So currently I’m spending my video game time stomping around Middle Earth gutting any orcs that I come across and I gotta say, it’s pretty great. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor came out in 2014 and was on sale recently in the PS Store, so I snatched it up and have been playing it for a while now. While not perfect, the game is incredibly fun and I’ve been having a blast hunting orc in my spare time. Like, I’m becoming addicted to chopping the heads off of these bastard orcs and terrifying their brethren.
If you’ve played the Arkham games recently, you know how the basic gameplay works. You have a sensory mode that allows you to see enemies through walls and uncover secrets you can’t normally see, and you can sneak around and get the drop on enemies using this ability. Or, you can charge into battle, your sword swinging and chop down any enemy that comes your way, using certain buttons to block enemy attacks and pulling off combos once your hit multiplier gets high enough. It’s simple while allowing more complicated maneuvers, it’s effective, and it’s fun either way you want to play.
Of course, you’re not playing as Batman in this game, but you really might as well be. You’re playing a Ranger named Talion who has come back from death with an elf ghost buddy who gives him the extra-sensory abilities along with a few other neat tricks like the elf shot and the wraith stun. A veritable undead superhuman, Talion is now able to wade through hordes of enemies and cut through them as though he were Aragorn himself. Of course, while he is undead (I guess), he’s not indestructible. If you should die in this game, it doesn’t just reset the timeline of the game back to before you died or last saved, the orc who killed you actually will gain power from your death and comment on killing you should you face him again. Which brings me to a fun highlight of the game: the Nemesis System.
This game has the interesting mechanic of having unique orc captains roaming the open world with you, each with specific abilities and weaknesses. When an orc either kills you or completes an event, they will be promoted and gain strength and power. This is the essence of the nemesis system. Each orc captain has their own desires and will behave in ways that will advance their agenda and abilities. They also sometimes have fears and weaknesses that you can take advantage of. Other times they will have strengths that make them immune to certain attacks and tactics. If you want to fully take advantage of their weaknesses or not attempt a tactic that will hurt you, you must learn about them by seeking out intel on the captains. You can find intel in certain areas of the game or by interrogating specific orcs (worms or other captains).
I have the game for PS3, and I’ve heard that the Nemesis System is scaled back for last-gen consoles, but I’m not complaining. It’s probably more nuanced in the current-gen consoles, but it’s still a great addition to the PS3 game. I love tracking down intel and choosing a specific target for me to hunt down next. I find myself often distracted from main missions not out of any completionist attitude, but simply because hunting down captain after captain and killing them off is fun (I feel like a crazed serial killer, but it’s the truth). And the captains do replenish as new orcs get promoted to replace ones that you kill off. I almost crossed every captain off the list before new, unknown ones began replacing them. Rather than be annoyed, I grew excited because I had more intel to track down and use against this fresh batch. And using it is damn fun.
If I have one complaint about the game, it’s that it sometimes has oppressive loading times. Even coming out of a pause screen can take a good amount of time, and it can get annoying, I’m not going to lie about it. But it is understandable as there is a lot going on in the game at one time. Lots of unique enemies all roaming around at once with power struggles happening even when I’m not around, so I can forgive it taking more than a couple seconds to load all that. One other thing, which isn’t a complaint, just something that I wish would have been in the game is some sort of customization for the character. I think it would have been neat to be able to make Talion look however I wanted him to, but that’s not what the game makers wanted to do, and I can’t fault them for that. Just something I think would have been fun.
Also, apparently Gollum’s alive in this game? It takes place some 2000 years after the even of Lord of the Rings, but somehow he’s out here causing trouble again? Didn’t he drop into Mount Doom? Is he lava-proof? Does the ring really grant that much power? I’m not done with the game, so maybe there’s some explanation still to come, but it’s definitely odd that he’s running around in the game. EDIT: Apparently the game actually takes place between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and takes place 2000 years after the first time Sauron was around and being a dick. My mistake!
But aside from those very minor gripes, I am loving my time kicking ass in the Shadow of Mordor. The stealth attacks are thrilling, the nemesis system is a great facet, and the fighting is brutal and heart-pounding. You can even terrify the orcs by releasing certain creatures or by brutalizing another orc in front of them! It’s supremely bad ass.
Whether I’m sneaking around killing silently from the shadows or jumping in head first sword swinging like a maniac, Shadow of Mordor is ridiculously fun. I can’t wait to get back to doing what rangers do best!