Shadow Of War: Review

Middle Earth: Shadow Of War plays like a worthy successor to that of Shadow of Mordor.  It’s a game that’s not afraid to take risks and fortunately, a lot of them have paid off.

Like the previous game Shadow Of War feels so much more than a simple Batman Arkham copy, but with Orcs. The Nemesis system is back and better than ever. It’s bigger in almost every way and the additional of sieges are amazing, as are some of the characters you meet along the way.

One of the first people you will meet in Shadow Of War is Shelob but as a scantily clad woman. This may not be a game that Lord of the Rings lore enthusiast will agree with, but as a fan of the books myself, it was fairly easy to look past all that.

Following on from the last game Talion and Celebrimbor have forged their own ring of power, which has been stolen by the ominous Witch King of Angmar. Unfortunately, this version of the Witch King isn’t that great and the narrative surrounds him often stutters and slows.

Shadow Of War has much more variety on offer than it did in Shadow Of Mordor. The game looks a lot better for a start and with the addition of a larger map with different climates, it adds to the variety. One thing I did notice is that no matter what the environment looks like, whether it’s snowy or green, the enemies and wildlife is identical. Adding something different here would have helped with immersion.

The best parts of Shadow Of War come from your dealing with the Orcs. With hundreds of randomly generated characters, you will still find new things after 50 hours of gameplay. The Orc population here is very different. Their range is strengths and weakness fills them with personality and surprises. I only wish they could always be your companions as they are much more engaging than some of the dull human characters in the game.

As you would expect, most of your time will be spent killing orcs and traversing the landscape. These are both fun in their own way, which makes a huge difference to the game. Combat is much better than the previous game and although single orcs won’t pose a threat to you, in their numbers they’re a completely different challenge.

With lots of different things happening on your screen at once you momentum in combat can be slowed somewhat. Yes, taking out legions of orcs feels as good as ever, but the chaos on screen, as a result, can make it almost impossible to target an enemy, resulting in a sort of orcish moshpit.

Getting bogged down with enemies is a real possibility and Shadow Of War does much better job at keeping the fight heated this time around. Learning when to back off and heal is a skill worth learning.

The siege quests are truly as good as they looked in the previews. They’re epic assaults on fortifications that require a lot of discipline and tact. Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over what your army does. Breaching the walls, and then taking the various capture points is pretty easy with an army at your back. The real test comes from the final showdown with the overlord and his henchmen. This is no joke; these fights are tough affairs that often go down to the wire.

Once you have taken certain fortresses you will also be required to defend them. There’s a moment of relief that ensue’s you as you defeat the final enemies and claim the land as your own once again.

The narrative-driven story in Shadow Of War is a little thin and revolves around nothing more than a fight against Sauron and his forces. I didn’t find any character, other than the generate orcs that stood out to me as memorable. This is where the last game fell down a little and I’m disappointed to see it hasn’t changed much in Shadow Of War.

Where the narrative fails, the things you do on your journey make up for it, however. Riding a drake, teaming up with orcs, fighting wraiths and Balrogs; there are some truly epic Lord Of The Rings style moments here.

The final battle is also much improved from the previous game. Yes, there are still some quick time event moments, but it’s multiple stages an epic final battle worked rather well. The problem I have with this is what happens after that affair, as the game doesn’t end there.

Once you’ve finished the sort of final level, you then need to conquer 20 siege battles. These will most likely be fortresses you have already encountered. For me, this is where the game started to slog so more. There is no narrative to speak of that drives the story from this point and it really just felt like the section wasn’t needed in the game.

When it comes to the end game you’ll want to make sure you’re geared up and Talion is as OP as possible. There are plenty of upgrades and parts to collect, all with different degrees of rarity. Even Orcs themselves feel slightly loot like in Shadow Of War. You can use them by assigning them as the overlord of your taken forts and pit them against other orcs in this 1v1 AI controlled arena battles. I love how they feel sort of Pokémon like in Shadow Of War, it really gives a sense of ownership.

You can earn new weapons and armor for Talion and co constantly, and as a bit of negative, this means you’re constantly swapping out gear in favor of new ones. Don’t get me wrong; I love loot as much as the next person, but this feel like a little too much loot if that’s possible.

This translates somewhat to the skill tree and its menu. It’s all just a bit too dense and text heavy for my liking. There is plenty to choose from, I just feel it could have been displayed better instead of this blob of endless text you seem to get. You earn abilities and skills at such a pace that it keeps thing interesting, however, which creates an instance of just 5 more minutes of the game, turning to 50 minutes later.

At its core, Shadow Of War is a really great game. Like the previous Middle Earth game, it stumbles a bit in the penultimate act. There is so much more to offer in this game than there is in Shadow Of Mordor and that’s actually one of the best ways to sum this title up.

Yes, there is more content, but perhaps sometimes it’s a little too much. As a sequel it’s bigger in almost every way, there is no denying that. I’m just not sure if it’s in every way you wanted.

Shadow Of War is still a game with plenty of epic moments and enough Balrogs to justify a purchase. Like many titles before it and much more after it, I feel it suffered from some overhyping.

Constantly threatening to write a book, but always with a story to tell. Tom has a typical northern English soul. He may sound as mundane as Jon Snow, but at least he tries to articulate. Lover of video games, comics, geek pop culture and wishing he could play Dungeons & Dragons.
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