Middle-earth: Shadow of War – Review
Follow Genre: Action/adventure
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Enterprises
Platforms: PlayStation4, Xbox One, PC
Tested on: Xbox One

Middle-earth: Shadow of War – Review

Site Score
7.3
Good: Builds upon the great gameplay of the previous game
Bad: Complete disregard to lore
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0
(0 votes)
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Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Shadow of War is the second game set in the Middle-earth series. For those of you who aren’t into fantasy and haven’t heard of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the setting of Shadow of War is basically the world that Tolkien created in her famous stories, a world called Middle-earth. The first game of Middle-earth successfully married Assassin’s Creed sneaking around to the Batman Arkham series combat, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War strives to recreate the feeling.

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Story

Let’s just get one thing straight, it’s great to get inspired by base material and build onto an already created world, making the setting even more grand and completely over the top epic to immerse a player. There is however a limit to this. Middle-earth: Shadow of War takes the foundation of the stories of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and snaps it over its knee before taking a giant shit all over it.

To clarify, the game is set in between the happenings of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. So far so good. In the massive lore bundle that are these books –among others in Tolkien’s work – there’s the story of the ‘Nine Rings’. The reason why this is so important, is because in Middle-earth: Shadow of War a new ring of power was cast. The sound you are hearing right now is every fan –be it great or small and everyone in between- screaming in indignation. That’s not how you respect the story, the writer is dead, you can’t even claim its canon anymore.

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The way they could have started off the story without need of the ring, would be where the dagger of Talion was smithed again with the life essence of Celebrimbor. He goes in search of the wraith, after having been separated from him, and finds him in the claws of Shelob. A fight breaks out –here you could insert an epic battle to start off the game – and the blade breaks off in Shelob’s chest, the lifeforce being transferred into her. The force of this knocks Talion back unto his own blade. She laughs, scuttles off while muttering: ‘I’ve no more need for you.’ Here she releases Celebrimbor and he merges with Talion again. The last Talion hears is that the city is about to fall and he investigates upon waking, finding the city being besieged by Uruks.

There, that’s a story based on the Middle-earth while still being respectful to the source material. No new rings, no non canon bullshit. No fans being pissed off wanting this tripe to be cleansed from gaming history.

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Graphics

The previous game in the series had quite a bit of rendering problems, with pixilation being a part of both the prerendered cut scenes and persisting in game. Middle-earth: Shadow of War somehow still manages to have pixilation in place even with the new game engine. When you look past this however, the game is actually quite beautiful. The animations are still equally as fluid. The Uruks are mostly quite different from one another and once they are upgraded, their gear shows off their status in the ranks of the ‘Nemesis System’. It’s a game that looks quite beautiful on 1080p, and thanks to the possibility of 4k support on the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4, console owners will be able to see and play the epic in even more epic proportions.

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Sound

Sound-wise, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is the same as its predecessor, the voice acting of the Uruks is top notch and the actors really get into their lines, with some of them being nasty, nonsensical or downright disturbing. On the other hand Talion still feels like a generic grey goose personality wise. His lines somehow lack the vivacity his quest and his feud with the Dark lord need. He sounds more strained than emotional, and even though he goes through the meat grinder both physically and mentally, not making him sound like the Kirsten Stewart of voice acting would have done wonders.

Gameplay

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an action/adventure RPG where you are set on taking the fight to Sauron’s doorstep. It continues the storyline of the previous game but ups the ante.

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You are to overtake Mordor, but you can’t do this alone. Just like in the previous game you’ll have to conquer the lands and gang up with the most unlikely of allies, namely the Uruks. The previous game felt limited even though the amount of Uruks you could kill or recruit was nearly unlimited.

In Middle-earth: Shadow of War things feel a lot more grand, the scale of things quickly growing as you don’t just amass an army, but vast legions to protect your fortresses. The elephant in the room is that the game ‘technically’ ends at the third act, however, there is still a fourth act. There are two ways to play this last act, the finale where you can see the true ending. Firstly, you can get the bang for your buck and grind for several hours getting the strongest Uruks to defend your fortresses, or you can drop some cash and buy lootboxes to get the Uruks needed. It’s not ‘Asura’s Wrath’ levels kind of bad where they locked the true ending behind a paywall, but it still stings that Warner Bros. Interactive made it so glaringly obvious they wanted to cash in on that sweet micro transaction money, to a point of nearly turning a great single player campaign in a shoddy Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer mode.

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The Uruks aren’t the only thing that you can verify your power with. There’s armour to bolster your defences and runes to upgrade your weaponry adding all sorts of stats to grow that sense of feeling overpowered. The thing is that it’s just a ‘feeling of total domination’, and at any given moment a slip of the finger or a miscalculation can mess you up and kill you, strengthening your assailant and there goes your fortress and your underlings. So you never truly are overpowered, but always on the edge. It creates this tension that exhilarates just like Dark Souls does, unlike a ‘Souls’ game you don’t come stronger out of defeat, so dying might push you a step further toward rage quitting.

Conclusion

Fans of Lord of the Rings, stay away from this game, if you want to be sneaky buy an Assassin’s Creed game, if you want the combat of Batman Arkham Asylum buy one of those games, but don’t buy this game thinking you’ll be treated to a great sidestory of the ‘Tolkien’ saga. You’ll be frustrated to no ends. If however you are looking for some harmless Uruk slaying and dominating whole regions before kicking in Sauron’s door and shoving a dagger up his armored behind, then this game will whet your appetite.

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