Shadow of Mordor is a gory, gorgeous, homage to TolkienFiled inside: Reviews
J.R.R. Tolkien crafted many literary pieces in his time, but each pale in comparison to the intense epic that is the Lord of the Rings saga. The land of hobbits, orcs, and dark evil, is perhaps one of the most prominent and widely-known fantasy series to ever grace paper. The world lost a beautiful imagination when Tolkien passed in 1973, but his legendary stories live on to this day, often revived in video games and movies alike. We’ve seen Peter Jackson re-imagine Tolkien’s lush countrysides and battle-scarred battlefields. From the massive destructive force of Mt. Doom, down to the smallest pockets of sanity within the Shire, each facet of the Lord of the Rings universe has been visualized. But one recent game developer wasn’t just content with creating a visual and interactive version of the story that Tolkien created. Rather than re-tell the legend, the group at Monolith took on the monumental task of crafting their own story and character that would reside within the Tolkien universe.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor follows the noble and heart-wrenching story of Talion, a ranger of Gondor who experiences a terrible loss and vies for revenge against the Black Hand, a particularly vicious aspect of Sauron’s army. Right from the start, you’re tossed into Talion’s depressive storyline, as he “awakens” to see his son and wife stricken down, left only with past memories of their time together. The afterlife is barred for Talion, he is banished from death, and cannot proceed to reunite with his loved ones. Thankfully, he isn’t the only one in this position, and is met by a powerful wraith, one who claims to have lost his memories. Talion agrees to band together with this wraith and recover his memories if, in return, he is allowed revenge on the Black Hand. This tag-team creates a half-human, half-wraith creature, one that is capable of toppling sections of the Black Army single-handedly.
From the moment you start the game, you’re greeted with some of the most impressive visuals to hit consoles in the newest era of gaming. The cutscenes, the combat, the environment — all of it is beautifully crafted with an intense and focused amount of detail. The smallest rocks, to the largest structures, receive the royal artistic treatment. Whether it’s an insignificant spider, a notch on a powerful Uruk’s belt, or a slender blade of grass blowing in the breeze, you’ll find yourself stopping at moments to admire the smallest of creations. This admiration is made easier by the introduction of “photo mode,” which will allow you to pause at any moment (even during a heated sword fight) to capture Monolith’s engrossing artistic style. You can even share these photos with friends and the community. The animations, specifically on the front of combat, are nothing short of gorgeous. Shadow of Mordor is incredibly raw and gory, and you’ll see the tempered blade of Talion’s sword enter many an Uruk neck. Decapitations and loss of limbs happen on a regular basis, but behind the bloodshed is an absolutely breathtaking amount of visual fluidity. The movements, the motions, the twisting acrobatics, are all animated masterfully, and it’s one of the reasons the visuals struck such a powerful chord with me.
Gameplay meshes together the best aspects from open world exploration games like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry 3, and laces them with combat similar to titles like God of War, Prince of Persia, and Batman: Arkham City. You have the freedom to explore and manipulate enemies as you see fit, tackling great captains and powerful Uruk to gain intel on the ranks within Sauron’s army. You’ll need to breathe anger into Mordor, using the spirit of the land itself against it. Captivating Uruk to fight one another and tantalizing their minds with visions of high honors within their army’s ranks is just one of the many ways to achieve domination over the Black Hand. Whether you murder captains, strike fear into the heart of Uruk war chiefs, or create your own army of mindless orcs, Talion will have his revenge on his enemies. The choice is yours and yours alone, and it allows you to play the game in a variety of different ways. The nemesis system is an ever-evolving aspect of Shadow of Mordor, and it really helps the game shine out among the rest of the gaming pack this holiday season. The way in which you kill an Uruk, if you are merciful and let them flee, or if they strike you down in battle, all matters and plays a serious role as the game marches onward.
Middle-earth Shadow of Mordor is perhaps one of the most gameplay-entertaining and visually-striking titles I have played in a long time. For those of you who genuinely enjoy Tolkien’s universe, there is a massive amount of created (and canon) lore to discover throughout Talion’s journey. This game is the full package, from story, to combat, to visuals, and Monolith did an amazing job creating this title. This is a true homage to J.R.R. Tolkien, and hopefully one that the late author would be proud of. I would highly recommend picking this release up, and with a lot of side quests and collectibles, it’s one you shouldn’t feel bad about buying. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth in overall game hours and replayabiltiy thanks to the Nemesis system.