemies and get them in prime positions, as well as quiet steps to help sneak up behind unsuspecting foes. I must say that this title would be a lot more difficult if not for the stealth mechanics. Being able to pick off Orcs one by one helps greatly and at times can also provide that extra level of challenge that many gamers (including myself) strive for. Whether you’re sniping from a distance or going in close for a brutal kill, it can all be done as quiet as a mouse.
Find your Nemesis
There is no doubt that the best part of this series is the use of the amazing Nemesis system. Shadow of Mordor had a fun and engaging system in which enemies would remember your previous encounters and remark on them during your next encounter. Maybe you can away like a coward, maybe you defeated them in some scarring manner, maybe they even murdered you – they always remember. This made the game for many, giving life to the world and it’s inhabitants. Now take that system, improve it 10x and you have Shadow of War. Orcs still act the same, remembering your past encounters and developing a grudge or infatuation with the player. Only this time they have so much more personality. Some are bards and will taunt the player with their limericks of the players demise. Some are crafty assassins that wait for you around dark corners to get the jump. There are even those who strive for nothing more than to kill. Some orcs even have blood brothers that they will occasionally come to aid in battles or hunt the player for vengeance. Almost every orc encounter is unique in some way and provide an almost limitless supply of enemies to find. Pair this with the new tribe system and the possibilities increase even further with each clan having their own ideals on inflicting pain and the weapons that they use. There are even orges now that are tossed among the orcs as various captains. Of course just as with Shadow of Mordor you have the ability to either kill or brand the orcs you meet, with War adding one more ability – shame. Shaming an orc can be useful in lowering the level of the enemy in order to eventually brand them. This ability strikes fear deep into the hearts of the enemy and shows them exactly who is boss. But of course this isn’t where it stops. Shaming has an added side effect where it can either dilute the intelligence of the orc or even turn them mad and fueled by some psychotic power. I add this just because it strengthens the world building so much more. It gives an added level of depth to Orcs, with them eventually becoming mumbling idiots with their minds completely destroyed by the player.
As you brand more and more orcs you can eventually build up an entire army of followers, but exactly what can you do with these new loyal minions? First off you may want to play around with the new upgrades available (remember I love the aspect of upgrading). Thanks to this new system the orcs now come in various “rarities” from the standard common orc to the new epic and legendary levels – each with varying traits that become stronger. You may also grant your followers your own carefully selected upgrades, including a Caragor mount, poison/fire/curse weaponry, and even a handful of their very own minions. It’s a fantastic system where you can build up an army to your liking, a powerful and unstoppable army. Thankfully the fun doesn’t stop there and I believe this next part should get it’s own section.
Once an army is assembled you can then participate in fortress sieges. This pits Talion and some of his lost loyal followers up against an enemy orc stronghold full of their most powerful warriors. These battles are on a massive scale and can sometimes take a lot of planning and work to pull off the perfect siege. As with most aspects of the Nemesis system, these battles also have an element of randomness and endless possibilities. For one, you can slowly plant moles inside the enemy castle to quickly destroy them from the inside and take on the boss right away. Or maybe you’d like a grand battle where you slaughter each general slowly as you make your way to the head boss. Maybe you play like me and turn each general to your side and together work your way to destroying their fortress. This system is further expanded into two modes, both bot offline sieges that correspond with the story, or online asynchronous battles. The online aspect allows you to build up defenses that are hopefully strong enough to deter would be player invaders. While others are testing your defenses, you might as well go and test your skill against other player made fortress builds where you can learn a thing or two. Again, these are huge scale battles that put the best of your orcs up against some of the best orcs of players from around the world. Although it isn’t a perfect “multiplayer” system, it is definitely fun and exciting. Overall the whole siege system is another way that the game let’s the player decide how to play. It’s perfect.
Gear & Loot
Shadow of Mordor had a weak loot/gear system where you would just get runes to slot into your weapon slots. This aspect was yet again enhanced in Shadow of War. Instead of runes you now get actual weapons that drop from orc captains and generals. These pieces of gear scale with the players level and come in a handful of rarities including epic and legendary tier. These powerful weapons even come with their own individual perks and special abilities depending on weapon type and rarity. Some are weapons that poison under certain circumstances and some can ignite an enemy with just a tap. Yet again this is another system that let’s the player build their own style of gameplay. Not only do these weapons become increasingly more powerful but also gain a new cosmetic look, changing up Talion’s look a bit. There are even a few gear sets out there in Mordor that give Talion a themed outfit along with skills to match the part. I personally love when gear changes the appearance of a character as I tend to occasionally become bored with looking at the same old character for hours on end.
There is one negative part about this gear system and it’s a sort of “elephant in the room”. So let’s take a moment and quickly discuss this – the micro transactions. Micro transactions in a single player game, that’s outrageous! How could they do this to us – says almost everyone out there. Now I understand why micro transactions in single player games can be seen as a bad thing, however in my experience of the game they did not matter. These transactions were used in order to get some of the most powerful gear pieces in the game along with some of the most deadly orcs. I’ve read reports where people have been claiming that the game is such a grind and almost requires late game purchases to get through it. I don’t understand this because by the end of the game I was already max level and had some pretty powerful gear and orcs on my side – and I was playing on the hardest difficulty! I never once touched the micro transactions and I was completely fine. I was getting powerful gear at a decent rate and I always stumbled upon power orcs in my travels – though I did use the in game currency every once in a while to get a few buffs for them. Overall it’s not too bad of a thing and honestly would just be for those who want to skip a whole bunch of the Nemesis system and honestly who would want to, it’s a great system. To each his own.
Middle Earth Brought to Life
As visuals go this game is absolutely gorgeous. Everything looks vibrant where it needs to be and dark when it wants to be. The world of Mordor is split into various sections, each with their own type of terrain and environment to explore. These areas consist of a wooded area, a fiery hellscape, and a winter coated land. The fire looks bright and dangerous, the woods are green and full of life, and the ice is as beautiful as it is cold. It’s a type of diversity that you don’t really see that often, three completely different environments that each house their own hazards and inhabitants that the player must face. One thing I don’t like however is the switch between gameplay and cutscenes. What ever happened to the in engine cutscenes? My only problem with this is that the cutscenes look almost too beautiful and then you have to switch back into the regular (but still beautiful) be gameplay. The cutscenes are those where you can see almost each and every pore of the character, even each bead of sweat rolling down their face. It’s a beauty to behold and is a pleasure to look at.
Just something I want to touch on for a quick second is the character of Shelob. First I want to start off by saying her character design is beautiful and paired with the stunning visuals of the game, oh boy. But there was one thing that always bothered me about her. You see her during every death/game over screen and during some of the most important events of the game. The more I saw her the more she began to look and sound familiar to me. Who is this spider queen and why does she look so dang familiar? That’s when it hit me, this is Jadis! Minus the stupid haircut. Season 8 of Walking Dead had just begun when I was playing this game so it was fresh in my mind. Even thiough it took me till the very end to make the connection I was still blown away by how detailed the character was and how closely she resembled the actor. The game’s beautiful ok? Enough said.
Shadow of War is an excellent title. Despite having a lackluster story with dull characters and an unnecessary micro transaction system, the game makes up for it with a solid combat system, superb graphics, and it’s own unique Nemesis system. The Nemesis system alone makes this game worth a try, with almost limitless possibilities for replayability and exploration. If you’re a gamer who enjoys customizing gameplay to fit you’re style then I definitely recommend Shadow of War.
Until Next Time…
Whew that was a long one. I think it could have been better but you know, maybe next time. Anyways I really enjoyed the game and cannot wait for some of that dlc to come out so I have an excuse to jump back into the world again.
If you’re interested, make sure to check out my last review where I talked a little about “Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier”. It was an excellent addition the the world of The Walking Dead and probably my favorite in the series. You can read that over here: the Walking Dead: A New Review. As always thank you all for checking out my ramblings about another game. Next up…. Is South Park: The Fractured But Whole (hopefully). To go along with that I’m also working on a special project, yay another thing to look forward to. But until then, have a wonderful evening.