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Middle-earth series [2014-2017 -- Monolith Productions]

Started by Starfox, Jun 05, 2023, 06:06 AM

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Starfox

Originally published on April 04, 2019 by Doc_Brown

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Shadow of Mordor is like a violent Arkham game, featuring an identical control scheme and suspiciously similar concepts (such as enemies tagged with green that you can interrogate).  This is thankfully a very solid core around which to build, since most of the rest of the game comes across as rather generic in concept and average in execution.  The plot exists more in the cinematic continuum than the books, supporting characters don't stick around for very long, and most of the side activities are busywork at best.

The Nemesis system, however, is a truly great and original contribution to gaming.  Even after all these years, few others have even attempted to copy it (XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, Assassin's Creed Odyssey), and none have done it as well.  The fun of the first half of the game comes from exploiting your enemies' weaknesses.  Come the second half, though, and you find yourself taking a shine to particular Uruks you've dominated and working to ensure their survival as they work their way up the ranks.

So you'd think a sequel wouldn't have to do much to improve upon the original.  Instead, Shadow of War feels like it was made by a different team within Monolith, one that got the gist of the first game but not the specifics.  Take wraith stun, for instance, which in Mordor staggered an enemy with a spectral glow.  In War, this move now literally freezes them with ice, but beyond the aesthetic difference is otherwise the same.  If you're going to change something, why bother if it doesn't add anything?

To give an example of a more significant change, one of the joys of Mordor are the runes that can replenish your health, elf shot, and focus based on specific actions (headshots, stealth kills, and so on).  In War there are literally only three kinds of runes.  That's it.  The game tries to spice things up by giving you loot in the form of better weapons and clothes, but I can't help but feel that diminishes the uniqueness of Talion (the tattered cloak, the broken hilt of his son's sword, etc).

Even his character model has been changed for the worse.  It's more detailed, yes, but lesser for it.  And really, that's the game's problem as a whole.  More doesn't automatically mean better, and what we have here feels overstuffed and sloppy.  The story goes even further astray from the source material, and you're really just thrown into the game with little explanation of how to play.  Shadow of Mordor may have less to offer than Shadow of War, but it provides for the more solid experience.

Guess what it means!