Lord of the Rings is one of the most famous series and movie trilogies in the world. People from all over have loved the story of Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Legolas, and others who band together to save the world. While the movies, both the original trilogy and the new Hobbit trilogy, are both awesome, there has not been too many LOTR video games that can stand up to their name.
For the Playstation 2 there was LOTR: The Two Towers and Return of the King, both of which were good games that allowed you to play through the battles from the movies. Then, on the last generation of consoles, there weren’t too many games carrying the name, and with the most popular one being LOTR: Conquest, which was basically Star Wars Battlefront in an LOTR skin. Not to say the game was not fun, but it definitely was not good.
Now here we stand, almost a year into the new generation of consoles, and we have our first LOTR game. It’s called Middle Earth: The Shadow of Mordor. It’s part of the LOTR lure but does not actually follow any of the Tolkien storylines. The game is completely original but does allude to characters in the stories including Gollum as far as I’ve seen. The game starts as Sauron building up his army in order to find the Ring and take back power.
You play as Talion, a ranger who is on the Black Gate because he murdered someone who tried to kill his wife. On one fateful day, some of Sauron’s servants come into where you are staying, killing your wife, son, and you. The only thing is a wraith of Elven descent keeps you alive and transforms you into an undead ranger who is hell-bent on finding and killing the creature that killed his family.
The story is an oft-told one in video games, and the only difference is the LOTR characters and lure. Besides that, there is a lot here both good and bad, so let’s get started.
Starting with gameplay, imagine that Assassin’s Creed and the Batman: Arkham Series had a kid. That would be Shadow of Mordor. The combat system is exactly the same as the Batman series. There is a hit button, counter button, stun button, and evade button. Combat flows the same way, in that you can take on 20 enemies at the same time and never truly feel overwhelmed. The only thing the combat system does not have is that final, slow motion finish after you’ve defeated your final enemy as Batman does.
Shadow plays like Assassin’s Creed because of its navigation system. You can do parkour and climb all the stuff you want. The climbing actually looks exactly like the AC games, so much so, in fact, that people are saying the development team stole the animations. This all works fine and exactly how it is supposed to.
The selling point of this game, though, is the Nemesis System. This system should revolutionize the way games are made. The entire game is predicated on using the Uruk ladder of command to take out leaders and eventually the creature you are trying to kill. Each time you kill a captain, there becomes a vacuum which can be filled by another Uruk. On top of that, there are constant promotions and demotions inside the system which is fun to watch. The game takes on an AI of its own and the development team said that no two games will ever be the same, which is pretty awesome.
Each of the characters in the game has a memory too. If you interrogate a captain but do not kill him, the next time you see him, he will remember you and say something about it. This is cool because most games have a relatively stupid AI, but this game’s AI is something that I hope more games will look to.
The coolest part of the Nemesis System, for me at least, is what happens when you die. When you get killed in battle, the Uruk that killed you will get promoted and they will become stronger. This also brings a new element into the game as there are now consequences for when you die unlike most other games. These promotions continue the cycle of power inside the Uruk chain of command and make it so the game never gets stagnant.
While the AI of the game does not get stagnant, the game itself does not follow the same fate. It’s pretty repetitive for a game that does not have a great story driving it. The weapon missions are pretty cool because they are just challenges to kill a certain number of enemies in a certain way, but outside of that, there is just a repetition in missions. There also is not too much drive because this game is completely open world. I always have trouble with sandbox games that do not push me in the right direction because I just get bored.
Overall, this game is very good. It blends the combat from a proven system with the navigation from another. While the game plays great, though, the weak story and lack of drive takes it down a notch from being a top tier release. The nemesis system is something that I think other development teams will look to emulate, but I think that is the only lasting feature from this title.
Final Verdict- 6/10