Tag Archives: Lord of the Rings

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was indeed full of peril

Hyperemesis is severe or prolonged vomiting, usually as a condition occurring during pregnancy. It’s also the only word I could seem to find to truly rhyme with nemesis. Sorry, but pessimist doesn’t exactly cut it. Thankfully, in the Lord of the Hunt DLC for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, there’s a lot of vomiting happening when riding on the back of a Wretched Graug, so it does tie in nicely with the subject matter at hand. All’s well that ends better, I guess.

Look, I have mixed feelings about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a game I put about 32 hours of my life and thumbs into, a game based on Lord of the Rings–which for those new here is something I care about greatly–that probably didn’t need to be based on Lord of the Rings, but perhaps then I might not have ever given it a glance so it’s kind of a double-edged, flaming, Uruk-decapitating sword. In the end, I think I would have preferred this not to be based on Lord of the Rings and, as a result, something I would have skipped and left forever on my “did not get to play this year” lists. It’s a perfectly fine, even good action game, and a terrible game playing around in the Lord of the Rings realm, and this is coming from the dude that has three copies of Aragorn’s Quest–for the Nintendo DS, the PlayStation 2, and the Nintendo Wii.

This original non-canon story set in the legendarium created by J. R. R. Tolkien tells the troubling plight of generic face, “Dollar Store Sean Bean” Talion, a Ranger of Gondor responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor, who bonds with the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and…do other things. Such as behead a bunch of Orcs, find hidden collectibles, and climb tall towers to reveal more of the map. Also, like, spoiler alert, try to make a new Ring of Power. Knowing that none of this actually fits into the final timeline of events helps ease the silliness and unnecessary-ness of it all. You’ll also run into Gollum early on in the action adventure, who, via tracking missions, will help reveal some of Celebrimbor’s past. Lastly, and here’s the part I really found real amusing, you do face off against Sauron (via someone else’s body) at the end in sword-to-sword combat, and quick time events are involved.

Combat is mindless and mashy and never in a fun way. Each encounter, more or less, went the same, with Talion getting a few hits in to up the combo streak and then mashing one of several button combinations, such as X+Y or A+B, to do a thing. These things range from instantly killing an enemy or branding it to fight for you or creating a blast of energy to stun foes and so on. The whole ebb and flow is built around these moves, so you’re constantly bouncing between dudes to keep the combos up. It can quickly become chaotic and frustrating, especially when you begin to take damage from ranged enemies, which messes up your rhythm greatly. Towards the end of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and in its two pieces of DLC, I worked extra hard to avoid big confrontations unless they were part of the mission at hand because they were a lot of work for little reward besides some XP and the chance to maybe stumble upon a named bad dude. Also, there were so many different button combinations that I forgot many and mainly stuck with one or two. Ugh.

As I’m wont to do, I tried to do everything in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, knowing I’d be uninstalling it once finished it. This included getting all of the collectibles and playing the two bits of additional content. Lord of the Hunt was fine, but ultimately more of the same, only saved by the Dwarf Torvin and his colorful dialogue. However, The Bright Lord was beyond frustrating, and I almost walked away from it altogether. See, in that piece of DLC, you play as Celebrimbor some 3,000 years prior to the game’s main plot, which means you don’t have every ability Talion had, have less health, limited powers, and must focus on branding Orcs to fight for you versus getting your own hands dirty. I eventually had to re-train my brain on how to handle combat, staying up high, calling in branded Orcs over and over, and slowly whittling the army down. The final fight, this time not a QTE test, ramps everything up to 11, having you deal with multiple warchiefs along with a big baddie that can revive warchiefs; I will say that I beat it taking the most cautious and cowardice-laden path possible.

It’s a bit of a bummer that the two games I bought during 2016’s Black Friday sale, this and Dragon Age: Inquisition, turned out to be rather disappointing. Here’s hoping the games I got this yearPrey, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, and The Inner World–don’t follow the same trend. I’d also like to not have a year go by before touching these, though I am currently sneaking my way through Prey and enjoying its atmosphere and immersion. So there, progress.

Also, I can say with almost 100% certainty, unless given to me at zero cost and beside a delicious-looking sandwich and promised that everything will work out fine in the end, I’ll not be getting Middle-earth: Shadow of War, which sounds like all this over again…only worse due to the inclusion of loot boxes and end-game grinding. No thanks. If anything, I think this is now the best time for me to pop back to something LOTR-related and untouched in my collection, such as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for the PlayStation 2. Remember, as the wise ol’ Gandalf once said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #123 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – The Bright Lord

Use Celebrimbor
To brand your way to Sauron
Difficulty spike

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #120 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – Lord of the Hunt

The trite hunt is on
Another round of warchiefs
Spew Tolkien vomit

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #117 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Ranger-Elf combo
Out to avenge deaths, make ring
Combat mash, plot trash

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Back to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, where the shadows are

I acquired a digital version of the Game of the Year edition of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor at the same time I got Dragon Age: Inquisition, which was last Black Friday. Not a full year ago, but somewhat close. Still, knowing that both were big, meaty adventures with intricate systems, I decided to start one over the other and promised not to diverge from that plan until credits rolled. I went with Dragon Age: Inquisition and greatly regret that decision. I had played inferior versions of both games, click here for whinging about glitches in Ferelden and click here for whinging about insufferably long load times in Middle-earth, but I was more interested, at that time, in a traditional roleplaying adventure that was all about managing stats and less about quickly climbing up rocks and sticking daggers in necks. If only I knew then what I know now.

Moving along, I’m now working my way through Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor at the same time as I tackle the open wilderness in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, at more or less the same pace as I did with the Xbox 360 version, even tackling the side missions and collectibles similarly. What can I say, I’m a creature of habit. The only difference really is that this GOTY edition provided me with some extra special weapon runes from the start, one of which lights my sword on fire after a long combo streak. I’m usually not a fan of pre-order bonuses that dramatically make things easier for the player, but this time I’m not complaining. Also, it looks cool as heck, the kind of effect that Beric Dondarrion would quietly appreciate.

The ho-hum plot takes place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. You control a ranger called Talion, who was killed by the Black Hand of Sauron alongside his wife and son. The wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor bonds with Talion’s body, and together they set out to avenge the deaths of their loved ones by taking down every goblin, orc, and troll in their way. Also, there’s Gollum, because of course there is, and his missions often have him leading you somewhere and then following hidden tracks to trigger an event. I’m a little further story-wise than I was during my first go at Talion’s take on revenge, and I’m not finding it all that thrilling, and this is from a guy that has played a lot of Lord of the Rings games, including sub-par ones like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Aragorn’s Quest, both from the PlayStation 2 era.

Gameplay in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which one could easily call a third-person open world action-adventure thing, is basically the Assassin’s Creed series with big improvements to mobility and combat. You run around, you climb, you attack swarms of enemies, you collect collectibles, and you level up your weapons and abilities by gaining XP. You can be a stealthy ranger or an action-first ranger or, most likely, a mixture of both. The combat is rhythmic in the vein of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and it feels good to be in complete control of a mob of Orcs, keeping the combo chain high and mighty. There’s no surprises here so far, but a lot has been streamlined to feel better or make things easier, such as not taking fall down from high heights or being able to get a burst of speed after mantling an object. My favorite is a new ability I just got that lets Talion immediately warp to a selected enemy’s location; Tolkien sure did love his teleporting rangers.

Obviously, the biggest hook in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor‘s arsenal is the Nemesis System, which tracks any non-generic Uruk that the player comes into contact with, either through story beats or simply by killing Talion or surviving a fight with the ranger. These Uruk will be promoted into captains, and defeating these leaders helps weaken Sauron’s army. On the flip side, being killed by a named Uruk will cause the current mission to be cancelled, and the victorious Uruk will gain additional power, making him more difficult to defeat in the next encounter. This system was not fully implemented on the previous generation version, and I definitely missed out on a lot of personality, character, of really feeling like these Uruks were living, breathing, vengeful monstrosities traipsing around Middle-earth according to their own schedules. See, each of these named Uruks have a range of strengths and weaknesses that Talion can exploit in combat to quickly take them out, such as a fear of explosions or invulnerability to ranged attacks, and you can gain this type of knowledge by draining and interrogating marked enemies, systemically removing the leader’s bodyguards and barriers.

I’m mildly enjoying Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, but in bite-sized chunks. Hop into the game, find a collectible or two, take on a story mission, and close out, as the combat can become quite button mashy and my thumb often needs a break by the time Talion is done beheading his fiftieth orc. The stealth, when successful, is great and makes you feel pretty powerful, but I’m not invested in the story bits…one bit. As this is the GOTY edition, there’s plenty to see and do, with DLC included, and I’ll probably keep plugging away at this while everyone enjoys Middle-earth: Shadow of War next month. Thankfully, I’m in no rush to see Sauron’s army fall, especially knowing that it will just rise up again, bigger and stronger, in the forthcoming sequel.

Frodo Baggins can’t sneak past Sauron’s most terrible servants

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I know I’ve only played a Hobbit-sized amount of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at this point and already gave it a decent enough blurb in the latest Half-Hour Hitbox feature, but there’s just something about this PS2 game that makes me want to dive a little deeper into it. Writing-wise, that is. I’m still not sold enough to play further, unless someone wants to come over and show a Hobbit how to creep effectively. Plus, I have a really good “game over” screen to share with y’all later, so that’s a fine enough excuse to get me writing about more things related to Lord of the Rings. At least I don’t have to write the word LEGO seventy-eight times.

Anyways, like just about every other Lord of the Rings games, this one starts off in Hobbiton. Y’know, during the safe and quiet times before the long journey ahead. Interestingly enough, from a gameplay perspective, the first hour of the game is extremely dull. You play as Frodo, and you have a long laundry list of miscellaneous chores and fetch quests to finish up before you can leave the green grassy hills of your home for Lothlórien. Personally, I loved this, as you just explore Hobbiton, talk to your fellow neighbors, and learn a few things about what Frodo can do. True, he has a stick and can swing it, but I never attacked a single enemy so far; the game purports itself to be hack-and-slash action, so maybe when you meet up with Aragorn it’ll become more like that. For now, it’s sort of a free-roaming adventure game–fine by me.

Alas, the wandering back and forth had to end eventually. Once you’re done collecting mushrooms, helping neighbors with their multitude of problems, stealing from Farmer Maggot, and giving the deed to Bag-End’s new owner, you wait for night to fall, ready to leave the Shire with Sam to bring the ring to those pointy-eared treefolk. However, your journey is instantly stymied as a Black Rider, also known as Nazgûl, arrives, searching for its master’s ring. And here’s where everything fell apart. You have to sneak past the Black Rider, but you have no control over the camera’s verticality–you can only turn it left and right, which doesn’t help when there are big hills on all sides–so you have to wait until you see a shadow approaching to know where he is, and by that time, you are spotted and it is game over. The first time I died, I learned the hard lesson that many PS2 games do not auto-save frequently, and so I was set back about 30 minutes; we’re so coddled these days where games save when you even hit pause.

I died at the “sneak past the Black Rider” section three times before I gave up entirely and played some other PS2 game for a bit–if I recall correctly, I enjoyed some fifteen minutes of bot-heavy multiplayer in Red Faction II–and each time you die, you get this gloriously unedited game over screen:

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As they say, one does not simply edit text all the way to Mordor.

YOU’RE QUEST HAS FAILED!

The Half-hour Hitbox: May 2014

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Well, it’s not been a busy month of videogame-based blogging, and there are reasons for that. It’s not for a lack of content or even potential content; I’m continuing to play games, as you’ll still see below. It’s just been harder to concentrate on putting my thoughts together. Distractions, decisions, determined dates dancing in the distance. Yes, I love alliteration–why do you ask? You could blame dayjobbery stress, but there’s more to this story than that. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when I’ll get to tell it. I hope you’ll continue to stick by me, even if content on Grinding Down is more sporadic than usual.

On the flippy-flip side, I’ve at least been making a dent in my goal to draw a comic for every videogame that I beat this year. Just follow the tag, and let me know what you think of ’em.

Dishonored

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I finally bit the bullet on this one, seeing as the Game of the Year version for PS3 was only $20 and came with a whale buttload of extra content. Alas, I’ve not been able to play too much, only getting past the first mission after the prologue part. Dishonored is certainly a game of options; however, I’ve found the stealth elements very hard to grasp, and was spotted almost instantly in the first mission, which threw off my whole plan. Then I got spotted a few more times trying to sneak in and out of some buildings, grrr. I ended up murdering more guards than I ever planned to, which does bother me. I do like the Blink power, but I might just have to give in and focus on a more aggressive approach than slinking in the shadows.

The Valley Rule

the valley rule 25829-shot0

Created by Ryan Carag and Bill Kiley in a single weekend for Ludum Dare 29, The Valley Rule is an extremely impressive puzzle platformer in the same vein as Fez minus all the world turning, and I didn’t even have to get very far into it to be able to say that confidently. The story is simple, but enough: you play as a young red-haired girl stuck “beneath the surface” and trying to find a way up. A giant door blocks your path, and you need to collect four Tri-force-shaped crystals to open it. I was only able to gather one before ending up in room that required you to climb up the wall to the right, but not in a traditional manner, and I eventually gave up and fell into the milky water of death below. I highly recommend you check it out regardless of my lackluster wall-climbing skills.

Spyro the Dragon

spyro review4

Last month, there was a strange flash sale on the PlayStation Network, offering a bunch of PS1 games for only a dollar each. And some other good deals. But my eyes saw only what they wanted. Naturally, I jumped on this and grabbed a good amount of PS1 goodies, as well as Tokyo Jungle, which I promise to check out one of these dang days. Anyways, I’ve never actually played anything more than a demo for Spyro the Dragon, and so I was genuinely excited to check in on a franchise that I had missed out on, and with its first impression too. In short, you’re a tiny dragon out collecting gems and freeing big dragons from being turned into statues. There’s little story and a lot of gems to collect, and it’s kid-friendly fun, even if the PS1-era camera rears its ugly head from time to time.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V

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I bought Civ V–that’s what all the cool kids call it, right?–in some Steam sale many moons ago. I even installed it at some point. But I only finally got around to playing a match this month. It’s much more detailed and engaging than that other Civilization thing I played on the Xbox 360, but after two hours and change, I still hadn’t won. Or lost. Or done altogether poorly or great. Just destroyed some barbarians and built some wonders. I played as Germany, and just did a lot of researching and army-building. This kind of game might all just move too slow for my liking, when you really break it down. I did save my progress so at least I can pop back into the match later, but I might have to be more aggressive to see it to its end.

Iris

iris game

Made for the most recent Global Game Jam, Iris is described as a “puzzle platformer with a special twist on how to view things.” Basically, you control a tiny red-headed girl with the A and D keys moving her left and right, and W for a little hop. Your mouse controls a ball of light that, when placed on top of the world, show an alternative take on things. That toothy monster is now a friendly bunny, safe for you to walk past, so long as the iris light remains on top of it. The game itself is quite short, but packs a good punch, and I could definitely see this mechanic evolving, becoming something more than just a special twist.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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Again, for those that don’t remember, I’ll play any LOTR-related videogame. No, really, I will. Here is proof; heck, I even bought Aragorn’s Quest a second time for the Nintendo DS to see if it was any different from the PlayStation 2 version. Spoilers: it’s not. Well, I don’t even have the case/manual for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, as I bought it at GameStop some time ago, and it only came in those yellow sleeves. Interestingly enough, the game starts terribly slow and mundane, but I really enjoyed running around Hobbiton doing small tasks for friends and putting everything in order for Bag End before it is off to Rivendell for Frodo Baggins. Alas, there’s a badly done “sneak past the Black Riders” part that currently has me roadblock. The game is supposed to be an action hack-n-slash, but I’ve yet to hit a single thing with Frodo’s stick. Hmm.

Transistor

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Transistor is the big game of the month, for sure. I just wish I had more time to devote to it, and, unfortunately, unlike Bastion, it is not captivating me enough to want to just sacrifice everything else around me for it. I mean, I really love the art style and atmosphere, but the story is unclear–only about an hour or so in, but c’mon, I should at least have a coherent idea of why Red is doing this or that other than just videogame–and the combat, fun in some parts, is difficult and overwhelming. I’ve been scared to experiment too much with the different nodes and functions. Also, whenever I reach the beach area where you can participate in tests and challenges, the game crashes to desktop. I’m secretly waiting on a patch to hopefully fix this.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.