Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Review
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is the latest title of the series and takes place right after the events in Shadow of Mordor.
Looking at the big picture, Shadow of War is like a massive expansion to Shadow of Mordor. The world is bigger, there is a lot more to do, and the game features a lot more to players. The sheer amount of content is in a way overwhelming when compared to the first game of the series. Even though it feels like I am making it sound bad, Shadow of War has some great things to offer.
“While seeking revenge, dig two graves – one for yourself.” – Douglas Horton
The story takes place on a cold plate of revenge. On one side, you have Talion, a brave and focused human ranger on a quest to avenge the death of his loved ones. While his family died, he can’t. On the other hand, we have Celebrimbor, an elf wraith responsible for forging the famous Rings of Power. As part of the unique gameplay established by the first title of the series, Celebrimbor lends his power to Talion; both share one and the same body.
Both protagonists go through a various set of missions, getting closer to their ultimate goals, but as they progress, the game evolves as well. What was first a mission of revenge turns into suicide; depending on the choices you make, the game becomes more and more difficult. The challenges that bring are good and interesting, but each one is easily overshadowed by the next one.
As far as it goes in terms of gameplay, it is very similar to what the previous game had to offer. The hack and slash mechanics have been slightly revamped and have a complete feel to them. There are more combos to perform, new executions and cool new tricks, all thanks to the aid of our ghostly friend. The extra freedom and combo options offered to give a flair to the game that might have been gone for granted otherwise.
Now revenge isn’t only the fuel for our protagonist duo, but also that of our enemies. In Shadow of War, there is a hierarchy and although it is believed to be inexistent, these bad guys have a certain bond linking some of them. It not friendship – no, these guys are incapable of friendship – it is more like a loyalty thing.
At the top of the hierarchy, tower lies your target. To reach it, you must start from the bottom and make your way up. You can challenge higher tier enemies, but the challenge comes along as well. Starting down from the bottom, you have the option to make the enemies loyal to you, kill them, or more. Depending on your decision, it will affect the superiors. In some amazing interaction, the voice acting shines when that one orc expresses his discontent towards you. You feel as though the enemy takes your every move personal and their anger is justified.
As you grow, the game grows
Going after those generals, subs, and scrubs fully puts the fighting mechanics to the test. You will have to learn how to dodge, counter, strike at the right moment, and use your newly found abilities to put all the cards on your side. The more difficult the challenge, the better your chances of getting something great out of it. If you fail, and the so-called ‘boss’ you are after wins, they will grow stronger – the same as if they would have got experience instead of you. In the process, you might love some wealth and weapons. You can always try to recuperate some by heading back, but remember, that enemy is now stronger, has more influence, and is really mad at you.
The game grows with you and as you level up, you get perks and new abilities. You can also find some interesting loot, like legendary weapons for example. However, beware. If you are unlucky and face one of those mean ones, they might pick up your weapon and shatter it in front of your eyes. Those can be recrafted…if you can find the shattered parts.
Top-notch voice acting, lowkey visuals
The game focuses very much on the relationship between the duo protagonist and the enemies. Even bad guys share some interaction as well. That said, it was only possible to achieve such an important representation thanks to the immaculate voice acting. Each character has his own personality and feels unique. There is a heavy English accent, which feels overused, to be honest, but adds some charm in its own way.
Still speaking of audio, the soundtrack is promising and grand. It isn’t as epic as what you would expect from Lord of The Rings for example, but it fills in very well and feels natural. Some key moments have been enhanced thanks to the score. It’s a double-edged sword in some sort.
Where the game confuses me is the visual aspect. CG animations and the game itself look great. The level of detail that was put into the game is good enough to help you get immersed in this complex world. Textures have been refined from the last title, wish in the long run, makes you appreciate the artwork of the developers. Now earlier, I mentioned confusion? Well, as good as the game looks, in-game cinematics of enemies speaking (when you first meet them for example) feel like they came from a completely different game.
On the Xbox One, where I played the game, certain of these scenes feel as though they have been stripped out of their textures. I was confused to see so many of these while the game looked so good overall. A little more polishing would have come a long way.
A bigger world, a bigger ego
Shadow of War is the new game of the series but doesn’t feel like it. The world is larger, there are a lot more options and features, which in the book, is part of a new game definition. However, it feels as though it is trying so hard to be its own thing, but ends up feeling like nothing more than a copied version of Shadow of Mordor, but on a larger canvas. It features better visuals, but fail to impress during certain interactions. The voice acting is amazing, but the accent makes it feel monotonous. Everything good about the game can be retorted with something. At the end of the day, Shadow of War feels like a huge expansion that adds more content to Shadow of Mordor.