Right now, it’s my main contender for game of the year, simply because, in its lack of pretension, its attention to detail and its understanding that video games first and foremost should be fun, it puts everything else I’ve played recently in its long shadow.
While not perfect, Shadow of Mordor surpasses expectations - it's fun, engaging and truly impressive. The Nemesis System is a stroke of genius and sets this game apart from its competitors. A serious contender for Game of the Year.
By turning your every death into the start of a personal vendetta, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor makes you that much more invested in its open-world. The savage combat and satisfying stealth are just the means to exacting your ultimate revenge.
Despite the dark setup, Shadow of Mordor doesn’t offer any surprises. It’s a solid action-adventure spiced up with some RPG elements and a familiar license. As far as the license games go, Talion’s trek is well executed mesh of Arkham games and Assassin’s Creed. You could do a lot worse. [Oct 2014]
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor plays heavenly thanks not only to the stolen gameplay system but the interesting never-before-seen Nemesis system. The story will certainly please fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings thanks to the interquel nature of the story. It’s just a shame that the characters from the original Tolkien novels that make an appearance are sorely underused and therefore pointless. Furthermore, the two maps are fairly small, and certainly so when compared to other games with an open world design.
This game absolutely rocked. I’m a huge LOTR fan and this game hit every note for me. The stealth gameplay was top notch, the nemesis system was incredible and truly innovative. Got the platinum trophy.
With Shadow of War rapidly approaching, many will choose to sate themselves with the first in the series, Shadow of Mordor. This review is for you guys, and hopefully you'll read it before buying. I'm not going to bog this down with credentials. Suffice, I've played enough for long enough, and know, above most things, objectivity is key.
Shadow of Mordor is not a good game. It's not the steaming pile it's made out to be by its harsher critics, no, but it's also not very good. Breaking it down piecemeal:
Fighting mechanics are stolen from Assassins Creed and the Batman series, fused into a simplistic three button counter dependent system that sits just slightly below AC's variety. Fighting bottlenecks in proportion to the number of enemies, meaning the more there are, the fewer options you have and the more you must comply with the game's ideal scripted fight scenario. It's all massively flashy, but also massively repetitive. Environmental attacks are possible, but often feel very scripted, thought there are quite a few varieties. The game is heavily inclined to sneaking, which it does passably, but not well, and being spotted is a common occurrence.
Weapon selection is limited to three, all of which you gain from the start. Runes can be used to improve them and give attributes, which is a good mechanic that was unfortunately shallow. Damage upgrades are earned in tailored 'proving' quests. Application of these weapons is dictated by skill tree progression. There is a sense of achievement in the skill tree, making you feel like you're gaining strength with each notch, but there is no real versatility. It is obvious what you need, and what you'll upgrade early (ranged attacks are useless, early finishers are essential). If you fail to recognize this, later engagements become terribly long suffered and some downright impossible.
Overland travel is limited, stunted and slow. An early game upgrade allows short dashes to be activated by leapfrogging rocks to get you where you need to be (yes, you read that right). Talion climbs well enough, but you'll begin to notice very clear passages and footholds to starkly defined second and third floors, which lifts the veil on what you considered to be a clever entry point.
Enemies are varied, and kill animations are numerous. But SOM also sadly illustrates a very good idea gone wrong in a very thoughtless way: Immunities. Some Orc captains are immune to numerous damage types. You can't sneak stab, can't use arrows for headshots, etc. The problem is, instead of improving the actual fighting mechanics or skill of these tougher orcs, the game simply adds immunities. This is a broken mechanic, and once more forces a bottleneck. In addition, when an opponent can only be killed by aerial takedown, but the nearest chest high wall is four miles away, I can't exactly invite him with a phonecall. Resistances, not immunites, would've been the step back that completely fixed this issue.
The story is shamefully weak for a Tolkien inspired game. Character roster is limited to about a dozen (including NPCs, excluding the procedurally generated orcs), and though these few are well realized (never let it be said the game lacks polish on character models) their backdrops, being the environments you find yourself in, are bland and feel very samey. It is understandable that the world has been ravaged, but that's not much of an excuse for the barren nature of it. You get the feeling that you're one of the last men on earth, and not in a good heroic ascension kind of way. As a character, Talion is strong and virtuous, but also very flat. There's no progression to his grief. And grief this man has (should have) much of.
Lastly, the nemesis system is essentially pokemon without visual battles, gyms or a final boss. Before you're sold on the hype and bootlicking, know that there are no benefits to 'finishing' it. It's a collect-a-thon with no payout. And with Talion's abysmal walking speed, intervening when necessary to advance your chosen orc becomes a case of racing to keep in-game appointments you're essentially setting for yourself.
I didn't enjoy SOM. It could've been much more and I think a lot of the love for it stems from the want for the old days of the intense LoTR games. But it isn't those games, and for an open world, it's surprisingly devoid of content. Everything is essential to your quest in becoming the greatest orc murderer there ever was, save for one or two Gollum missions added to break up the monotony. This is a shame, because it makes the world feel very dead.
I can only conclude that many reviewers here seem to have been raised on less than excellent value, game wise, to give such shining reviews. Don't get me wrong, it's okay for it to not be good, to enjoy a game for inherent elements that appeal to you. But objectivity is vital to improvement. And improvement, in the case of SOM, is a necessity if games that follow it are to rise above this
SummaryFight your way through Mordor and reveal the truth of the spirit that compels you, discover the origins of the Rings of Power, build your legend and ultimately confront the evil of Sauron in this new story of Middle-earth.