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2014-11-11 04:46:11
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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor review


Plot: You are a literally unkillable Ranger of Gondor, a superhuman orc-stabbing machine. You are Batman with a sword. One of Sauron's minions, "The Black Hand" has murdered you and your family, but mysteriously cursed you so that you are "barred from death." You awaken apparently alive and well, but possessed by an amnesiac elvish wraith.

Together, you will stab (and get stabbed by) thousands of orcs. There's sort of a plot, but really, it's about hewing your way through Mordor like a lawn mower designed for Uruks.


Gameplay: If you have ever played Assassin's Creed, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Crackdown, or Devil May Cry, you will be in familiar territory. This is a rhythmic hack-and-slash game, focused on timing attacks and carefully countering foes.

The game is actually more like Arkham Asylum, in that the game is heavily focused on stealth. Despite being an industrial Orc-blender, the games goes are powerful and not at all stupid. They will surround you. They will call for help. They will organize ambushes. They will overwhelm you. And you will die. You will die a whole. Frikkin'. Lot.

However, this is where the game truly shines! Your deaths will drastically effect the structure of SOM's emergent game environment.
Most of the game centers around assassinating the captains of the Uruk army. If a captain kills you, he will grow in power, and possibly advance through the ranks. He will remember you if he sees you again, and likely ask you if you would like him to kill you again. Advancing in rank will change the Uruk captains' appearance, and they will even appear with battle scars from your previous encounters. Spectacularly, if some random grunt kills you, he will become a new captain, complete with name and title!

Each Orc has unique strengths against, and weaknesses to, certain attacks, weapons, and strategies. These are NOT very well balanced. Some captains are hilariously easy to kill, requiring only a well placed headshot, or a well timed sneak attack, to put down. Others are immune to everything under the sun, regenerate health, come with a literal army of bodyguards, and possess unique offensive moves that are incredibly difficult to defend.

The game encourages you to gather intel about your targets, as you must interrogate grunts, other captains, or narc-snitch-informant orcs called "worms," to learn their weaknesses. Failure to do this means you will often go into a battle you are all but guaranteed to lose.

The Uruk captains will also find ways to advance in power by themselves. They will attempt to rally other orcs to their group, or impress with feasts parties (parties that you are encouraged to crash, I might add!) They will also develop rivalries, and attempt to assassinate each other.

In order to gain power yourself, you must assassinate captains to unlock randomized "runes" to upgrade your bow, sword, and trusty, stabby dagger. There are also unique challenge missions to gain legendary versions of your weapons.

You also have a fairly complicated skill tree. This requires you to gain multiple kinds of experience and currency to unlock special moves.
This is the games absolute weakest angle. It's incredibly time consuming and difficult to unlock "Power," which is necessary to even be allowed to unlock 90% of the skills. It also takes a very long time to unlock a skill point to spend, using "experience." The game "currency" (called Murien) is simply yet another kind of exp. This is necessary to unlock rune slots on your weapons, and increase your arrow ammo capacity. It takes a EVERLOVING FORTUNE of Murien to unlock anything. Fortunately, you can sell unwanted runes and complete simple sidequests to find more.


Controls and Functionality:
The game is amazingly well put together in some aspects, and brutally poorly put together in others.

The climbing, stealth, and variety of combat moves is diverse, useful, and exciting to utilize. Climbing and running around is a breeze. There's multiple ways to use stealth to kill enemies. The game encourages you to attack from above, below, or from the shadows. You run like a cheetah while sneaking, and fast as a fucking sports car in an all out sprint. The brutal stealth and combat assassination maneuvers are fluid and a joy to use.

But their is a major problem with combat that is sure to cause rage and frustration as you play.

Firstly, the attack and counter controls are not very responsive. I suggest doing your damnedest to avoid mashing the buttons, and try to carefully time single button presses. Very frequently, the game did not register when I had pressed counter, or that I was pressing a special move button. This is likely because the game had locked me into one of the somewhat sluggish attack combos, leaving me vulnerable to attack.

Second, the most unforgivable flaw in the game is that sprint, jump, and vault are the same button! I found myself unable to run away, jump off a ledge, or vault over an enemy when I wanted to because the game could not understand what I wanted to do.
MANY enemies require you to vault over their shields in order to attack them. Getting cornered on a ledge while fighting enemies who cannot be countered, or must be vaulted over is more frustrating than I can describe.
Because if this, if the Orc captain you are fighting has a tower shield, you are in for a long, brutal fight.

Third, it takes an INSANE amount of hits to kill even the weakest enemy. The developers clearly intended for you to use the instantly fatal assassination moves that require you to chain together at least eight strikes without interruption or getting hit. Thusly, getting swarmed by shield-bearing enemies, or archers, puts you at great risk of a cheap death.


Graphics, Sound, and Setting: the game is gorgeously detailed and smooth. The sound is chaotic and engrossing. The orcs will conversate with each other, yell out commands, and challenge and taunt you. I am very happy to say I have never heard the same lines twice in over 12 hours of gameplay. The sword strikes and stab sounds are loud and appropriately brutal. The animations for attacks and killing blows are both graceful and savagely brutal. The gore is not shied away from, here.

The voice acting is utterly superb. It's all believe able, emotional, and intense. The orcs have great personality, and are legitimately intimidating. The music is orchestral and epic, reminiscent of the oscar winning scores from the LoTR films.

However, I do not recommend getting this game for PC. The game is a gar-freaking-gantuan 25GB. Also, if you don't have a $2,000 gaming PC, you will NOT be able to play this game on anything even close to high-graphics setting. Your framerate will suffer and you risk locking the game up if you don't have at least 8GB of RAM. I'm not sure the game is so pretty, or so long, or so physically intensive that the space or specs needed to fully enjoy the game is at ALL warranted.

Conclusion: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is massively addicting, thrilling, adrenaline packed, and hard to stop playing (except when the broken jumping mechanic gives you your 658th cheap death.) the game constantly changes due to the unique tactics and strengths of the Uruk captains. The game isn't pretentious, it deliver constant, fast paced action, and focuses on all that's fun about gaming. I highly recommend it.

SOM gets an 82/100 in my book. That's right at the Metacritic consumer average rating. Whoever gives this game a 10/10 is way too easily impressed and way too forgiving.
However, SOM is a miracle of licensed games, and the BEST LoTR game I have ever seen. It's a must own for Arkham Asylum, Assassin's Creed, and LoTR fans!
/ [Sideways]

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2014-11-13 [CuteCommander]: I haven't had a PC for gaming in over a decade - I've missed out on some great games and some better versions of games (high quality graphics plus mods for Skyrim on a good PC made me weep onto my Xbox), but I have, since playing on the N64 I hated having to install a game on to a hard drive. Still do! Nowadays the difference between PCs and consoles doesn't matter in the slightest

2014-11-13 [Lord Josmar]: I prefer console play, simply because I don't have to look at the back of the game box to make sure that system can handle it. If I had the money to buy a gaming PC (They are expensive, despite what anyone says), I probably would. Still think I would prefer the consoles for their ease of everything.

2014-11-13 [Sideways]: Holy shit, [Lord Josmar] agrees with me! Somebody tell the astrophysicists to be on the look out for paradox tears in the fabric of space time!

Hehehe, jk, I know exactly what you mean, Josmar. Most of my games are for console, but I play quite a few games on PC. I wouldn't really call myself console, handheld, tabletop, larp, or PC gamer. I've done them all and I like them all. I'm not even a console fanboy.
I have a Nintendo DS, a Ps2, an Xbox360, and I think I want the PS4, based purely on title exclusives. I wasn't a fan of the ps3, and I'd be forced to relearn a new platform again, but I want those exclusive sandbox titles, like Infamous.

2014-11-15 [Lord Josmar]: I usually try to just get one console and stick with it. There aren't enough exclusives on the Playstation that interest me enough to switch from Xbox. However, there are tons of games on the PC that aren't on consoles that I would love to have, but can't run do to system req's and the like.

2014-11-15 [Doormat]: Wow, sure is console peasantry in here. I agree with [Avaz] so I guess you shouldn't invite me to these reviews again. 

2014-11-16 [Sideways]: *not sure if troll, or just stupid idiot* -_o

2014-11-16 [CuteCommander]: Less than a week till I get this game now. I can let you guys know how it compares on the 360

2014-11-16 [Ravenclaw]: I plan on getting it for the 360 too, just might be longer than a week lol.

2014-11-17 [ally]: Ouch, such unnecessary hostility in the comments >.> I Would have preferred a civil discussion about this topic...



Still buying this game as a Christmas present to myself :3 (Or Diablo III)

2014-11-17 [Sideways]: Diablo 3 is also fantastic. I have way less gripes about that game.

I played about 12 hours of Shadow of Mordor before writing this review. I've played about 30 hours of it now.

My gripes about the game are all the more apparent. Mainly the buttons frequently not doing what you want them to. For instance, the button to climb downwards is now also the "brand" (brainwash) button. This is a massive pain in the ass for stealth missions. You might intend to just drop down a ledge, and instead you will fly into a group of orcs and set one of their faces on fire.

This will result in several instant-fails and lots of redoing sections.

Conversely, there is a few late-tier abilities that change combat from tense and complex to laughably easy. A lot of critics call this game too easy, and those critics are talking about when you get the Storm of Urfael ability.

At first , you can instantly kill an enemy using an "execution" after getting an 8x hit combo.
But now I can do 2 executions every 5x hit combo, and I am allowed to get hit once without breaking my combo. Not only that, but I can activate a 30 second long "Storm of Urfael" power up to get infinite executions for the duration of the power up. Now combat is hilariously easy.

The game now compensates for this in the late game by introducing many mandatory stealth sections and timed missions. So far, Id say the game is actually getting LESS fun as I go.

2014-11-17 [ally]: I see.
What's easy for the critics isn't always too easy for me though :P

2014-11-17 [Sideways]: Oh the timed sessions and staying completely unseen isn't very easy at all, and a fair number of the captains have a decent enough chance to kill you. It's hard to describe. The game difficulty fluctuates in different ways at different times. I'd say the combat is just diverse enough to reward you for thinking and using terrain and techniques to your advantage. Even with the ability to slaughter orcs by the score, they keep coming! You are truly one man against an army

2014-11-18 [Lord Josmar]: I enjoyed it for a good while, but now I kinda wish I had not bought it. It doesn't help that I am not a fan of Assassin's Creed, and this game is pretty much Assassin's Creed: Middle Earth.

2014-11-18 [Sideways]: I mentioned that :P

2014-11-22 [CuteCommander]: Having played the game for a few hours now on Xbox 360, there are some definite differences between that version and the PS4 game. There are loading times everywhere, even going between the main game and pausing, and textures can take quite a few seconds to load up - on environments, characters, and even on weapons.
The graphics in general are quite a bit worse, it seriously looks weak compared to the new-gen version, looking worse than quite a few recent games.
However, the gameplay is still there, and the all-important Nemesis system is the same. If you can get over the graphical issues and loading times, which I suspect might be fixed or at least improved with some updating, there's still a damn fun game here.

2014-11-22 [Sideways]: Well, then that lets me know the PC version doesn't have such bad load times. They aren't exactly quick, but I haven't been upset with them.

2014-11-28 [efe54y4hw34]: Pretty bland review.

2014-11-29 [Ravenclaw]: Pretty bland comment.

2014-12-08 [Lord Josmar]: Well, [CuteCommander] it is kind of hard to compare last Gen with next Gen. I haven't played the last gen version, but I can attest to the graphical superiority of the next gen. I have also had no problems with load or lag while playing on next gen. Speaking about the nemesis system, I feel it was played up a lot and has kind of fell short on what I would have liked. Despite this, there are some times when I was really wowed by the system, just not consistently.

2014-12-09 [CuteCommander]: It's still a fun game to just pick up and play :D

2014-12-09 [Sideways]: Stab stab stab, gets the testosterone going

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