Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor takes place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. A young ranger, Talion, is killed alongside his family, dooming him to a life between worlds. Here he meets an elven wraith with amnesia and together they vow to find the Black Hand of Sauron in order to free themselves from their curse. To non-Tolkien fans, the story may seem bland, but to those with knowledge of the grander lore, there are a few surprises worth looking into.
It may be a bit blunt, but this is essentially Assassin’s Creed: Middle-earth. Players will explore a small, open world tackling main missions and side quests alike. Thousands of Orcs stand in Talion’s way, but thankfully he is armed with two blades, a ghost bow, magical powers, and various other handy tools to take evil down. The combat is excellent and truly awe inspiring thanks to the Nemesis system. Every battle is unique based on what the player does. An Orc may be scared if he runs away, or he can ascend the ranks if he kills Talion. Cool yes, but damn near impossible at times as well. The simplest encounters can turn into frustrating nightmares due to the sheer amount of Orcs attacking at once.
Despite Mordor’s duller set of colors, SoM is gorgeous. It may be small, but it’s packed full of detail from the sweeping plains to dim caves to destroyed fortresses. The most astounding feature is again, the Orcs, all of which look distinctly different. No really, every single one. It may not push beyond any other next-gen beasts like Destiny in terms of graphics, but the Nemesis system is leagues beyond any other game. The music fits the mood of a LOTR movie, but the voice work, while nicely cast, is as dull as the story.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an impressive game. When it comes down to mechanics, it plays better than any Assassin’s Creed and the enemy AI is scarily intuitive. That said the intelligence is also what mars down the experience, forcing players to grind in order to stand a chance against the dark army. Yet it’s still an amazing first step into something truly remarkable for video games as a whole.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on October 7, 2014 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.