Why I Love Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

I have, for as back as I can remember, always been a Tolkien fanatic. I loved everything about the world of Middle Earth and have read many of Tolkien’s works including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

The books and film adaptations have been great but the games however, have not always been so consistent in their quality.  In my opinion, the best LoTR game so far (excluding Middle Earth) has been The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, with the other entries leaving much to be desired. With the release of this epic game though, there is little point to think of these other games and instead the purpose of this article is just illustrate why exactly I love Shadow of Mordor so fricking much.

The Mechanics:

Well, one of the reasons that I love this game so much is its similarities with other games, namely the Assassin’s Creed series and the Arkham games. The game holds the style of exploration, climbing mechanics  and map functionality of the Creed, and features the combat style of the Arkham titles. Basically, the best of both worlds. Although is shares the shame combat system as the Arkham games, the combat feels snappier, more responsive and is ever so satisfying. The way the combat is portrayed is visceral and all round brutality. From flying heads to flaming corpses, it’s all here. My personal favourite is draining a foe’s life force until his head explodes and his body falls in a heap on the ground, that’s always good.

Stealth also works well and ties in nicely with the rest of the things that the game has on offer. There are very satisfying, stealth based finishing moves including a “brutalize” which involves violently shanking an enemy from behind sending enemies nearby fleeing in horror. Also, it always feels good to sneakily enter an on-going feast and poising the “grog” for a captain to drink as you watch from afar perched on a high wall. The climbing works in much the same way as the Assassin’s Creed games and it looks like some of the sneaking animation have been ripped straight from the AC games but, personally, I am complaining. If anything, it just makes me feel more at home.

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The Nemesis (Vendetta)  System:

However, the thing that makes this game truly unique in the genre of open world action games is the “nemesis systems” that works in the background of the game. The best thing about this system is that it has the ability to bring about some very personal battles. Naza The Breaker was one orc in particular that continued to elude me. Twice he killed me before I eventually managed to shove a sword through his gullet. With every defeat he would become more powerful and more cocky until his miserable life reached a just end.

It’s more than that though, it’s a complete hierarchy of orcs. If an orc kills you he will be promoted to captain and any captains that prove their worth will become more powerful, move up the ranks and may even have the honour of becoming a bodyguard one of Sauron’s warchiefs. This opens up this ever changing order where the ranks shift and change and foes are made and defeated.

The Map(s):

Shadow of Mordor is huge and actually includes two separate maps, much in the same way that games like Far Cry 2 did. You have to progress through the story missions in order to be able to travel to the other half of the game world but you can still return to the previous land whenever you want to, to complete any unfinished tasks etc.

I personally occasionally found the game world to be a bit samey looking although it still remains interesting for a number of reasons. The map holds all of the beauties of a large open world game and this brings me onto my next point…

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Progression, Collectibles and Upgrades:

The open world is full of interesting collectibles and relics for the player to find, all of which tell a bit more of the story of the fascinating world that surrounds you. One type of collectible works in much the same way as the glyphs worked in Assassin’s Creed 2 including having to enter the wraith world (basically eagle vision) in order to see them and collect them.

Something else is that when you upgrade your character and your weapons in this game, it actually feels like you are achieving something rather. All of the weapon upgrades are interesting and, in my opinion, there isn’t one boring character perk, with all of them adding some flourish to the gameplay.

You earn XP the normal way, though killing enemies and completing missions. You also obtain an element simply known as ‘Power’, which you get through defeating captains and resolving confrontations. You need this ‘Power’ in order to unlock new tiers of perks for Talion.

In short, if you are a gamer and a Tolkien fan, you NEED to pick up this game. Definitely my game of the year so far, go pick it up.