Middle Earth: Shadow of War places you back into the shoes of Talion, who’s once again joined by his best friend, Celebrimbor, his undead elf companion. The sequel doesn’t just boost up the bromance between the two, it also boosts up the script than the original although some few cheesy lines are in there; but also it spins LOTR lore into an unexpected fashion such as Talion and Celebrimbor make their own ring of power and also Shelob, the trapdoor spider from Return of the King appears here as a steamy, seductive sorceress and not a bug. Shadow of War still clings to the LOTOR trilogy like a dog clinging to it’s owner but has some few ideas of it’s own.
Shadow of War isn’t just a polished action-adventure sequel, it’s a super ambitious followup to one of the best games to come out of this generation and a game that already felt like it pioneered and push gaming forwards thanks to the Nemesis system. This features return in the sequel however there is something brand new here that happens to one-up the Nemesis system.
Nemesis fortresses is the main new feature in Shadow of War and they’re a treat to conquer. Whenever you enter a new region of Middle-Earth, his goal is to capture the region’s fortress from the local overlord. In order to do this and rule the land, he has to use his Dominion ability: a power that brainwashes the Orc enemy and allows them to fight for you and once you upgrade the ability, they can go undercover and infiltrate the compound or send them on assassination missions to take out the Orc overlord’s best chieftains and captains. It’s an evolution of the Nemesis system and one that feels natural for a feature.
Once you weaken the ranks, it is time to raid his fortress and take it for your own. The assault and the battles between your orcs and theirs is very similar to the large scale battles of the movies, it’s pretty cool to see the same spectacle from the movies being shown here in the games. Can you capture a fortress without the busy work? Yes. Of course. But failing to take down the Captains and Warchiefs before storming the fortress means that the defenses will be tougher to take down, so it’s in your best bet to do the busywork first.
Besides that, the developers have worked hard on other parts of the game clearly. The movement system has improved from Shadow of Mordor. Talion’s Elven Agility perk allows him to climb structures more quickly, while Shadow Strider lets him achieve a double jump that carries him through the air. He’s a superhero basically, it’s so fun to do as well.
The only thing I have against Shadow of War is that sometimes it’s boring and it plays it way too safe at certain points, the game adheres to usual tropes of open world games and that it is not original in any way. Shadow of War is almost like one of the old Ubisoft games where you’re bombarded with things to do like climbing towers, outposts to clear, armor and weapons to upgrade, and collectibles to find. You fall into boredom sometimes, I know I did.
The game is kinda messy when it comes to certain things like lootboxes. That’s one of the biggest criticisms I have when it comes to Shadow of War, you can go buy some lootboxes right from the start of the campaign but you really don’t have to. The problem I have with them is that it’s kinda greedy but not predatory like in Battlefront II, lootboxes don’t really have an impact here and I guess that’s okay. It just irks me that lootboxes is in a game that’s mainly single-player, and I wonder what precedent this will have. Anyways, Shadow of War is a satisfying sequel despite the obvious.
Like I said, Shadow of War is a satisfying sequel, one that not only serves as a better game from it’s predecessor but also ups the ante. Shadow of War isn’t just among one of the best games to come out of last year, it’s single-handily one of the best licensed games ever to appear this generation.