Game Review: Shadows Of War
Updated: May 27, 2019
I picked up the game as a rental a few weeks back and was not able to even put a dent in it over 5 days. Keep in mind I have a business and a career, but even so, this game is 10X bigger than previous installment, Shadows of Mordor. Shadow of War continues the previous game's narrative, which is based on J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium and set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Like its predecessor, the game also takes heavy inspiration from director Peter Jackson's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film adaptations. The player continues the story of the ranger Talion and the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor, who shares Talion's body, as they forge a new Ring of Power to amass an army to fight against Sauron. The game builds upon the "Nemesis System" introduced in Shadow of Mordor, allowing Talion to gain followers from several races of Middle-earth, including Uruks and Ologs, and plan out complex strategies using these to complete missions.
The game continues into a larger, more open world story that incorporates in known locations from the previous stories of LOTR and more in depth look at Talion’s storyline. In the previous game, it was all about a revenge story about his family being killed in dark ritual. But now, he is so much more. The Bright Lord/Talion decide to forge a new ring they can use to defeat Sauron but it doesn’t go as planned as they run into Shelob who learns of their plans. She ‘negotiates” with Talion to give her the ring to save Celebrimbor but in the end, the Nazgul learn of the ring and come for her. Ultimately, it is Talion/Celebrimbor who save her from the Nazgul and she decides to help them in destroying the Nazgul and Sauron.
First thing I want to give props/complain about is the Nemesis system. As awesome and different as it can be, sometimes it’s very overbearing. In one occasion specifically, I was hunting a Captain. As I attacked the captain in question, his “blood Brother” Orc captain also joined the battle. Fine. I can deal. Then suddenly a War chief that escaped me either, came in as “Cheated Death” scenario. Fine, and then after I put down the first Captain, another one popped up. This went on for another 2 or 3 captains. After what it felt like hours, I finally cut them down or dominated them. Took a breather and then a mounted my Caragor and was ambushed again! Can we agree that this may be a tad aggressive? A for effort but that was a little bit too much. Other than that, I like the occasional ‘Ambush” or what not because it gives the game a break from the repetitive grind that the first one clearly had.
They completely overhauled the talent tree and added in even more skills which I enjoyed. However now each skill has 3 sub skills that can only be active one at a time? For example the Shadow Strike. You can chose to have the multiple Shadow Strike or have the pulling Shadow Strike. Or both. However, in the last game this version if the talent tree did not exist and anything you unlocked you kept. Weird. Also, now you can upgrade your weapons/armor/ring more in depth. I definitely enjoyed the overhaul with this and also bringing in high level Tier sets is a welcomed change. However, the market system they introduced is completely useless. You can buy armor opposed to hunting for it. But it’s not needed to progress in the game. Sigh. Oh and you can get perks for Multiplayer. Anyways.
They added in an army strategy into the game. Every map has an Orc overlord. The Long and short of it, you need to create an army by dominating/killing the captains, take down all the command posts, kill all the war chiefs and THEN storm the Stronghold to kill the Overlord. Did you know there was a story mode with this game? I couldn’t tell you how many times I forgot about the story because of this. On top of that, you need to find Shelob Memories drops, Artifacts, Destroy Ritual statues, Complete Celebrimbor memories and side quests that the main story fades quickly into the background.
The gameplay got a little bit of an overhaul with adding new options to it, but nothing really stood out as earth shattering. The dev time spent a lot of time on having multiple maps, Nemesis mode, huge storyline multiplayer, market and etc but they really didn’t spend time on one game mechanic that literally haunts me. The Dragon gameplay. Dear Mother of Pearl it sucks. It is worse than the game I played on PS3 called Lair. It’s clunky, unresponsive and doesn’t even make sense on how it works. On multiple occasions I had to walk away and try again hours later as it was one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever endured.
Overall this game is a great sequel to the previous installment. However, sometimes going to big can ruin a good thing. The game already has an automatic grind involved because it is an RPG. But it literally feels like the game is never-ending due to the Nemesis system. I think if there is a 3rd installment to this franchise, gear down on the aggressiveness and let the story drive the game. Not the constant Captain Domination/Killing or taking down the multiple Strongholds.