Talion, a skilled Ranger who lives with his beloved wife and son, experiences a horrific evening. Middle-Earth’s most dreaded being, Sauron, makes his grand return and sends out his army of Uruk’s and Black Captains to aid his expansion efforts. Talion’s family and fellow Rangers of the Black Gate meet their grisly end before Talion himself is sacrificed. Instead of moving on to the afterlife to be with his deceased woman and child, Talion comes back the clutches of death through the powers of an ancient spirit. Talion’s transformation from a Ranger to an even more powerful Wraith comes full circle during his quest for revenge.
The story of Shadow of Mordor starts out with a bang and gets better as you Talion moves on. Talion himself is a badass warrior who kills his foes with reckless abandon, but you will begin to understand his plight the further the game moves on. The very spirit that brought him back to life is also an interesting character who’s own moral code and goals make him just as interesting to follow. This tale of revenger and redemption plays out at a manageable pace. The main story mission are just as engaging as the important side quests, which will further compel a Lord of the Rings lore beginner or expert to push farther into Middle-Earth.
Shadow of Mordor’s dark themes are represented perfectly by the open world environments you’ll run around in. You’ll venture out into wide valley’s full of A.I.-controlled goons and human slaves, stealthily make your way through dark caverns, fight off 5 Uruk’s at a time in a raging thunderstorm and enter the Wraith’s blue-tinged world at various intervals. The graphics shine at all times and encapsulate the feeling of dread and sorrow that has taken over this game’s world. The instances in which you’ll venture through grassy field while the sun is blaring down look equally as beautiful.
Mordor’s soundtrack fits the mood during free travel, sneaking sections and intense multi-man sword fights. This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s a huge fan of the sweeping orchestral tracks that were heard during the LOTR films. The sounds of slashing heads off and sucking the life out of unsuspecting foe will provide you with the satisfaction that comes from cutting down Sauron’s forces.
As Talion, players have the option to kill their foes in a variety of ways. His repertoire of deadly maneuvers upgrades over time as you collect Runes and complete missions. You’ll spend the majority of your time hunting down high-ranking Uruk generals and other important enemies on your quest for vengeance. Talion’s longsword and tribute knife can be used to approach situations from a rushdown perspective or more quiet approach. The battle system can be compared to the Freeflow combat that was perfected in the Batman: Arkham series. The battles are one of the best attractions here. Talion can slash, grab, tackle, use his spirit powers to bewilder enemies, shoot them with crossbows and perform so much more. For players who like to pick off their enemies in silence, the tight stealth mechanics in play here feel incredible.
The main hook of this game comes from its emergent relationship system that yields big results as you encounter important characters. The Nemesis System makes this action/adventure stand out from its peers in a big way. From time to time, Talion will encounter a powerful Uruk or character of another race. Should he die in battle, the high-ranking character who did so may raise in rank and gain even more power. You’ll return to the world of the living and see just how much the world has changed and how much more of a threat your killer is now. Learning how to vanquish these stronger foes by acquiring intel makes the feeling of finally killing them so much more worthwhile. Watching heads rool never grows tiresome. Mordor’s gameplay evolves as you live and die, which gives Talion’s adventure a different take on repeated playthroughs.
The mission structure in this game is fun thanks to the rest of its components. The only problem you may run into is a feeling of repetitiveness. The side missions tend to devolve into finding hidden items in the spirit realm, killing a certain number of soldiers, unlocking audio cues from important artifacts, assassinating certain soldiers etc. It’s just too bad that the side missions don’t do enough to change up over time.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a shockingly good Lord of the Rings game. Talion’s swift swordplay and cunning stealthiness make him a fun character to use. The dark and gloomy atmosphere, awesome soundtrack and inovative Nemesis System do play a big part in making this game pull you in and never let go. The repeated side missions hurt it a little, but Shadow of Mordor is just too damn good to pass up.