I thought we were all done with Lord of the Rings games and then up pops Shadow of Mordor which lets you fill the boots of a ranger named Talion and a spiritual Wraith that’s hitching a ride with him as he runs around Mordor killing Orcs and monsters. Let’s just get this out of the way now, Shadow of Mordor is a blatant rip-off of the Batman Arkham games and Assassin’s Creed but, as those are both two of my favourite games, I’m not complaining!
You’re free to roam around Mordor as you please but as usual you’ve got main missions you can take part in, as well as side missions and a fun little game of chess as you fight boss Orcs scattered throughout the land and turn them to fight for your cause. As you lose or win against them, they move up the ranks, gain power and change positions meaning no two games are the same. They pop up all over the place and, as they have their own personalities, you really do begin to bear a grudge if one of them kills you and you catch up with one at a later date. They also have their own strengths and weaknesses and you can interrogate them to get vital info on how to beat enemies further up the ranks and then send them to murder bodyguards of Warchiefs higher up the pecking order so that they’re easier to kill further down the line.
To open up new areas and see where collectibles are you can also climb towers and forge new paths – very similar to synching in the Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll see what I mean when you jump off one of these towers head first.
When it comes to combat, you’ll be right at home if you’ve played an Arkham game. You can attack, leap over baddies and even perform the equivalent of a beat down on enemies but the combo system is actually a little more lenient here with longer periods before your combat resets and the ability to counter an enemy mid attack if taking out an enemy on the floor. The combat flows really well and it’s great fun finding a massive group of orcs and kicking seven shaded of green hued shit out of them!
As you progress you can also level up your character to perform new abilities such as riding on top of a Caragor (I call mine Jamie) and pulling off new ways to kill things, as well as apply runes to your sword, dagger and bow to give yourself even more strengths and perks. This RPG flavour really adds an element of customisation we haven’t seen before in a game of this nature.
Stealth also plays a big part. You can sneak about and kill enemies from behind and above and they’ve even nicked an idea from Splinter Cell where, if you’re seen, your previous known position is shown as an image of the Wraith. Press LB and you can also see items and secrets more clearly in what’s basically another idea from Assassin’s Creed and Batman.
Graphically it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The orcs that taunt you look great but some of the human faces and animations, including Talion aren’t as high quality as I’d expect. Gollum does make an appearance however and his character is just as you remember him from LOTR or the recent The Hobbit movies.
I really like this game. It can be a tad frustrating when you suddenly bump into a number of bosses at once, only to be killed and have to face them later when they’ve even stronger, and most of the ideas aren’t original, but this melting pot of combat, exploration, stealth and mystery really makes for a compelling game that’s tricky to put down. It’s certainly one of my favourite games of the year so it gets an excellent 8 out of 10.
Get Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor now
New: Buy Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor from Amazon.com