As throwbacks go this one is fairly recent, having only released back in 2014. But with the next installment, Shadow of War on the horizon (releasing Oct. 10th) why not talk about it now?
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an open world action/adventure game, the events of which take place sometime between the Hobbit and the actual Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this adventure, you play as a ranger named Talion. After the obligatory ‘murder everyone the main character cares about’ scene, the bad guys kill you. The end.
Just kidding, obviously. The wraith of an elf lord named Celebrimbor (Tolkien buffs will remember him as the guy who forged the rings of power in the first place) merges with your soon-to-be corpse, which keeps you alive and the two of you set out to murder the daylights out of Sauron’s army in your quest for revenge. That about sums up the story, but if you’re a fan of Tolkien’s work in general, there is a fairly interesting amount of lore available in the game. They even touch on a few things never really talked about anywhere else (that I could find) so that was some nice incentive for me to actually go around and explore.
So what really made this game a hit? The most interesting aspect of its time would be the aptly named Nemesis System. One of the main activities in the game involved you hunting down and assassinating high ranking orcs to weaken Sauron’s forces. These orcs generally had certain abilities, which made them strong or weak to certain weapons in your arsenal. For example, one might be wearing armor that you couldn’t damage with your sword, so you needed to figure out something else. If you failed in killing said orc or were defeated by them, the game would actually remember this. That orc would get stronger and gain additional powers, making them even harder to defeat the next time around. They also taunt you about having beaten you before, which really just cements the need to kill the little bastards at that point. There was also an online component where other players would be notified of your death and could undertake a vendetta mission kill them on your behalf.
I used to jokingly refer to this game as Assassin’s Creed, LoTR Edition because it plays a lot like that. You get around via parkour, climb walls and shit, dive off buildings and run around picking off important people in the enemy army. The parallel is definitely there. Talion comes equipped with a dagger, sword, and bow, all of which can be upgraded via quests that usually involved accomplishing something in a short period of time if memory serves. Thanks to Celebrimbor you also gain access to a number of useful Wraith powers which let you perform overwhelming combos or freeze time while you pick people off with your bow for a few seconds, just to name a few.
But that’s not all! Remember what I said about killing off key orcs and them having strengths and weaknesses? Well, they don’t just tell you what those might be. To figure out that information you have the exciting task of interrogating their underlings.And while they may not be bothered by a lone human, your handy undead elf friend comes with the power to invade the minds of your enemies. From here you can extract information or just…ya know, kill them. He’s remarkably versatile with this ability and later on you’ll be able to use it to tame and ride mounts like wargs or straight up mind control enemies to build your own Orc force.
Ultimately the game was a lot of fun to play and explore in. The main story and certain side-quests did feel a bit weak, particularly the ending which was rather…meh. Still, the next game is something I’m definitely looking forward to and will definitely make time to share with you all when it arrives. If you think you might be interested, don’t hesitate to give this one a shot. That’s all from me for now, happy gaming all!