I really enjoyed Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, it was a fun experience with many mechanics that worked quite well, but today, I will be addressing what can be done to improve the overall experience.
First of all, let’s get the obvious thing out of the way, the Nemesis system needs to return and it has to be bigger and better than ever. What we know about it at this point is that “The Nemesis System is also expanded to create a unique personal world through Nemesis Fortresses, which allows players to utilize different strategies to conquer dynamic strongholds and create personalized worlds with their unique Orc army”. Now that sounds all well and good, but slapping a fortress mechanic over a feature this important would hardly do it justice. Sneak in some more strategy elements, make the player feel like a warlord, not just some spectral humbo who likes scaring orcs into submission so they stab their bosses in the back. It would give the game tremendous amount of depth to plan out an attack on an enemy fortress alongside your allies, and then executing it without a hitch. Have some orcs create a distraction, while you sneak in with your small band inside the castle, the minions taking care of the henchmen as you go after their leader.
The combat in Shadow of Mordor wasn’t bad. It started out as a tweaked version of the Arkham games and worked marvelously for the first half of the game. It was slick, responsive and most of all – satisfying, what it did right, was variation and looks. At any moment, you could break out your bow, slow down time and pop a few headshots before rushing in with your flaming sword, cutting through orcs like a red-hot knife through half-molten butter.
Although once you acquired some of the more powerful skills the combat quickly lost its challenge, thus rendering it more of an obligation than something you enjoy doing. By the end of the game, I could mercilessly slaughter a few dozen orcs without even breaking a sweat.
Make the combat more challenging with real risks of failure just like in the first half of the original game where I was running for my life with 45 enemies chasing me down. Of course, you shouldn’t be underpowered, but make fighting those enemies worth the time and effort by providing reasonable rewards.
This was a feature I generally liked in the first title with the rock-jumping-speed-boost mechanic being a favorite. But let’s be frank here, it was dull running through a wasteland where the only things entertaining were the jump speed boosts and the impressive clothing animations. Caragors were fun the first time you tamed them but the clunky and jerky movements broke the fluidity of the gameplay. As for the Graug, yeah being on top of a hulking beast wrecking everything in its path was entertaining for the first few times. What was wrong with this feature was less about the feature itself and more about the locale – a desert with nothing of interest. If the map is prettier to look at and more exciting to run through the same system could be kept from the original game, albeit the mounting mechanic could use a rework for more fluidity and responsiveness.
Stealth was easily my favorite part of the game with just enough challenge to make it difficult sneaking into a fortress while keeping the simplicity of the Assassin’s Creed titles with its own twist.
Not much improvements would need to be made for the stealth, just an occasional fix here and there.
Now, I’m not very qualified to discuss this aspect of the game since I’m hardly a devoted fan of The Lord of The Rings. What I can say, though, is that overall the story was enjoyable providing a reasonable backdrop for your killspree. As long as it is well told, well voice acted, well animated and fits the theme of the game I think that most will be satisfied.
There wasn’t any customization in the original game, aside from a few DLC costumes, nowadays, having a deep customization system brings depth to a title, allowing players to personalize their experience. Take Assassin’s Creed Unity for example. The gear that you picked for Arno was decisive in how you’d play your game. Let us buy/craft various items that will shape the way we play through the game. Want to go full cloak & dagger? Build your gear according to that. Want to be a merciless killing machine? Build your gear according to that. Want to be more focused on being a commander rather than warrior? You get the gist.
Overall, I think that WB will release a great game that will improve upon the inconsistencies of the original to provide a mayhem-filled, 30-hour long killfest. Now let’s wait for the gameplay reveal on March 8th with our breaths held and reasonable expectations.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War releases on August 22nd on PC, PS4 and Xbox One (Including Xbox Scorpio), see the cinematic trailer here: