REVIEW: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Shadow of Mordor was one of the better games of 2014, pushing its way into many top 10 and top 5 lists. So when Shadow of War, the sequel, was announced, it soon became incredibly anticipated. Lets see if it lives up to the shadow of its predecessor.
Leading up to the release of the game, storm clouds appeared in the shape of two words. Micro-Transactions. The game isn’t flooded with adverts for them and you’re not pushed to use them at all, to the point that during my game time, I did not even consider using one. However as a game that is 95% single player (to the point that the online play is essentially non-existent), the inclusion is a very questionable one.
But at the end of the day, does any of that matter? Well it's time to find out. The game boots up with a re-cap of the previous game, which is somehow manages to do quite fluidly and without giving too much away if you hadn't played it. You're thrown into the tutorial which shows off the standard 'Batman-esc' combat of the previous game that we've all come to enjoy from these open world brawlers. Straight off the bat, it feels very similar to the initial title, which is an issue that drags throughout the whole game. Within act one, those who have played the original title feel a little empty as alot of what was enjoyable in the first title (having a nemesis, controlling the horde) is not accessible, which results in a standard slog of fighting and stealth for the initial title.
However as you finish the (thankfully) short first act, the game opens up. New regions and new things to do. It's time to start building your army, by dominating orcs and converting them to follow the bright lord. The previous system seems to have had an absurd amount of work and tweaking to it, but the highlight now is the Fortress' and the having to conquer them. As you travel through the regions, you come across these giant areas, surrounded in tall walls and flooded with enemies. And what else is there to do, but to claim them as your own. Which is exactly what you do, by commanding hordes of orcs at your side, customising the attack by picking leaders, upgrades to their orcs and then finally taking part in the final battle. Having to control various points around the map until finally baiting out the Warchiefs, which but up one hell of a fight. This is what kept the game fresh and entertaining.
Sadly, this is not the same for the story. The previous title felt very heavy, focusing on the loss of family and arced into a great episode of revenge and redemption. However this time around it feels quite forced and the story missions are quite repetitive. There are some great character moments however, especially between the main three, Talion, Celebrimbor and Shelob.
What has to be highlighted, similar to SoM, is the detailing and commitment to the orcs. How Monolith managed to fit the amount of voice work, orc models and more onto the disc evades me. Never once did I feel like I'd seen an orc that was similar to any other, every piece of interaction with the player was different and it all linked with the strengths/weakness', the character models of the orcs and even the way they fought the battles. This is a level of detail on par, if not better, that Witcher 3.
Shadow of War is a sequel, and it's difficult in my eyes to say whether or not it has suffered with sequelitus. There is a part of me that leans towards saying it does, with its slow and drudged story, but then I think back to the fact I've put well over 15 hours into it already and keep wanting to go back to it. Yes, it's repetitive, but almost in a way that anyone can enjoy. If you enjoyed the first, you'll enjoy this. If you never played the Shadow of Mordor, play that first, then pick this up. Monolith and WB haven't peaked yet in my opinion, but they didn't drop here. A solid continuation on par with the first. 7/10.