Sunday, July 23, 2017

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

First-person action brawlers aren't really my thing, but I can be persuaded to play them if the theme is interesting. And themes don't get a whole lot better than the Lord of the Rings universe.

Shadow of Mordor cover art.jpg
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor came out last year, which makes it a fairly new game for me to be playing. There's a sequel on the way soon, which of course means good deals on the original, so I picked it up for just a few bucks in a recent sale. I played it on my PC, though it's available on just about every gaming platform.

The story takes place in the time between the Hobbit (when Bilbo finds the One Ring) and the start of the main story in Fellowship of the Ring (when the Fellowship starts their quest and the War of the Ring begins). The main character is a ranger named Talion, who used to patrol parts of Mordor before Sauron and his minions began to reclaim it. He's haunted/possessed by a mysterious elven spirit, giving him all kinds of interesting abilities. Learning about that spirit makes up a good chunk of the storyline.

Shadow of Mordor does several interesting things as far as combat mechanics. There's the usual assortment of physical attacks - sword for melee, dagger for stealth, bow for ranged - but everything can be augmented by special spirit abilities. You can drain enemies of their energy to replenish ammo, for instance, or have your spirit augment melee attacks to stun enemies. Lots of blood and gore while beating up orcs, too, of course. I'm not particularly good at these kinds of first-person action combat mechanics, so it took me a while to get the hang of it, but eventually I got fairly decent at taking on hordes of orcs.

There's quite a bit of Middle-earth flavor in the game, which I really liked. You can find various artifacts with bits of lore embedded, each of which has a bit of story attached. There's small silvery runes called Ithildin to collect, which unlock portions of a image similar to the hidden Moria door. And throughout the main story there are references to the larger world, from references to coming war to an appearance by Gollum. They do take some liberties with the world that may upset some of the Middle Earth purists out there, but I don't mind that sort of thing, figuring I can just ignore the bits that don't seem to fit.

As Talion goes around Mordor, he'll run into stronger enemy leaders that are tougher to kill. These captains and war-chiefs are unique, and they'll remember if you run from them or if they kill you. They get more powerful over time, too. You can even find special missions to defeat captains who defeated your friends (assuming you're playing online and linked to a friends list). Those encounters add some extra depth to the kill-'em-all gameplay mechanics. And eventually you can use spirit domination to bring some of them around to your side, which adds a whole new facet to your fighting style.

There are some extras beyond the main story, mainly combat challenge modes. I didn't really mess around with most of that, since the combat wasn't the draw for me anyway. I was there for the story and Middle-earth world. I'm sure players that are more into the combat would enjoy them, though.

I had a great time roaming around Mordor in Shadow of Mordor. Well worth playing for any Tolkien fan, or if you like the gameplay style. If you like both, all the better!

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