The answer clear, not only does Middle Earth return to it’s former glory with Shadow of Mordor, the game iterates on popular and well-received gameplay mechanics at the same time as introducing an innovative and captivating new system that will hopefully be implemented in many more games in the coming years. The basics behind Shadow of Mordor are easy for players to pick out instantaneously, it’s very clearly a derivative of the popular Assassin’s Creed series, while aping it’s combat nearly entirely from another WB Games property, the Batman: Arkham series. Both of those games, however, are lauded for particular aspects of their gameplay, and those two styles coming together is more satisfying than I would have initially anticipated.
Surveying the vast land of Mordor feels right at home for someone who has played Assassin’s Creed since its inception. Scaling the sides of towers and getting an eagle-eyed perspective on the lush and beautiful world is simple and satisfying, and movement within the large open world is swift. As you scale towers to unlock new missions and lift the fog of war on your map, you will come to realize just how much content there is to explore in this world.
Combat in Mordor is Arkham to a T, though the mature rating give it a decidedly gory edge, and it’s possibly the tightest and most fluid this system has ever been. Rivaling the best in the Arkham series, Arkham City, in terms of fluidity and variety, playing as Talion and slicing huge groups of Uruk’s down to size is grossly addictive, and you find yourself searching out gatherings of enemies just to see one more head fly off of its shoulders in slow motion. That’s also helped by the amazing attention to detail given to the enemy appearance in the game, as the character models for each individual Uruk-Hai warrior is impressive to say the least.
The reason for that is due to the innovation that comes in the form of the games new Nemesis system. It’s impossible to have followed the development of this game without hearing the developer talk openly about the Nemesis system, especially when referring to it as a game changer. Often times when a system like this is talked up to this point, it can’t help but come as a disappointment, but that is simply not the case, here. Any enemy that slays you in battle immediately becomes a rival, gets a name and a specific set of strengths and weaknesses for you to exploit. There is plenty of dialogue, delivered by some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard, that specifically references your past encounters with these enemies, and the multitude of ways you can combat each of these rivals is a bit head spinning. It makes even the simplest of fights feel like it has gravity to it, and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a game. Hopefully this system can be improved upon even more in the future, as I’ve found myself feeling like the enemies in other games simply feel empty since my time with Shadow of Mordor.
While the story is nothing to write home about, a heroes journey to avenge the brutal slaying of himself and his family at the hands of the Black Hand of Sauron, fans of the ‘Rings universe will still feel happy about the way it weaves into both the novels tale and the films narrative equally. Whether it’s a licensed adaptation of a film or book series or a game that simply stands on its own, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor comes with a breadth of engaging content and innovation that puts it near the top of the conversation for Game of the Year.