Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor managed to surprise a number of gamers when it was released back in 2014. Up until that point games based upon the Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit were often disappointing and lacklustre, but then Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor arrived and showed just how amazing J.R.R. Tolkien’s world can be in this medium.
Taking place between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor follows Talion, a ranger from Gondor, who is defending an outpost near Mordor when the forces of Sauron return and murder him and his family. After his death Talion becomes merged with the wraith of the elf Celebrimbor, the man who forged the rings of power. Together, the two of them return to the land of the living and set out to avenge the death of Talions family.
What follows is an open world action adventure across the land of Mordor. You can choose to take on specific missions and tasks, explore the environment, or collect items scattered across the landscape that will give you additional abilities. Playing like a combination of an Assassin’s Creed game and Batman: Arkham City, Shadows of Mordor allows players to fight the forces of Sauron through stealth and fear, or through vicious combat.
The game’s combat is incredibly fluid, allowing you to have Talion fighting Orcs one on one, or in groups of a dozen or more. Whilst the game does borrow from the combat of the Batman games it adds its own feel with buckets of gore and messy killing moves that sever limb and impale enemies.
The game very much embraces its setting, with even the tiniest detail steeped in the style of the cinematic Lord of the Rings universe. Costumes, characters, ruined buildings, and weapons, all of it looks like it was taken out of the Peter Jackson films. Whilst the game itself isn’t really an official tie-in to the films this similar design does help to ground the game into a universe that many people will be familiar with.
One of the features of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor that makes the game stand out from similar experiences is the Nemesis System. The Nemeses are random enemies in Saurons army that uniquely generated for each playthrough of the game. Each of these Nemeses has their own personality, and will move through the ranks of the enemy army.
These enemies will each react to Talion and his actions in their own way, whether to fight against him, to flee, or to enact some other plan. The Nemeses will also have relationships to each other, some of which work together – others you can make challenge each other until one is killed.
By defeating the enemies in the Nemesis System, or even by dying at their hands, you will have an affect on the web of enemies and alter your gameplay experience. Not only does this system make the game stand out from other open world adventure games, but means that your gameplay experience will be different each time you play the game.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor stands out amongst other action games with its unique gameplay additions and its stand-out setting. The unpredictable nature of the Nemesis system delivers a game that offers more memorable and unique battles than other games that are more scripted. Fun combat and exploration of an iconic location adds to a game that is incredibly fun and challenging.
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