Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor PS4 Review
There's been a Mordor!
SRP: £54.99You probably won’t enjoy the first few hours of Shadow of Mordor. In fact I'd guarantee, it because I didn’t. The initial hours of your experience within Mordor won’t be easy or enjoyable, but after cursing numerous times and potentially rage quitting as a result, you'll emerge as a better person for it.
Shadow of Mordor is intentionally difficult, it isn’t meant to be easy and it's a better game as a result, as it has a unique hook which many other titles lack, keeping you coming back for more (dor). What Monolith have done is make death unique, they’ve made it a challenge. Rather than repeat the mission again, those responsible become more powerful and increasingly difficult to take down. As such, your quest for revenge is never one that is straight forward.
Nemesis SystemBut what this does is make you experience the rest of the game; your quest for revenge and dominance propels you to want to play the game in order to become more powerful. Whilst each of your deaths is rewarded (very minimally) it isn’t enough to keep your XP bar ticking along at a steady pace, you need to play the side quests and not just the story missions. This is where other games miss out, as side quests can be left well alone and never touched, but here they feel like they need to be completed before you can begin to take on the more powerful foes in the world.
This is thanks to the Nemesis system, which is undoubtedly SoM's greatest feature. There is a constant battle for power within Sauron's army; Orcs fight one another seeking promotion to rise amongst the ranks and become a Warchief. These struggles play out behind the scenes and where a felled enemy once reigned, a replacement soon fills in the position. What this does is keep the game flowing, there’s never a lull in those who you can seek out and kill, with enemies even fighting one another in some instances.
Story? What story?As Talion, former Ranger of the Black Gate, your story is one that should be interesting, yet fails to live up to any meaningful conclusion. Banished from death and living between the realms of light and dark, you are accompanied by the spirit of the elf who forged the rings of power (Celebrimbor). Hereby lies your ability to come back and avenge your own death and wield deadly Wraith-like abilities in order to combat and control those you encounter. What Shadow of Mordor lacks in story and the following of pre-determined lore, it makes up for in its gameplay and appearance.
Despite a fairly weak story, there's enough side content to make exploration worthwhile
Without question this is one of the best looking games available on PS4 when it comes to both the in-game graphics and the cutscenes. Mordor looks stunning and is beautifully crafted, as are those who populate it too. Talion's motion capture is superb, whilst the level of detail found on his appearance and the Orcs and Uruks for that matter is brilliant. Due to Shadow of Mordor taking place between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Mordor isn’t a desolate wasteland yet and is vastly populated. Whilst the two areas on offer to you aren’t expansive, they are filled with enough content to make exploration worthwhile.
Lord of the Assassin's Creed?Combat is an area in which Mordor both flourishes and shows off its greatest weakness. There is nothing more satisfying than carving your way through a group of Orcs or sneakily taking down unsuspecting victims from above, but you'll have done this before, just in another game. You see, Mordor lacks its own creativity when it comes to the combat as it is a carbon copy from Assassin's Creed, mixed in with some inspiration from the Arkham games for good measure.
These are two great sources to draw from, granted, but the mechanics are identical; leaping from vantage points to stealth kill, hiding in bushes to lure enemies towards you, and even sneaking across ropes that link one building to another. The combat follows the Batman games suitably by building combos and blocking incoming attacks before unleashing deadly finishers. The tricky part is finding those few precious seconds to complete a finishing move however, as you can find yourself surrounded by Orcs all too quickly.
RPG elementsThankfully there are some features whereby Mordor does bring its own ideas to the table beyond the Nemesis system. An expansive upgrade path allows you to unlock new abilities and powers, giving you an extra boost over those who once proved difficult to down. Exploding a camp fire with a well-placed arrow or taming and then mounting wild Caragor are just two of many examples which give you the feel of becoming ever more powerful. There are neat features that let you lure in Caragor by dropping bait into a stronghold, or dropping a bee hive in the midst of an Orc gathering which can cause panic within the ranks. On the flipside however, this can enrage some captains, so prior planning and being tactful is always advantageous before jumping head-first into combat.
If there is one thing to be said about Mordor’s missions and quests it is that they border on becoming repetitive. There are moments where you have to hunt and kill a Graug, or fell a statue of Sauron, but instances are rare when most missions end up in taking down a captain. This isn’t an issue as such, and it's nice to see there aren’t any ill-fitting appearances from well-known characters for the sake of familiarity, but it would've been be nice to see some more creativity in the missions and their structure.
Tolkien about a revolution
- Beautifully crafted world
- Enjoyable combat
- Densely populated environments
Tolkien about retirement
- Average story and conclusion
- Mimics Assassin's Creed too much
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor PS4 ReviewShadow of Mordor is a great game and it's fantastic to finally see the Tolkien universe expanded and brought to life in videogame format and do well. There's something sadistically satisfying about lopping an Orc's head off in the middle of a brawl and seeing the ensuing result of his companions fleeing in terror, or setting them alight with an exploding campfire. It's just a shame that the game isn't packed with new and innovative ideas and has to rely heavily on ideas and mechanics from other franchises.
The game's dwindling conclusion is something of a disappointment, but thankfully there is enough action to make this one of the more enjoyable titles out there this year that can easily last for twenty hours.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £54.99
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