Written by: Jon Scarr
The sequel to 2014’s well-received Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is here. Originally scheduled to release in August, Shadow of War was delayed by Warner Bros. Interactive for two months to make sure the game was the best it could be for fans. Check out these Middle-earth: Shadow of War Tips and Tricks.
Let’s take a look and see if the delay in release was worth the wait.
The action role-playing game from Monolith Productions continues the story of Shadow of Mordor, which is set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. You continue the story of the Ranger Talion, who shares his body with the spirit of the elf horde Celebrimbor as they assemble an army to fight against Sauron.
Myself, I enjoyed Shadow of War’s story. Though, if you are a Middle-Earth aficionado, you will instantly notice the liberties at which Shadow of War takes with the Tolkien lore.
Shadow of War is a mixture of Assassin’s Creed meets Lord of the Rings, coupled with large scale fortress assaults, and the ability to gain followers who will do all your bidding. Your main objective is to raise an army by recruiting orc leaders and having them fight for you in epic siege battles. I found that in many cases my Orc companions were more entertaining and colourful than the other humans in the game.
You will be joined by an elven warrior named Eltariel and the mystical wood spirit Carnan along your journey. Shadow of War’s world is massive to say the least. The world is so big that the full map isn’t unlocked until you’ve played for about 30-40 hours.
This time around, Talion has even more power than in Shadow of Mordor. Talion now can jump higher than ever before, run faster than he ever could, and is a master or his sword. Shadow of War allows you to unlock abilities that allow you to punish your opponents even more such as stealth killing two enemies in a row. This allows for some insane combat and I found that there were virtually unlimited ways I could approach my enemy.
Shadow of War’s world is composed of five regions in all, which range from a fiery hell scape to lush green lands. Each region is complete with its own visual palette, orcs, fortress, and missions. The variety compared to Shadow of Mordor’s two regions is astonishing.
The deep pits, twisting caverns, and towering mountains are a welcomed addition to Shadow of War that Shadow of Mordor was sorely lacking. Shadow of War’s outposts and ruined walls are perfect for throw down clashes and stealth hunts. The inclusion of a photo mode allows you to snap pictures of the beautiful landscape and enjoy them at your leisure.
The much-loved Nemesis system makes its return in Shadow of War. Just like in Shadow of Mordor, you get your own randomly generated rivals in Sauron’s army. However, the Nemesis system has been expanded to now include many more varieties of Orcs.
I’ve got to say that the Nemesis system is one of the best gameplay mechanics I’ve seen in a game in recent memory, and even after 40 plus hours of playing I was still seeing new and unique Orcs with rare epic abilities. Identifying your opponent’s weaknesses is a major part of Shadow of War’s gameplay that kept me entertained the whole time.
The unique Orcs offer some of the toughest challenges you will face and even when you do know their strengths and weaknesses—you are in for a battle. Warchiefs, captains, and overlords offer up an even tougher challenge.
Several months ago Monolith unveiled its market system for micro transactions in Shadow of War. The market is a way for players to buy loot boxes, experience boosts, and other goodies via the in-game currency known as gold. However, gold can be earned in-game or bought with real-life money.
To be honest, I am perfectly ok with using in-game currency to buy loot boxes. Though, I don’t agree with the decision to be able to use real-life money to purchase them. It’s worth noting that if you do not spend any real-life money at all, you will not be held back or hindered in any significant way at all. And, I never felt that the loot boxes were pushed on me.
Shadow of War features online play via fortress battles. By controlling a region’s fortress in the campaign mode, the ability to assault another player’s version of that fortress in an online assault unlocks. You will choose your best orcs from that region in your game to lead the assault, without the opportunity to disable any of the warchiefs or defenses beforehand.
These battles occur in an asymmetrical fashion where the defender does not actively participate in the fortress defense. By careful orc selection and panning, you’ll be rewarded just as the game’s fortress assaults. I was impressed with the natural way the offline and online components of Shadow of War blend together.
Here are some tips and tricks to take your game to the next level in Shadow of War:
Shadow of War features a big open world with lots to do. I thoroughly enjoyed its large-scale combat and loved the expanded and improved Nemesis system. I found that some of the game’s more memorable moments happen during its large scale Siege battles, where you take over Orc-controlled fortresses using your own loyal followers.
The inclusion of loot boxes and the liberties at which the game takes with the Tolkien lore might put some people off. When all is said and done, Shadow of War is an action role-playing game that has lots to do and plenty of memorable moments.
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action role-playing
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
Based in Toronto, Jon is a proud Canadian who loves all things gaming. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been in love with technology and gaming for over 20 years. Come say hi and join the conversation with Jon on Twitter.