Tag Archives: Shadow of Mordor

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.

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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.

Seeking revenge against Sauron’s forces via slow menu screens

gd impressions xbox 360 shadow of mordor

When I heard that a Game of the Year edition of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was coming out, I got the tingles. From my toes to the tip of my ears. That is to say, I felt the time was now right to see what was up with that sleeper-hit that everyone was talking about during the end of 2014’s podcast deliberations. I’m always a sucker for GOTY editions, especially since I’m ten out of ten times late to the party, and these end-all, be-all packages provide me with, ideally, everything I need to get the full experience, such as DLC and now useless pre-order bonuses, just many months later. Count me in.

However, when I got to GameStop and asked the duder behind the counter, he informed me that the GOTY versions were only for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Snartleblast and snakes. Or rather–for the love of Varda! Us ancient tortoises stuck in the “previous generation” were simply out of luck. Still, I had driven all the way over to this brick-and-mortar building and didn’t want to leave empty-handed, and so, with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor still tickling away at my mind, I picked up a vanilla copy of it for the ol’ Xbox 360.

Back during all the praising and glorifying of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were released a month or so after the current generation, with rumblings about how they were altered to not have the Nemesis system, a major element of the game that has you taking down Uruk and Orc captains and watching as the Dark Lord’s army shifts and shapes accordingly. This kept me at bay certainly, but no one seemed to care enough to cover them and confirm this. Well, as far as I can tell, the Nemesis is in the Xbox 360 version, though it might not be as robust or dynamic as the current generation; for example, I haven’t heard any mass of Uruks chanting their leader’s name to intimidate Talion, which is a big bummer.

Grinding Down readers should know how deep my love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s work goes, though many of the vidoegame interpretations fail to impress. I think LEGO Lord of the Rings so far is the only one I feel any kind of amazement towards. Definitely none for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or Aragorn’s Quest. Anyways, from what I’ve gathered, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor does little to enhance Tolkien’s lore, but is still a ton of fun to play. I can concur with that sentiment, with one major caveat: it is a ton of fun to play, but not on Xbox 360.

Five paragraphs in, and I’m now only beginning to talk about the game proper. Welcome to my blog, new readers! This is par for the course. Right, here’s the four-one-one. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an open world, third-person action romp, where the player controls a ranger called Talion who seeks revenge on the forces of Sauron after his wife and son are murdered. Initially, Talion is mortally wounded during this early massacre, but the wraith of the Elven Lord Celebrimbor is able to use his powers to keep Talion alive, gifting him magical, wraith-like abilities in the meantime.

I hate to do this, but I want to get to the part where I rant about this version’s quality so here’s the gameplay in comparison terms: running around the world is like Assassin’s Creed on speed, combat is prompt-heavy and taken from Arkham Asylum, stealth is not very deep, and in between story and side quest missions you can collect plants, artifacts, and ancient runes for experience points and lore. I’m enjoying Talion’s journey so far, but am taking my time to collect what I can and learn the ropes when it comes to fighting large groups of enemies or hunting down nearby captains. In fact, I have to take my time. Yes, thank you, that is a great lead-in into…

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor‘s menus are atrociously slow to load, to the point that I am constantly reaching for my phone to do something while I wait for the opportunity to do something in-game to appear. The problem? You use menus a lot in this digital Middle-earth, whether it is scrutinizing your intel on Sauron’s army, upgrading your weapons with collected runes, unlocking perks for Talion and his skills, or engrossing yourself in the appendices. Oh, and don’t forget the map, if you are interested in seeing what events/collectibles are around you at the moment. It’s so lousy that, at certain points, I’ve had to restrain myself from hitting pause and just go forward without doing whatever I thought I could do quickly. Couple this with textures frequently not loading (or taking forever to load in, even during cutscenes), choppy audio issues, and some hitching, and you have a less-than-impressive version of what many proclaim to be an impressive game. The Xbox 360 version also has a 5 GB mandatory install, which nearly filled up my hard-drive.

That all said, I won’t be moving into the new generation for a good while, certainly not until Fallout 4 is ready to be purchased and played, so this is the best I can do for now. It’s not unplayable, but like with Gandalf’s trepidation about entering the Mines of Moria, I wish there was another way around. For now, I’ll get back to tracking Gollum, freeing slaves, and cinematically slicing off the heads of Uruks with unequivocally cool names.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2014

top 10 games not played in 2014 sad puppy

Actually, I played and beat a lot of games this year, somewhere around 73 according to my well-kept list. That’s my highest count yet since I started keeping tabs. Many of those games were from last year, years past, or tiny indie darlings. I did get to a few titles that came out this year, such as Transistor, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and Fantasy Life, to name a few, but as things often go, I missed out on a big chunk of the heavy-hitters.

Truth be told, this is one of my favorite lists to put together at the end of the year. Sure, it can seem like a bummer to miss out on some of these, but I’m a patient man and will get to some of them in due time. Or maybe not ever, given that Red Dead Redemption showed up on these lists a few times in a row, and I’ve still not ridden a horse to Mexico. My bad.

And for those curious to see how this feature ran in the past, here’s a bullet list:

Remember, this is a list of games I didn’t play that, if I had the time, money, and chance to, would totally play. Just putting that out there if you’re wondering why Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or Titanfall isn’t showing up below. I don’t want to touch those, not even with a ten-foot pole. Your thoughts and mileage may vary.

10. Destiny

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Hmm. I really like Borderlands II and the idea of a loot-driven first-person shooter. Shoot things with guns, get cooler guns, do it all again. That’s perfectly fine. While the Borderlands series might not have the most illuminating or powerful story, it at least has a story, with characters and twists and resolutions. Sounds like Destiny doesn’t, which is scary, given Bungie’s plan for ten years worth of content. I don’t know. It looks pretty, but I’m a solo player, and a lot of the later game content is slanted towards group play.

9. Assassin’s Creed: Unity/Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

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Another year, another new Assassin’s Creed game to slip past me in the crowds while perfectly pilfering my purse. Based on reviews and fan feedback, neither of these two titles sounded all that great, riddled with bugs and repetition. Still sounds like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has been the series high point. That said, this year, I did finally start playing Assassin’s Creed II and am enjoying it very much, though I wish the feathers showed up on the map. Collecting is hard.

8. Child of Light

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Visually pretty RPGs make my knees buckle, but I never got around to trying Ubisoft’s take on the genre. Heard some complaints about the rhyming mechanics and the lackluster combat, but I can see past that for its watercolor painting graphics. It came out on a bunch of platforms, too, though I feel like this might be a good one to grab on sale sometime next year. Until then, Child of Light

7. Divinity: Original Sin

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Instead of playing Divinity: Original Sin this summer, I dabbled in The Temple of Elemental Evil. It was decent fun, but not the same. Hoping to see the newer, better CRPG pop up in some bundles next year.

6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

hearthstone 2534138-ss1-full

Generally, if I can’t play a specific game or have trouble gaining access to it, I’ll search out a similar experience elsewhere. See above with Divinity: Original Sin. For Hearthstone, a card game everyone was gaga over this year in the same vein as Minecraft a few years back, I just never got to play it. I don’t have an iPhone or iPad, but I did discover Might & Magic: Duel of Champions, which is a lot of fun. Maybe next year I can try this and say “Job’s done!” myself.

5. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

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Remember in the blurb under Destiny where I said I really liked Borderlands II? Well, that’s true. I really liked it. I still like it. I’m still playing it. And so I’m not ready to move over yet to another game that is very similar save for a different setting and an oxygen mechanic. Sounds like there is some collection coming for the series, and it would be awesome to see Borderlands, Borderlands II, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel all together, bundled with every bit of DLC that’s ever been made for the series. One can dream, I know.

4. Bravely Default: Flying Fairy

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Here’s the thing. While I did not play the full retail release for Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, I did get to try out the special demo put out a few weeks before the game dropped. It’s fun and gorgeous and a modern take on the older style of Final Fantasy games. I meant to pick up a retail copy, but never did. And then a few weeks ago, I had to remove the demo from my 3DS to save space and make room for important things, like new puzzle pieces and themes.

3. Shovel Knight

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An old-school action platform where you hop around on your shovel like Scrooge did his cane in DuckTales. I really shouldn’t have to write any more to sell you on the title, and I’m very sad I never got around to this. Think it would be perfect to play on my 3DS, so maybe some Christmas money can help with that plan.

2. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

mgs ground zeroes 2610811-4_easy

One of my goals for this year was to play through every Metal Gear game in order of release. I got all the way through Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Still, a pretty good effort. I won’t be able to try out Ground Zeroes, purported to be the Metal Gear game with the best controls yet, until I finish a few others ahead of it. Hopefully by the time I get to it I can play it like a prologue to The Phantom Pain. Fans believe we’ll hear the release date for that one in just a few days, on Christmas, a gift worth unwrapping violently.

1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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All right, here’s the big one. A Lord of the Rings game, and I didn’t play it. I try out just about every title I can. Yup, even Aragorn’s Quest. Yes, even The Fellowship of the Ring on the PlayStation 2 despite its terrible grammatical errors. That said, the reason one plays Shadow of Mordor is to experience the Nemesis system, which is deep and complicated and cool; however, the last-gen versions of the game have the Nemesis system removed due to limitations, leaving behind a more hollow product. My laptop certainly can’t run a game like this, so I will have to wait until the day I get a new-gen console, which won’t happen until I also know when Fallout 4 is definitely coming out. Sigh. This one hurts the most.

Right. That’s my list. Those are ten games I wanted to play, but ten games I didn’t get to play. Boo-hoo. What titles did you miss out on this year? Speak up in the comments below, and may you get to everything you want to in the next, new year! Until we meet again, dear Grinding Down readers.