JackGraal.com header

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - review

Jack Graal
4 November 2014

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a great unknown until the release day. And here it turns out that we have received a decent chunk of sandbox game which introduces a new level of gameplay depth  - and does it well.

The main character is Talion - a guard serving on the Black Gate. The orcs capture him along with his wife and son after a failed attempt to defend the fortification. They are all ritually killed by the servants of Sauron to summon a wraith, who unexpectedly enters the body of Talion and brings him back to life. That spirit is none other than Celebrimbor, the elf, who has forged the Rings of Power a long time ago, but does not remember a thing. Thus, we have in fact two protagonists in one. One wants to know his past, and the other wants to avenge his family.

The story has been quite cleverly woven into the canon of Middle-earth, and the whole games is soaked with the atmosphere of both of Peter Jackson's trilogies - though sometimes the game is much more gory. Even the soundtrack, which doesn’t make use of any music motives from the movies, preserves that unique climate.

The Nemesis feature will be a little simplified on PS3 and X360

What distinguishes Shadow of Mordor is the Nemesis system. The orc captains have randomly generated looks, names and personalities, based on a set of strengths and weaknesses. This ensures that every struggle requires a slightly different strategy or some planning and intel gathering before the confrontation. Orcs remember their victories and defeats. That's why losing in this game makes a difference. Every death is a promotion of some orc in the hierarchy. If you do not want to fight with the army of captains at the maximum level - try not to die too often. And the frustrating Quick Time Events do not make it any easier.

Orcs compete against each other and kill their own kin, to take their place in the hierarchy. Thanks to that, the situation on the map is constantly changing, which can sometimes shatter your plans, but also increase the lifetime of the game. And to get rid of an orc for good, you have to excecute him by decapitation - otherwise, he may return to the battlefield even uglier from the past wounds, but also more skilled. And if an orc is executed, another one takes his place.

Free DLC “Power of Shadow” allows you to play in the skin of one of the main bosses

When you finally get the ability to dominate orcs, the game becomes even more interesting and diverse. You can even lead to a situation in which all of the orcs in the army of Sauron will in fact serve Talion. I also like the fact that the skills in the character development tree are practical and not invented just to fill a blank space. You don't have to buy them all, but each skill can significantly facilitate or spice up the hunt for the orcs.

The combat system is extremely complex. Combos and counterattacks, slaughtering, Shadow Strike, which allows teleporting to an enemy of your choice, archery, mounting large and even larger beasts, blasting bonfires, attacking from stealth or from heights, exploiting enemy fears, or issuing orders to dominated orcs. All of this fits together smoothly and allows for a completely different approach to every battle. And thankfully a well designed control system does not make things any more difficult.

Additional uncompressed textures can be downloaded to PC version, but they need 6GB VRAM. In fact you don’t need them, because they don’t make any difference

Mordor is divided into two separate maps - the first is barren, the second entirely covered with lush vegetation. The cycle of day and night and very realistic rain heavily diversifies the landscape, so you do not feel bored with the environment. The graphics in Shadow of Mordor are gorgeous - just look on the area from a higher building, or use the Photo Mode to see all the bells and whistles. And although some of the textures of the walls or the ground are not as good as the rest, the looks of this game is still very impressive. It is also well optimized and runs pretty smoothly even on hardware that barely meets the minimum requirements.



We Happy Few - are emotions necessary to be happy?

I'm one of those players who usually avoid survival games, which is perhaps why I took so long to get to We Happy Few. Eventually my gamer instinct whispered in my ear: "You have to play this someday! Apparently it's very similar to Bioshock - not only in terms of its graphic style …". So […]

5 things you will learn from video games

Can violent games, which give us points for completing demoralizing tasks, be a great educational adventure? Will Angry Birds contribute to an increase in IQ of the population? Maybe yes, maybe no. But I can, without hesitation, say that games have always been a very good source of positive experience and useful knowledge. Hand-eye coordination […]

The Art of Exploration. Play like you travel, travel like you play.

There was once a time in my life when I just wanted to finish games without respite and a shadow of reflection. Fortunately after some time my approach to games (and other media as such) began to change significantly. I started to respect  them and desired to take a closer look at each of them. […]

How to connect DualShock 4 controller to a PC

I had a pleasure to hold a lot of controllers, but DualShock 4 is without a doubt my favorite. Not only because of the shape and the arrangement of buttons, but also because of pure practicality. Firstly - it's compatible with PlayStation 3, so when I want to play a game on the older generation, […]

Uncomfortable first impressions from Paris

It's been seven years since the launch of the revolutionary, but monotonous first Assassin's Creed. Today, we have new generation of consoles and a game you can't stop looking at with so greatly varied contents that pour out of the screen. It's a pity that it's choking all the time because of very poor optimization […]

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - review

For the last 10 years during the holiday season there was always a new Call of Duty. Not all editions of this series were particularly outstanding, but certainly it is one of the few series that keep their place on top. After the release of Advanced Warfare nothing will change in that matter because we […]

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - first impressions

For the first time in several years Call of Duty has no competition in the pre-Christmas period, thus there is nothing to stop it from breaking further records in sales. In addition there is finally a breath of freshness in the series, with the most fun parts untouched. Right now, I'm after four hours of […]

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - review

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a great unknown until the release day. And here it turns out that we have received a decent chunk of sandbox game which introduces a new level of gameplay depth  - and does it well. The main character is Talion - a guard serving on the Black Gate. The orcs […]

#GamerGate - scandal going down the wrong way

#GamerGate is trying to tell us that some reviews are not always written in accordance with journalistic ethics. But wait, it's not the end of the story. We also learn that "the only true gamers are heterosexual men who like to look at sexy women and scenes full of bloody violence". I always thought that […]

Destiny - review

Destiny is a strange game. Nearly the whole solar system at your fingertips, and players will just keep shooting into a cave. For hours. Literally. After mixing so many genres into one, the game has no hangover at all. But all that glitters is not gold. Destiny storyline is full of symbols and understatements. The […]