Shadow of Mordor is a brand new journey into Middle Earth with it’s own story, an open world environment and some slick gameplay. Anything with the Middle Earth stamp on it is something that deserves attention but does Shadow of Mordor manage to deliver more than just another thematic action game?

Story

The game takes place between the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  You play as a ranger of Gondor named Talion, who was responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor but got killed by Sauron’s armies. However Talion is revived with “wraith-like abilities” and heads into Mordor to exact his revenge. That’s a pretty cool way to set things up!

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You will find yourself immediately sucked into the world of Middle Earth with all the familiar amenities such as Uruk’s, Orcs and Caragors (four legged predatory beasts). You will also stumble across Gollum as well, who has been excellently integrated into the overall story. At one point you get to hear a “beautiful” song that Gollum sings while following him around that re-emphasizes just how warped this little creature is.

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The story delivers what you want from a Middle Earth game and does so through fantastic cut scenes and superb voice acting all while fitting neatly into the overall Tolkien tapestry.

Presentation

The presentation in the game really brings the world of Middle Earth to life. The lighting effects deliver some truely breathtaking vistas at sunset and the dacing flames at night add to the suspense. Visually the game is well polished with wonderfully detailed character models. Talion’s cloak and weapons all sway with movement and become slick when wet. The Uruks and Ocrs have been rendered in all their hideous detail and the game presents many opportunities to see the detail up close as you slice off their heads or ram a dagger through their skulls.

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The voice acting deserves a special mention, both for the lead characters as well as for the individual enemies, each voice is well paired and brilliantly delivered.

Gameplay

While the story and presentation are both excellent, it’s the gameplay that delivers the knock-out punch. Shadow of Mordor provides an exquisite blend of Assassin’s creed (running, climbing, stealth kills) and Batman Arkham Asylam (combat system, counter attacks). Battling multiple enemies is incredibly fun but always challenging, take on too many enemies and the fight can become too much.

The game rewards smart play with an element of stealth (picking off enemies on the fringes), ranged play (wraith-like bow abilities) and brute force that can be combined to decimate large groups of enemies.

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The Nemesis System has been much talked about and manages to bring a fresh experience to the genre. Every enemy in Middle Earth falls within a carefully structured web of power. If an enemy kills you expect to see him level up and be promoted within the Uruk ranks. Capturing and interrogating lower level Uruks will allow you to gain intel and decipher the strengths and weaknesses of powerful Uruk captains and warchiefs. Its a fantastic system that brings real consequence to death while still enabling you to continue playing.

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Throughout the game you will earn experience, power and runes that you can use to upgrade both weapons and special abilites. The abilities provide some great skills such as the ability to ride a Caragor or decapitate enemies. Progession happens quickly enough to keep you interested in side quests and challenges that are littered across the world.

Summary

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is by far the best game within the Tolkien universe, providing hours of fun weaved into a plausible and entertaining story. Get up man, grab your sword and prepare for an epic battle against the armies of the darkness.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game was reviewed on the Xbox One and it also available on Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC.