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About the product
- Become the most feared force in Mordor in a new chronicle set before the events of the Lord of the Rings
- Exploit the individual fears, weakness and memories of your enemies as you dismantle Sauron's forces from within.
- Harness the Spirit of vengeance to inflict brutal combos while mastering powerful new skills and weaponry.
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From the manufacturer
Winner of over 40 2014 Game of the Year Awards including most innovate, best action/adventure game, and technical achievement, now fully-loaded with all downloadable content.
- Main Game
- The Lord of the Hunt Mission
- The Bright Lord Story Mission
- Test of Power Challenge Mode
- Test of Speed Challenge Mode
- Test of Wisdom Challenge Mode
- Endless Challenge Mode
- The Dark Ranger Skin
- Captain of the Watch Skin
- Hidden Blade Rune
- Deadly Archer Rune
- Flame of Anor Rune
- Rising Storm Rune
- Guardians of the Flaming Eye Warband Mission
- The Berserks Warband Mission
- The Skull Crushers Warband Mission
Winner of over 40 "Best of 2014" Awards including Game of the Year, Best Action Game and Most Innovative Game. Most Innovative Game - IGN Game of the Year - GameSpot Game of the Year - Joystiq Best Action Game - The Game Awards
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Taking the reigns of ranger Talion, Shadow of Mordor has the player stalking around its titular wasteland, eking out vengeance for his slain family. Aiding Talion/possessing his body is Celebrimbor, the spirit of a long dead Elven king who unwittingly forged the Rings of Power for Sauron way back in the day... cue tons of lore sure to give Tolkein fans plenty to get excited about. I personally haven't been into Middle Earth material since I LOTR came out back in the early 2000s, so the story here and its various winks to the franchise rarely did anything for me.
Story aside, Shadow of Mordor excels on nearly front. Taking cues from the Batman: Arkham series with empowering, large-scale combat scenarios with over-the-top combos and lovely animation, Shadow of Mordor offers some of the best action gameplay of any open world title on the market. And, like the Arkham games, Mordor features great stealth mechanics that feel rewarding even when the player inevitably slips up and gets caught. One of the strengths of this game is its endless ability to turn accidents into set-pieces of awesome action-packed ingenuity, and it delivers those strengths in spades.
The Nemesis System, which I thought would be gimmicky, is actually quite satisfying. Whenever an orc (boss and grunt, alike) kills Talion, that enemy increases in power and becomes a "nemesis", an NPC with a distinct personality and bone to pick with the player. These nemesis enemies will often hunt down Talion, leading to challenging battles and inspired encounters. Though the system leans on procedural generation of enemy stats and behaviors, it still adds a surprisingly effective dose of life to the proceedings and encourages the player to keep returning to the blasted lands of Mordor long after they've completed the main story-line.
GOTY Edition also features two take-em-or-leave-em DLC expansions that aren't bad, but don't offer nearly as much depth or longevity as the main game. Still, for the paltry $20 I put down for it, Shadow of Mordor: GOTY Edition was well worth the investment with excellent mechanics and plenty of replay value.
The main game's story takes place between the events of The Hobbit and the The Lord of the Rings, after Sauron's defeat by the white council and before the Fellowship of the Ring is formed. You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor stationed on the Black Gate. He lives a life of relative peace with his family until one day they are besieged by sinister servants of Sauron along with an army of Orcs and Uruk-hai (the smarter, fiercer, stronger orc variety seen in FotR). These villains proceed to ritually sacrifice his family in front of his eyes before turning the knife on him. Rather than perishing, however, Talion's tragedy calls an unknown, amnesiac Wraith who joins with him in some strange union that keeps him alive and in seemingly good health. Talion and the Wraith join forces to put a stop to Sauron's machinations. Each has their own motives for doing this, Talion's quest being one of revenge and the Wraith's a quest to rediscover their own identity. The game also dives heavily into the history of Celebrimbor, the legendary Elven smith who crafted the original rings of power.
On paper, this all sounds like it should be exceptional, especially for hardcore fans of Middle Earth since there's so much central lore explored here. Some of the concepts might seem screwy enough that it'd be non-canon to the books, but I believe it is considered canon to the movie universe version. Sadly, though, the game fails to really deliver on the great story potential. SoM is just not very good at exposition. Talion isn't a particularly interesting or likable character. He's about as generic a gritty protagonist as you could imagine, and often his behavior is inconsistent, one moment acting in a noble, selfless way, the next being rude and alienating his allies and friends for no reason. The Wraith is rather emotionless and bleak, like a more depressing Spock. Quite often, supporting characters are introduced and dropped from the plot before you ever have a chance to really know them or see them develop even to care. Many cutscenes are obviously designed to have emotional punch, but they fall flat far more often than not because of that. You're more likely to scratch your head than laugh at the out of place humorous scenes or tear up at tragic ones. Honestly, a lot of details regarding many of these characters, including key ones, are relegated to the in-game codex/appendices. It's almost Final Fantasy XIII levels of bad in that regard. Yikes. The plot also has major pacing issues too, some events flying by way too quick and others being unnecessarily drawn out. Many of the big plot boss fights are disappointingly anticlimactic. Same can be said for the ending as well. I also found that the voice acting is hit or miss. Thankfully the main two characters, Talion and the Wraith, as well as some supporting like Gollum, have excellent voice overs, but others are lacking. One dwarf character whose Scottish accent is laughably inconsistent, really stands out. So in summary, SoM's story is undoubtedly its weakest component and the only aspect I'd describe as a "con." It just seems like a major shame that a game set in a universe so ripe with potential for an amazing story flops in that regard. Thank goodness the rest of the game is so good. I suppose it's OK that the main plot isn't all that great, because the game's unique mechanics create excellent organic stories on their own. More on that later though.
At its core, SoM is what you'd get if you took Assassin's Creed and the Batman Arkham games, refined and improved their mechanics to be even better than they already were, and threw them in a blender along with some Wraith superpowers. There are two fairly big regions of Mordor you get to run around and stab Uruks in, and each area is littered with bonus mission objectives to do, collectibles to find, and challenges to undertake. There are plenty of places to sneak, parkor, and play around in. There's a big emphasis on stealthy, sleek assassin-like gameplay. This is all trademark AC stuff, but I find SoM pulls it off more seamlessly. Everything just feels smooth. The combat system is straight up pulled from the Arkham games, but I actually find SoM's take on it to be more responsive, visceral, and satisfying. The bonus/challenge missions themselves are exceptionally well designed, putting the excellent environmental level design to great use through varied application of the mechanics. These missions are important to undertake too, as there's an extensive upgrade system that requires you to do so in order to progress, which I loved doing. The upgrade system is awesome as well. I found myself excitedly unlocking new abilities frequently, and each one adds tons of new gameplay possibilities as well as an ever-growing sense of power. The upgrade progression always insures you'll feel powerful without feeling TOO powerful, as the game switches things up frequently to keep you on your toes. Each of your three weapons - the stealthy dagger, the brawler's sword, and the ranged time-slowing bow - mix together to compliment any play style and can be combined in a seemingly limitless number of ways in each scenario. You can also upgrade each weapon with runes you acquire from defeating Uruk captains or war chiefs. The level of rune and its affects is largely dependent on how you tackle the captain. I haven't even mentioned how you can put environmental hazards/traps/tricks or the many ways you can put Mordor's native wildlife to use (including riding what is essentially a freaking rancor, awesome). Seriously, the core gameplay design in this game is incredible, both in its variety and in its quality.
There is ONE mechanic, though, that makes SoM stand out from other games, and that's in its Nemesis system. Essentially, this is a mechanic that keeps track of an area's local Uruk heirarchy. Each area's Uruk leadership is divided into roughly 20 or so captains and 5 war chiefs. Each of these Uruks have randomly generated looks, personalities, names, titles of renown, as well as personal strengths, fears/hates, and weakness you can exploit to defeat them in gameplay. If some random orc soldier defeats you, they are promoted to captain. If you're defeated by a captain or war chief, they grow in power and will be stronger the next time you face them. Not only that, but the Uruk society evolves and shifts on its own organically, as captains undertake certain tasks like executions, duels against other captains, recruitment sessions, feasts, etc. to gain power and influence. You can interrupt any of these side mission events, and if you're successful in doing so, you are rewarded with experience points AND power points, the latter of which are needed to access new tiers of upgrade abilities. It gets even more interesting when you gain the ability to "brand" captains and chiefs to be your sleeper agents, which opens up even MORE side missions as you try to guarantee their success and help them climb the ladder. You'd be amazed how invested you can get into a getting random Uruk captain into high places. This Nemesis system creates so many opportunities for organic stories to develop for each player. I must have defeated the same Uruk, Ûkrom the Blade Master, several times in my playthrough. He'd always come back, sometimes ambushing me while I was in the middle of a fight with someone else to get revenge. Each time I defeated him, he'd come back uglier, either with some sort of scar, brace, or, after I exploited his weakness of burning by lighting him on fire, a sackcloth sack wrapped around his face. Eventually I branded him and made him a war chief. I really got attached to the guy, in a weird way. This kind of stuff happens all the time in SoM, and helps to make it a truly memorable experience. Excellent job Monolith!
All of this occurs seamlessly in a world that nails the kind of presentation the Hobbit/LoTR movies made so iconic. The character designs are all awesome. As ho-hum as Talion's personality may be, he certainly looks awesome, the way a bad!$$ ranger should, and many of his allies feel right at home in the Middle Earth setting. The enemy designs, the Uruk-hai in particular, look fantastic as well. The Nemesis system ensures that each Orc you run into looks and acts genuinely unique (all are grotesque though, lol). For those worried that the visual design would be limited because the game is entirely in the evil land of Mordor, thankfully there's a nice variety to the environments as well. The initial area, Udûn, is the kind of bleak, desolate location you'd expect. However, the second region that opens up to you, the Sea of Núrnen, is beautifully verdant and lush and feels much more like traditional Tolkien. I really enjoyed the weather effects too. In addition to the artistic design, the visuals are stunning on a technical level, with tons of small graphical touches that really bring the game world to life. It's all stunning, making great use of the current gen consoles' hardware. The sound design is also fairly well done. The soundtrack is appropriately tribal for most of the game as you deal with the Uruks, but there's plenty of emotional symphonic Howard Shore-esque music in the soundtrack as well. I really enjoyed the small touches, like the name of a war chief being chanted over the visceral, pounding drums when you face off with him. It's the little things like that that really shine in this game. Like I said earlier, the voice acting is mostly hit with some miss. The sound effects also add a lot to the action, as they make each combat encounter, arrow fired, and stealth takedown really feel visceral. Overall, the presentation in this game is very well done.
That's the core game in a nutshell. So what do you get in this game-of-the-year addition? Basically, everything that came post-release. This edition features all DLC for the game. This means all expansions, runes, costumes, you name it. It's all here. The expansions are particularly well-done. They both expand on the story in fairly interesting ways. Even better, they both hit the ground running mechanically by assuming you've beaten the core game. They start challenging and only grow from there, incorporate new, genuinely well-made gameplay elements. You don't often see DLC this thoughtful, and thankfully, it doesn't feel like an afterthought. Getting it all from the start in this edition is a great deal, assuming you haven't gotten this game yet.
So all-in-all, I think it's safe to say we have a winner with Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It's a near-perfect game in every way but the story, which feels like such a shame given the franchise it's working with. I usually find a poor story to be a crippling problem for a game, but SoM's gameplay and presentation is so well conceived and so well executed that it overcomes that handicap triumphantly. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I got the platinum trophy for the game, something I only do with the funnest, most engaging of games. So there's that. I think overall, SoM deserves an 9/10, which is phenomenal by licensed game standards. If Monolith can create a sequel that delivers the same strengths while also improving its weaknesses, I have no doubt it'd be one of the best games of the generation. Let's hope they do so. So if you're a gamer looking for a game that deftly refines already great ideas with some exciting new ones, SoM is definitely worthy of consideration. Buy it, prepare yourself for a unique gaming adventure through Middle Earth, and enjoy one of the best games of 2014.