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PS4 Game Review

Middle-earth: Shadow of War


Format: PS4
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Monolith Productions
Age Restrictions: 18+
Release Date: 10 October 2017

With his wife and child murdered, by Sauron’s forces, the Dúnedain ranger, Talion, welcomes death. At the point of his demise, he is resurrected by the wraith of the Elven Lord Celebrimbor, who fuses his essence with Talion setting them both on the path for a final conflict with the dark lord of Mordor...

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an open world fantasy role playing game very loosely based on the works of Tolkien and visually based on the Peter Jackson films. The game was developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Brothers: Interactive Entertainment.

Review imageThe game takes place between the end of The Hobbit and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings and for purists it may represent a change too far as it opens with Celebrimbor forging another ring of power to rival that of the dark lords. Unfortunately for the conjoined hero’s they stumble across Shelob, in the form of a dark haired sensuous female, who wrests the ring from them.

You are then whisked away to Minas Ithil, which is currently under attack from an army of orcs. There’s a few linear things to do to get inexperienced players used to the controls before you're set free into the open world. After a while you discover that this not an open world in the sense of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or the smaller Skyrim, rather you have many large open areas which you are transported to and from.

But before you get into the game proper we take a quick look under the hood. There are several options to tinker with, the game has three difficulty levels, easy, normal and nemesis. The game contains a photo mode which allows you to capture shots and adds a few filters for you to play with. There is a graphical HUD which can be set to either on or off, this is the elements which provide all the in-game information, like the mini map, probably only hard-core gamers are going to turn this off.

Review imageYou have the option to disable the nemesis banners, but then you lose all the information about your opponents. Likewise, you can disable the navigation markers and the AI awareness markers. Disabling the combat prompts loses you the in-game combat hint, like "hit square or triangle, NOW". If you want to keep everything but the mini map this can be disabled separately. There are a further eighteen prompts and notification which can be disabled to strip the game back to it hardest, most difficult mode, where there are no hints of helpful prompts.

Under display there is the option to change the brightness setting. I did find that the default was a little too dark for my personal liking, but then I like to see the enemy before I bump into them. There are the usual audio sliders to change the relative volume of the speech, the FX and the musical track. Once again, I thought the default settings let the music overwhelm some of the speech. There are a couple of options for the controller, but no way to remap the actions, which was a shame as I found the pressing of the ‘x’ button an awkward way of getting my character to run, rather than depressing the left joystick, which seemed more intuitive.

Although confined to several large areas there is a lot to do in the game which offers content from the casual play to the more involved quests.

Review imageYour warrior can run and climb, the animation for this is particularly satisfying in an Assassins Creed way. You can traverse any of the cities quicker if you liberate towers which allow you to quickly travel between locations. The game is played from a third person perspective.

Ultimately, the game is one large quest but the order in which you complete it is left to the player. There are parts of Shelob’s memories to collect, you get to follow Gollum on some quests, you can free slaves and a whole bunch more that will keep you amused for hours. I say amused as the game includes a lot of humour, especially when it comes to the portrayal of the Orcs.

You can equip your ranger with a sword, knife, chest armour, a hooded cloak and a bow, each of which can be upgraded via gemstones which are dropped by enemies with a little diamond over their heads. Skills can be unlocked using the in-game currency of silver, this gives you access to increasingly powerful and interesting abilities, riding a dragon is cool.

Review imageAt the heart of the game is the Nemesis system. The game tracks certain Uruk, the stronger type of orc. Now, you can die as many times as you like but if you are defeated by a named Uruk not only will he remember this, each of your deaths promotes the Uruk up to captain making him harder to kill. The game goes further in offering up vendetta missions where other players can kill the offending Uruk for you, with both player sharing in the rewards.

The game scores highly for both the graphical representation as well as the vocal acting and music, I did find that there was the occasional time when the buttons seemed not to respond, sometimes I could work out that Talion needed to be closer, other times it wasn’t clear why a command wasn’t executed.

Overall, his is the best LOTR I have played and well worth a couple of months of your time.


Charles Packer

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