Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

In just a few weeks Warner Bros. Interactive will release ‘Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor,’ the latest installment to the long-running ‘Lord of the Rings’ franchise. From LEGO figures to full-scale MMOs the franchise has seen its share of video-game adaptations, but few have captured the lore of LORTR like Shadow of Mordor has in this wonderful new title.

In the storyline of all things LOTR, the game takes place after “The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies,” but still before “The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring.” A time that is seemingly perfect, since little has been written about the events in that timespan.

It’s also perfect for anyone that may have skipped the actual books and have relied heavily on the film adaptations (shame on you if that’s true). That being said, fans that have read the books will easily find understand the more obscure references and fully appreciate the underlying threats and lore that the game has to offer.

Bringing the world of J.R.R. Tolkien to life is a daunting task, few epic franchises have such specific races, language and folklore that must be followed. In this game the characters made popular from the films all have their moment in the sun, but new characters and locals are also introduced as well. Smaller quests and hidden items are your best chances to discover some of the hidden-gems and nods to Tolkien readers, so taking your time to scavenge the land or fully-complete each quest and side-mission pays off in that way.

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In the game players will take on the role of Talion, an elf and special-forces type warrior that guards the very borders of Mordor. In a surprise attack at the fort, Uruk-hai destroy your comrades, including those very close to you. A spell binds your soul to an Elven wraith, allowing you to seek revenge on those that have wronged you.

The game is part third-person stealth, and third-person action-fighter. You go from war-band to war-band meeting new characters along the way as you hunt down the villains that killed you and your loved ones. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds I should mention, Side-missions and quests leading up to each Orc leader offer secrets to bringing the down each foe, while also developing smaller stories along the way. Orcs that kill you rank up in command, while taking out Orc leaders give other Orcs a chance to fill the void left in his rank. It made the Orc army seem a little more fluid while playing, and gave the NPCs a sense of mobility and AI that I enjoyed tackling.

Taking out your foes is part archery and part close-quarter-combat. You spend your time fighting off larger enemies one-on-one, and smaller enemies in larger groups. You are really underpowered against these fighters, which adds challenge and a better sense of realism, but it can be downright brutal depending on the difficulty that you choose. Aiding you in your quests is a standard skill-tree setup, it unlocks more powerful attacks and upgrades the more you do, and the more you complete.

The game is easily one of the most beautiful game-adaptations of the content ever put forth, and the developers that created the lands of Mordor and its surrounding areas did a wonderful job recreating the works of Tolkien. The gameplay was seamless and intuitive while I tested it out, and outside of dying frequently, always enjoyable.

Of course the PC version was terrific and the superior choice if you are looking at graphics, I tested out the game on an Alienware X51-R2 with a GTX 760 Ti OEM, but the PS4 version wasn’t far behind at all. I think anyone that would like the larger screens and familiar controllers of a console will find that the game is one of the best looking RPGs on the market today.

“Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor” will release on September 30.

more info: amazon.com