What do you get when you combine the free running mechanics found in Assassin’s Creed with the smooth combat from Batman Arkham Asylum? Normally the answer would probably be an overhyped game that fails to deliver. Luckily, such is not the case with Shadow of Mordor. Monolith managed to do something very special with the experience it delivers, and took existing concepts and implemented their own refined interpretations of that gameplay.

At first glance Shadow of Mordor might come off as another hack and slash set in the Lord of the Rings universe, and in a sense it can be. Combat itself is simple to grasp, and often times even simpler to master. Combat becomes an exercise in mashing one button repeatedly to set up combos, while keeping an eye out for opportunities to counter. After a successful chain is achieved, players can perform an execution or a stun on enemies. Players also have use of a summoned bow that allows them to slow time temporarily by using a resource called elf shot. As players progress through the game they can unlock other abilities or weapons such as throwing knives or the ability to stun enemies by vaulting over them. As a whole the combat is simple, and it works well. Often times players will find themselves fighting several enemies at one time, but thanks to the simple yet effective combat system they won’t ever truly feel overwhelmed.

combat

It doesn’t get much simpler than “stab stab stab and stab again”

Movement is also something to praise in Shadow of Mordor, allowing players to effortlessly parkour their way through Mordor, climbing up towers and vaulting over enemies with little effort. Given the number of ruins and difference in landscape, it’s reassuring that players will feel no frustration navigating through the environments. The game also uses a quick travel system which makes traversing areas even easier. As a whole the combat and movement mechanics for the game set a strong foundation to expand upon.

The mission variety can leave a lot to desire however, with story missions only running about 10 hours and other side missions having little diversity. Side missions are mainly broken into two types, one set allows players to level up their weapons while the other allows them to face down uruk chieftains. So while the gameplay mechanics of the game are smooth, the missions themselves tend to have a habit of becoming repetitive.

Shadow Strike Combat Alt

movement makes you light as a feather and graceful as a murderous wraith hell bent on revenge

That said, what Shadow of Mordor lacks in the story department it more than makes up for with the implementation of the nemesis system. When it was first mentioned, Monolith promised us an innovated AI that would adapt to the player’s actions and it does a spectacular job. The nemesis system helps create a living, breathing world. Uruks rise through the ranks on their own accord, by either back stabbing or simply taking over the vacuum you’ve created. Uruks hunt down the player, holding on to grudges from battle lost or lauding about their victories over the player.

As the game progresses, the nemesis system helps make the world feel truly alive. Uruks will engage in their own personal quests for power, growing in strength and followers. As Talion, the players can hunt them down and work their way through the ranks, killing lower level grunts until they have enough intel to take on the captains, who will eventually lead to the war chiefs. But players should be careful, because even the slightest moment of carelessness can set off a chain reaction with new uruks rapidly filling the ranks and powering up, making your quest that much harder.

One of the better parts of the nemesis system is how it affects the enemies the player encounters. Through it, a generic low level uruk can quickly rise through the ranks and gain his own personality. Eventually they can become a nemesis to the player, one who will hunt them down out of a personal vendetta. Such was the story of Duschrut the Thunderer. He was an uruk whom I shot through the eye with an arrow. Unfortunately the wound didn’t prove fatal to the captain, and he managed to flee. Hours later I was taken by surprised and killed by a seemingly random arrow that was coated in poison. Much to my dismay, yards away stood Duschrut, now sporting metal plate welded to his missing eye. His final words echoed in my ears, “Don’t think I’ve forgotten the mark you left on me ranger. You took my eye, now I take something from you…”

Nope

smart AI doesn’t necessarily mean “smart” AI

It’s moments like these that lift Shadow of Mordor up from being just another generic hack and slash and turn it into something truly unique. The nemesis systems gives players a reason to play, if only to see who else’s Wheaties you can pee in. Along with the vengeful AI, the nemesis system allows enemies to gain strength and keeps presenting a challenge to most players. For every victory the uruks achieve, whether it be on the player or eachother, they become stronger. As they grow in power, they will then develop a random assortments of strengths and weaknesses. Suddenly players will have to start thinking more tactically when it comes to taking on their enemies. While an uruk might start as a simple foot soldier, they could quickly grow to be a devastating fighter immune to all frontal attacks and counters.

But just as with their strengths, each enemy also has their own weaknesses. While one enemy may be completely immune to ranged and melee attacks, players my find that they are vulnerable to stealth attacks. Other times their weaknesses may not seem seem as direct. One enemy in particular seemed to be nigh invulnerable to every kind of physical attack, but he also suffered from a crippling fear of caragors, a four legged beast found in Mordor. Through this information I was able to track down the uruk to a feast he was throwing for his followers, only for me to ride into his camp aboard one of the beasts. As soon as his eyes fell on my terrible stead, any will he had to fight left him as he ran away cowering in fear. As a result, he was humiliated in front of his followers, losing any chance he had to gain more power.

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What’s that? You’re afraid of Caragors? It’d be a shame if one of them showed up to your party…

These moments help  break up the monotony in otherwise repetitive missions. Will you attack the enemy chief head on? Do you try and take advantage of a specific weakness? Maybe you take the subterfuge route and track down his personal body guards in order to make them your mental slaves and have them do the job for you? In the end, the choice is up to the player.

Shadow of Mordor can still improve in some departments, but as a whole it gives us a great and enjoyable experience.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review
The Precious
  • Nemesis system provides interesting gameplay
  • Combat is smooth and fun
  • lots of collectibles and reasons to explore the world
The Tricksies
  • Story missions are short
  • Mission diversity seems lacking
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
9.3

About The Author

Enrique C
Editor-in-Chief

There's no problem that can't be fixed with fire. Doesn't matter what game. If that doesn't work, use more.