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Xbox One Game Review

Middle-earth: Shadow of War


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

Middle-earth: Shadow of War continues the original narrative of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, winner of more than 50 industry awards, with the return of Talion and Celebrimbor, known as the Bright Lord, who must forge a new Ring of Power and confront the deadliest of enemies, including Sauron and his Nazgûl, in a monumental battle for Middle-earth. This open world action role-playing game (RPG) is fuelled by the Nemesis System, which now introduces Orc Followers who bring about entirely new stories of loyalty, betrayal and revenge, as well as the addition of massive Nemesis Fortresses, which require different strategies to conquer dynamic strongholds and create personalised worlds with more choices and opportunities than ever before...

Review imageFirst things first. If you're not a fan of The Lord of the Rings and/or haven't played Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor then you might find the story elements of this a little hard to follow. It's not overly important that you are familiar with the world or characters, but you'll get much more out of it if you are. Set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth: Shadow of War features a rich ecosystem of missions, exploration and a robust Orc society with diverse Orc cultures.

The gaming style owes a lot to the early Assassin's Creed style game. You have an open world which you can explore and follow the storyline in any way you see fit. You can sneak around, dispatching your foes, or climb over rooftops and take them out with ranged weapons.

You can experience the open world in a host of ways, creating unique personal stories along the way. With new and improved melee, stealth and ranged combat, expanded skills and the new Ring of Power, you can harness the power of the Bright Lord to dominate Mordor from within. You will also encounter new and familiar allies, including Eltariel, the elite Nazgûl hunter; Baranor, the Captain of Minas Ithil; Carnán, the mysterious spirit of nature and iconic characters such as Shelob and Gollum. There's also an impressive diversity of deadly foes, including Orcs, Olog-hai, monstrous beasts, the ancient Balrog Tar Goroth, fire breathing drakes, the Nazgûl and ultimately the Dark Lord, Sauron himself.

Review imageThose that are true Tolkien devotees may find this original story a bit of a departure from the books, with strange choices made for some of the familiar characters... but for putting a new spin on things the developers have tried to knock some of Tolkien's stuffiness out of the franchise. That will either annoy or please you depending on how much of a fan of the original work you are.

First Introduced in Shadow of Mordor, the Nemesis System lends unique personalities, histories, and depth to your enemies and followers. While the basics of the system should be familiar to those who played the first game, many of the core mechanics have been changed or expanded in Shadow of War. New layers of strategy and depth can yield greater challenges and rewards when thinning Sauron’s ranks or, later on, when expanding your own Orc army

Now for the negative points, and while they don't sound so bad, they are quite annoying. Firstly, the controls. Running around is fine, and at some points that's all you have to do, but should you accidentally run into a structure you'll find yourself climbing it accidentally and, until you get used to the controls, getting back on the ground can be a bit of a pain.

Review imageSecond, and this is a big issue. There are too many bolted on aspects of the game that feel wrong here. What's the point of the skill tree? It just feels like another distraction, like a badly tacked on RPG element. And loot drops with new weapons are another pointless way to squeeze as much money from gamers who are desperate to get rare and cooler artefacts than their friends. The ability to spend real money on ingame currency was just the biggest kick in the teeth for me. The game's not exactly cheap in the first place, then there's the expansion packs... so to try to make you cough up more money to unlock things that should either be earned in the game or given away free is a pretty low blow by Warner. Hopefully so few gamers will engage in this blatant rip-off that they won't roll it out to other games in the future.

Personally, I'd stick with the free elements - I can't see the point in spending a small fortune on things that don't actually make all that much difference to the gameplay.


Darren Rea

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