Middle Earth: Shadow of War released on October 10, 2017 and after a few hours in the game, I wanted to share my initial impressions. Overall the game is a lot of fun and improves on the first in many ways. Be warned, there are some early game spoilers below.
A New Ring is Forged
Following the end of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Talion, with the help of the wraith Celebrimbor, forged a new Ring to take on Sauron. As the game begins, Talion and Celebrimbor are separated and the only way for them to merge again is to hand over the ring to Shelob. It seems that Shelob will be one of the driving forces in the game, guiding players towards their next objective. Those of you who know at least a little bit about the world of Middle Earth know that Shelob is a giant spider, but in this game, Monolith has made some changes to her character so that she can take the form of a human. So far, one of the few issues I have with this game is this change. Shelob should be a spider; not a human. And while it merits more discussion, it won’t prevent me from enjoying the game.
Off to War!
I have only played a few story missions, but this game feels more epic. Shadow of Mordor was a tale of revenge, but Shadow of War is a tale of war. From the beginning of Act 1, players can sense the war between the forces of Sauron and everyone else. One of the early missions has you running through Minas Ithil as it is besieged by orcs. There are fireballs raining down on the battlefield and everywhere you look there are men and orcs fighting. This backdrop of war creates some tension between Talion and Celebrimbor since while they both want to defeat Sauron, they have different methods and motivations. Celebrimbor wants to focus on defeating Sauron, while Talion wants to help those living in or around Mordor survive. I expect this conflict to come to a head later in the game.
Game play and Skills
In the hours prior to the release of Shadow of War, I played some Shadow of Mordor so I could compare the gameplay better. Even after only playing for a few hours, I can safely say Shadow of War plays much better. It feels more fluid and simply runs better. Taking on a group of orcs can be a lot of fun with Talion’s abilities. Taking out ambushing orcs is just so much fun. I can’t wait to keep playing.
Speaking of Talion’s abilities, the skill tree is massive. Not only are there a lot of skills, but each skill has several modifiers. While it looks overwhelming at first, it should provide for deep game play options and allow players to play how they want to play. I am excited to dive more into the skill tree and figure out my play style.
One area that has me a little disappointed, but is also a carry-over from the first game, is the stealth aspect of the game. So far, it seems too easy. If you hold down the stealth button, you can almost walk up to enemies without being seen. While I don’t need Splinter Cell level stealth mechanics, having to focus on it a bit more than I currently do would be nice.
Meet Your Nemesis
The revolutionary Nemesis System from Shadow of Mordor returns, and it’s even better. As you have run-ins with orcs throughout the game, they learn from you and may hold grudges. As you play the game, you will get killed, and who kills you will change how your game plays. The orcs in the game have a tiered system with leaders and grunts. If a leader kills you, they will become more powerful and potentially be promoted within the orc ranks. If you die to a grunt, that grunt will become a captain and gain unique modifiers and abilities. The system allows everyone to experience a slightly different game and create unique stories. The orcs will remember you and how you fought them. This leads to adaptations (even mid-fight) and keeps the game fresh.
While I was killing a random group of orcs, one got the better of me and turned from Garl to The Dark Slayer. This was a random orc and he was promoted to a captain. After being killed by an orc, you can choose to take revenge on him. The next thing I did was hunt him down and exact my revenge. The Nemesis System is one of the standouts of the game so far and I can’t wait to see what other stories I will experience during the game.
Overall, I am very impressed with Shadow of War and cannot wait to dive deeper into the game. Make sure to keep checking out the site for more Shadow of War coverage!