Events,Video Games

Middle-earth Shadow of War official launch event

11 Oct , 2017  

Photo credit to Even Bergstra

Written by: Jon Scarr

To celebrate the impending release of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the sequel to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment held a private launch event in Toronto just a few days ago, which I had the esteem pleasure of attending.

Not only was I one of the first gamers in Canada to play Shadow of War, but I got an opportunity to talk with Monolith’s Community Manger and writer Andy Salisbury one on one.

Shadow of Mordor was one of my favourite games of 2014, so naturally getting to play Monolith’s Shadow of War before launch was a surreal experience. Before I dive deeper into what happened at the event, let me back up a moment and tell you a little bit about what is new in Shadow of War.

What’s new in Shadow of War

Middle-earth: Shadow of War continues on where Shadow of Mordor left off, and is set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. With heavy inspiration from the film adaptions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, you continue the story of the ranger Talion and the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor.

Both Talion and Celebrimbor have forged a new Ring Power to fight against Sauron. As a result, you now have access to a vast selection of powers to fight Sauron and his evil forces.

All the gameplay that you fell in love with from Shadow of Mordor returns, as well as new gameplay additions. Here is a brief rundown:

  • Branching off from the Nemesis system, you can now recruit more advanced allies from the field. After defeating Orcs in combat, you’ll gain their allegiance and they can fight alongside you in combat.
  • The Nemesis system returns and puts more emphasis on your decisions by expanding its reach beyond a per-character basis.
  • A new multiplayer online mode called Social Conquest has been added, which allows you to invade your opponent’s fortress.
  • Personal skills return and throughout your adventure you can expand and upgrade your skill set through a deeper set of skill trees that focus on six main aspects Combat, Predator, Ranged, Wraith, Mounted and Story skills. Additionally, each of these are divided into their own respective categories that offer smaller upgrades on a per-skill basis.
  • Siege Battles create immersive, large-scale battles across Mordor in heavily defended fortresses. To defeat these occupied enemy territories, you’ll need to storm the gate and battle through defenses before you take down the Orc war chiefs and all-powerful Overlords.

With some many new and expanded features, I was psyched to get my hands on the game and experience them myself.

Shadow of War hands on

Warner Bros. had a total of 16 game stations with Shadow of War running on the Xbox One X with beautiful LG 4K HDTVs. Let me tell you, Shadow of War looks impressive. Draw distances are much greater than Shadow of Mordor and the character models are vastly improved. The world itself looks gorgeous and the UI has a sleeker design that makes it easier to navigate than its predecessor.

The world maps are now in 3D, which allows you to rotate and zoom in for greater detail. I spent several minutes running around the map and did not notice any frame rate drops or issues at all. Based upon my 60 minutes with the game, I can confidently say that Shadow of War is easily a contender for one of the best looking games this year.

Immediately upon playing, I noticed the action was faster and more fluid than Shadow of Mordor. I was able to scale large fortress buildings and dash across the battlefield with ease. Talion can now double jump, which allows you to travel faster when you are jumping across the sentinel towers on into a giant gathering of enemies.

Combat was just as I expected, the tried and true combat flow that relies on quickly timed counters and dodges from Shadow of Mordor returns and feels tighter than ever. Your attacks are a lot more brutal than in Shadow of Mordor. From stabbing your opponents in the eyes to ripping off their heads off, I almost felt sorry for the Uruks.

On the other hand, The Uruks are no slouch either. Now, if you use the same move on them too many times, they will pick up on it and counter your attacks. More than ever, it’s important that you change up the ways that you attack your opponents.

Photo credit to Even Bergstra

Monolith’s Community Manger and writer Andy Salisbury

As mentioned, Monolith’s Community Manager and writer Andy Salisbury was flown in from Seattle for the Canadian Shadow of War launch event. First of all, I need to tell you that Andy is a down to earth type of guy. You can ask him virtually anything and he’ll give you a straight answer.

Just by talking with Andy, it was easy to see how much love and dedication the team put into Shadow of War to make it the best possible game it could be. Development on the game began almost immediately after Shadow of Mordor. I was amazed to learn from Andy that the development team have a Tolkien scholar on staff to help them with the massive amount of lore that has been created.

When questioned about any plans for Shadow of War coming to the Switch, Andy told me that presently they are working on making Shadow of War the best it can be for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 family of systems and PC. Although he couldn’t speak for the entire team, he did tell me “You never know what could happen”.

Final thoughts

Playing Middle-Earth: Shadow of War on the Xbox One X was an incredible experience, not only because the game looks extremely polished but because it plays so well. With the game’s launch just around the corner, I cannot wait to spend more time with the game. Look for my full review of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War here on the blog in the near future. In the meantime, let me know in the comments section below what excites you the most about Shadow of War.

The war for Middle Earth continues on October 10. Are you ready for #ShadowOfWar?

Posted by WB Games Canada on Friday, October 6, 2017

About the Author: Jon Scarr

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.

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