Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)

Approved by the Tolkien Estate, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is not your family-friendly fare. In fact, I’m not even sure if an M rating does it justice, considering the extend of violence that occurs within the game. It’s a button-masher, a stealth game, a fighting game, part RPG and will remind players familiar with the franchise of Assassin’s Creed. Shadows of Mordor is an open world epic adventure with a combat and AI system that will amaze you as it adapts to your adventure. Enemies will remember you, receive promotions for killing you over and over and level up each time as a reward for their actions. Oh, and there’s a story about revenge and all that in there as well.

I read and watched very little of Shadow of Mordor over the last several months. I’ve never been a huge Lord of the Rings fan, so I made a point to ignore a game based within its lore. As the game’s release date neared, though, I started taking note of the features it offered. I’m thirsty for a good next generation role playing game, and this seemed to be a cool drink of water to sate my thirst. Turns out, it’s going to end up worsening my carpal tunnel syndrome!

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The game itself is beautiful, well thought out and painstakingly created with layers of lore, dialogue, story and action. The movements are smooth and fluid, the graphics equally so. Landing combos, parrying incoming blows and moving from one target to the next flows like water around your screen with only a rare hiccup if there are over a dozen or more characters on the screen. And if you aren’t careful with your stealth and smart with choosing your battles, the number of enemies on screen will increase exponentially! At one point I believe I was fighting 20+ enemies as the first two set off an alarm and called the others. It’s maddening, and basically boils down to mashing the buttons as fast as you can to flow from one move to the next while trying to execute finishing moves without being knocked down.

To say Shadow of Mordor is violent would be an understatement. The main storyline itself is one of revenge – a slain ranger brought back from death by a Wraith with the intent of taking down everyone involved with the murder of his wife and son before his very eyes. The Wraith assists our ranger by granting him supernatural abilities and enhancing his natural ones, such as speed and agility. To aide him further, our anti-hero carries a broken dagger, a sword and a bow, all legendary with challenges you can complete from certain areas – for instance, the one I did today involved killing 10 enemies without setting foot inside the keep they were walking around in. I managed to take out 9 of them via explosions, releasing hungry hounds upon them and just shooting them in the head with my spirit arrows.

To say Shadow of Mordor is not fun and entertaining would be serving it a great injustice. It is fun, though the fact that you have such a large system of enemies to work from makes me a little wary of going back each time. These special enemies are given names, strengths, weaknesses and are promoted within the ranks like real players. All that being said, however, I have to admit the game is a bit over-the-top as far as experience goes. I’ve watched my ranger stab swords through so many spaces on enemies bodies, seen half their heads chopped off. Seen all their heads chopped off! Guts stabbed, backs shanked, legs shortened and so on. Shadows of Mordor is not for young children, weak of spirit or mind, and certainly not safe out there with everyone else.

I started playing Shadows of Mordor yesterday morning, and tonight, nearly all day. One thing I noticed is that it’s fun and addictive, but it can also quickly draw you away from the main storyline and distract you for hours upon hours on end. This isn’t a good thing, but I do assume you can go back to any location later in the game and finish up those quests if you’d so like.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is not the next generation rpg I feel we deserve, but it’s ours nonetheless, until something better comes along. My only complaint with the game is that I’ve injured myself while playing, My thumbs get tired quickly from pushing the button combinations quickly while he gets his pair of pants on and then draws a sword to battle the dozen+ others that have been tipped off to your presence. Those ultra smooth combos don’t come easy, as you’ll find yourself tugging on triggers, slamming button combinations and directing your character in which direction and enemy to strike at next.

Shadows of Mordor is a fantastic pick-up-and-play story, if that’s what you’re into. It does so much more right than wrong, at least in these first several hours of the game. The story is simplified and the enemies come in floods, it seems, for those that lack the proper stealth skills. As for the smart man, exercise your thumb, you’ll be needing it a lot in close range combat, and if the story is your goal for playing, for the love of all things good, stay away from large groups of unnecessary enemies. You’ll thank me later for it, trust me!

 

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