When Tolkien created The Lord of the Rings, he probably wasn’t even aware how incredibly vast and beautiful his fantasy world is. Ever since then, many have tried to use the lore of the book and expand upon it to provide us with new adventures and heroes. Few of them have done an excellent job, but Monolith is among those that greatly succeeded. After the successful Shadow of Mordor in 2014, we have the opportunity to play Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The second installment of the franchise brings another phenomenal game that guarantees months of fun for gamers around the world.
Familiar Hero in Less Familiar Surroundings
Players will once again take control of Talion, whose family was killed by the orcs and he is eager for revenge. Celebrimbor also repeats his appearance, but the elf now has different goals to our hero. Either way, Shadow of War is set in the same period as its predecessor. That’s roughly between what happened in The Hobbit and what will happen in the LOTR. Although the outcome is familiar, the dynamics of how the story develops and the unique characters are what will make you stay until the end.
The surroundings are significantly expanded in the Shadow of War. You still have molten lands that characterize Mordor, but we have other zones, too, such as a winter area with snowy peaks and cliffs. There is an ancient city that orcs hold under their control, as well as jungles, swamps, and a forested area known as Nurnen. The surroundings might not stick to the lore entirely, but they are beautiful and add to the overall positive impression of the game.
A Portion of Assassin’s Creed anyone?
That is what you get with the SoW, at least when it comes to the combat. The system reminds of the famous attack and counter mechanism applied in that series. There is only one button for attack and executions are performed once you have enough hits built at once. Until you do that, you should counter or dodge by using the appropriate buttons.
One of the distinct features is the domination system, which allows you to make your enemies fight on your side. That will come in handy during battles as you can turn the tide and your army on the battlefield a majority. Don’t think that this will be easy as the entire combat system has been made in a way that it will present a challenge to both newcomers and experienced players of the series.
The Dynamic Nemesis System in Action
Monolith announced the Nemesis system as a feature that will ‘infinitely’ increase the replay value of the SoW. In short, the whole point lies in the fact that characters and their traits dynamically change during the game. For example, you might discover one way to defeat an opponent. However, after using it for a while, he will figure you out and learn how to defend from that type of attacks.
Unlike the previous installment, in Shadow of War, you have a goal to conquer fortresses. Nemesis system plays a prominent role here, too. For example, you can make an orc infiltrate the fort you want to capture, wait for him to advance to the level of warlord and then use him to sabotage the defenses during your assault. Here you can see the Nemesis system working at its best as it can help you (or make it tougher) to prepare for an attack on the fortress.
Don’t Forget to Upgrade Your Army
Preparation for an assault action takes time. You need to build the army and invest various upgrades, such as the sappers that you need to knock down the gates. There are also beasts that can help you. After all, can you imagine a fantasy where dragons are not spitting fire from the sky?
On the battlefield, it all looks and feels incredible. The developers said that they would try to capture the atmosphere of the epic battles from the books or movies and they entirely succeeded. When you see that you are rushing towards the opponents’ fort with hundreds of soldiers fighting along with you, it’s hard to avoid drooling over how phenomenal it all looks.
The Personalities and Humor of the Orcs
Considering the settings and the storyline, Shadow of War is a pretty dark game. That is the way it should be, but it looks like there is a humorous part missing from the plot. Fortunately, Monolith also noticed that and they decided to use orcs to lighten things up a bit. All orcs have personalities, and you can nurture your relationship with them.
They will memorize your past encounters and, if you killed them the last time, they would be eager for revenge the next. Although revengeful, they are also incredibly charismatic. The actors that gave them voices did a fantastic job and, whether an orc loves or hates you, there is a good chance you will find them cute.
Well-integrated Side Quests
Aside from the main quest, there also side missions that nicely relate to the primary plot. You will meet a whole bunch of carefully created characters whose stories are nothing less unusual than Talion’s storyline. You also have Nemesis and Special quests, and you can explore the open in-game world for a bunch of collectibles. When you get tired of playing alone, you can head online and attack fortresses of other players.
While we are on the topic of side activities, let’s just mention that you should avoid Fight Pits. It’s intended to put you in the role of an orc trainer. However, when you send your orc to the fight pit you can’t affect the battle and, more often than not, he will end up losing to a weaker rival. It’s just annoying, and you don’t participate directly, but it’s a minor flaw in the otherwise excellent game. There are also loots that lead you to the upgrades (via the in-game currency), so you can expect some grinding, but not at a level that is problematic.
Is Middle-earth: Shadow of War the Game of the Year?
When Shadow of Mordor appeared, they talked that it’s the game that marked 2014. There is no doubt that we can tell the same for the Shadow of War. It’s a massive step forward and an incredible sequel to what’s becoming a great series. Enjoy conquering fortresses and developing your nemesis, while participating in the epic battles that remind of the Tolkien’s universe. While it might not be the game of the year, as we all thought, it is a definite must try!