Release date: Originally 2014, Game of the Year Edition 2015
Version played: Xbox One in 2016
Taking place in the Lord of the Rings movie-verse, but only tangentially, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a third person action game developed by Monolith Productions (best known for their F.E.A.R. and Condemned series). The game tells the story of Talion, a ranger of Gondor, whose family is killed by supporters of Sauron, and his quest for revenge, aided by the spectre of a long-dead elf, who co-inhabits Talion neither dead-nor-alive body. The Game of the Year Edition includes two separate mini DLC campaigns and several challenge modes.
(I had already played the base game, minus the DLC, on Xbox 360 when it was first released in 2014, and I can’t believe I didn’t do a review for it, as it was right in the middle of my Assassin’s Creed marathon. Either way, my opinion of the base game did not vary wildly from system to system, except in regards to performance.)
+ the game is built around it’s ‘Nemesis System’ wherein any random grunt that manages to kill you will gain certain attributes and become a mini boss later in the game. If they continue to kill you, or you go out of your way to help them stay alive, they grow in power until eventually they lead an army of their own. I cannot praise this system highly enough, and it has made for numerous intense moments outside of the game’s set storyline
+ the variation in enemy looks, personalities and eventual abilities is great, so when added to the Nemesis System creates some very challenging encounters which are never (or at least very rarely) the same twice
+ the combat is the standard attack/counter/dodge/stun I have written about before, but in this case at least there are a handful of other abilities which break the monotony, such as making some enemies fight with you, and a bow for ranged attacks. The combat is incredibly gruesome, fitting with the themes of vengeance, and becoming of the Lord of the Rings setting
+ the two DLC campaigns are short but sweet, adding a variety of new gameplay mechanics which keep things interesting. The expansive challenge modes (called “Trials”) are the main addition, and each are fantastic
+ the loading times for such an expansive game area are fantastic (compared to the literal ten to fifteen seconds on the Xbox 360 version). If there is one thing I can compare from the separate generations, it is this
– the story is nothing special at all, and the various brooding men with long dark hair who need a shave get tiresome very quickly. The story could be given in a single line of text over a black background at the beginning and you’d miss nothing of importance
– a few appearances from LOTR characters felt far more like pandering than they did natural inclusions. For example, Gollum shows up for a few missions just to remind us that he wants the ring, but nothing really happens with his inclusion
> the voice of the elf who co-inhabits Talion’s body is the “Ah, yes, “Reapers”” council member from Mass Effect. I still hate him
> Warner Bros. Interactive, the publisher, also published the Batman: Arkham games, and Mad Max, both of which share numerous similarities, most obvious of which is the same combat system. Are they one trick ponies, yet?
> purchasing this GOTY edition makes this one of only five or six games, ever, I have bought twice. I should write about that…
Should you play this game: Yes. Especially for the relatively low price I snagged this GOTY edition for, this game is well worth at least one play through. The Nemesis System will ensure your combat stories will not be the same as any friends, and can make any number of replays (or hours just bumming around after the main story) well worth your time.