In this sequel to 2014’s Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, you continue the story of Talion to keep the forces of Sauron at bay. While the first game showed a lot of ambition and almost makes it there, this sequel finally reaches that full potential in the form of more regions to explore, more story to play through, and more mechanics to learn.
The creator of the One Ring, Celebrimbor, is still infused in you and acts as your guiding voice throughout your quest. In this story, Talion and Celebrimbor forge a new ring, one that can allow Talion to amass an army of Orcs, Uruks and even Ologs.
By creating an army, Talion’s main goal is to conquer each region of Mordor to prevent Sauron from completing his goal of world domination.
Instead of having one main quest though, Shadow of War divides its story into multiple quest chains, each with their own individual stories but still in some way ties into the main narrative. The great thing is you’re free to choose what storylines you want to follow.
Each quest within the quest chain spreads out over the various regions, so it’s best to only do the ones within the region you’re in. The individual storylines are hit and miss, some are interesting to follow, while others are just a bit bland.
There’s a lot of other activities you can do too. There’s challenges to complete that represent Celebrimbor’s past, there’s the Online Vendettas for avenging the death of other players online, and aiding your dominated Orcs in their own quests. Let’s not forget the collectibles too! This is an open-world game after all.
But the core of Shadow of War and what really got its hooks into me, was the ability to build your own army to take down the enemy’s fortress, in order to claim the region as your own. In order to do this, you’ll need to fight the Orc/Uruk/Olog of your choice and once their health is low enough, they go into a state known as ‘broken’.
Once this happens, you’ll be using your Dominate skill to convert them to your side. Once they’re in your army you can use them how you see fit. You can have them fight by your side, but risk them falling in combat. You can send them off on their own quests.
You can make them stronger by fighting other Orcs. Or you can just leave them in your army to be used for the assault on that region’s fortress.
What I loved about this was that the game allows you to do it how you see fit, and doesn’t hold your hand through the process. It was so liberating and felt so fresh. You can also seek out the Warchiefs of each fortress and kill them off individually to make your invasion easier.
Then when the moment comes to invade, and you eventually kill off the fortress Overlord, it gives you such a great feeling of accomplishment!
The combat mostly stays the same as the original game and is still as fun as ever. Like games before it that used the same type of combat, you’ll need to be ready to counter and dodge when you see particular symbols appear above the enemies heads.
You’ll need to be looking around you as well as looking at your direct opponent if you want to survive. I’ve always loved this type of combat and glad it remained for this sequel. Every Captain or Warchief you face has their own set of strengths and weaknesses you’ll need to look out for.
Every Captain needs to be approached differently if you want to be successful in your battles. This makes every fight feel different if you feel the need to take advantage of weaknesses, and the game gives you a lot of variety to work with.
There’s even gear to earn for Talion just to add more depth to it all too. While it doesn’t feel as exciting as earning gear as other games, it’s still a welcome addition. Being able to add gems into your gear allows you to enhance certain stats, like health, attack, and XP gain.
The only real downside to Shadow of War was the final act, which was so repetitive and dragged on way too long! You needed to get through this act to see the game’s final ending (which is worth it) but really waters down the experience by how unnecessarily long and tedious it is.
It’s essentially defending your fortresses one after another, going through different stages, and defending more fortresses within each stage as you go along. This game probably would’ve rated higher for me if that act was either omitted or severely shortened.
Apart from that main criticism, this game was still an epic experience that I enjoyed for most of the way through.