Wot I Think (So Far): Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor

I haven’t finished Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, because for whatever tiresome reasons Warner refused to give us (and seemingly us alone) code before the game’s release. This is after a couple of lengthy days spent plugging away at what is a huge, detailed, and really rather fantastic brawling action game, set betwixt Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings (and importantly, it’s fun even if you don’t care about either). Here’s wot I think (so far).

Shadow Of Mordor is a game that really does go out of its way not to be liked at first. It’s really quite extraordinary, how deliberately it seems to have been designed to put people off, overwhelm them with vast numbers of controls, abilities and fighting techniques, and poorly or barely explain them all. And alongside that, to have everything so incredibly difficult that you’ll die and die and die, and not know what you’re doing wrong. But bear with it. It’s worth it.

Dying again and again isn’t so much of a problem for player character Talion, a ranger who suffered the horror of watching his wife and son slaughtered in front of him, before being killed himself. Killed by the rising forces of Sauron, no less. However, on dying, Talion is infested by a wraith of ambiguous morality – a wrinkly old elf-looking chap, who can’t remember his own name. He imbues Talion with lots of super-cool wraith powers, and the two of them set off for some pretty gruesome revenge.

So we have our setting for some third-person biff-boff action – the realms of Mordor, the rising armies of orcs, most especially their toughest species, Uruks. Then some quite extraordinarily liberal borrowing from Assassin’s Creed sets things up for an open-world, multiple quest-chained series of stealth and action antics.

And then there’s the Captains. During the game’s development, it was hard not to see this as the sort of gimmick that gets talked up a lot in interviews, and then fades into the background in the finished product – each enemy having a unique name, unique traits, and if they do well, gaining ranks and notoriety until you polish them off. But cor, it’s a big part of things, and it really works. If an uruk kills you, he’ll get promoted to captain, and either take the place of a current captain or die trying. Kill you multiple times and he’ll climb the ranks, trying to get to the ultimate spot of Warlord. Captains can also improve their positions through politics of their own, which exist in the game in the form of side-quests – ignore them and they’ll succeed in their aims and get stronger, go interfere and you can scupper things. Each have strengths and weaknesses that can be learned by interrogating (catching and mind-sucking) other captains or marked uruks (“worms”), which will inform you that, say, Gorgum Foul-Spawn is vulnerable to steal and combat finishers, but invulnerable to ranged attacks, and that he’s scared of caragors (big monster beasties). You can then approach killing him a lot more tactically.

What works especially well about this is developing a sense that things are getting personal. During my first few hours with the game, I was killed by this one utter bastard – Pash The Elder – about fifteen times – he’d spring up from anywhere, interfering in almost every fight I had, causing me to scream and swear and wave my arms around in abject fury. When I finally killed him, oh sweet Galadriel, what a moment that was. That meant so much to me. I danced my character on his fallen corpse.

But that dying I mentioned. Monolith have screwed up the delivery of information on such a dramatic scale that it defies belief that it could have been unintentional. But intending to do it is so batshit that I cannot think of a rationale for why. It’s damned weird. There is so much going on in this game, from hunting down Ithildin (weird glowing symbols), to earning Mirian (the game’s currency), to the whole Captain system, to the myriad button combinations for fighting, stealthing, taming beasts, combos, special moves, blocking, dodging, leaping, and then weapons, runes for weapons, earning rune space for weapons, unlocking abilities, the three different ways you unlock abilities, Focus and its uses, restoring focus, Elf-shot magical arrows, restoring arrows, interrogating, draining power, stealth draining… All of it fits in nicely, works smoothly, and once understood doesn’t overwhelm. But when a game says, “Hey, this is an open world, go explore!” and so you do that, it really needs to be able to accommodate it.

As it is, the reality here is you really have to start the main quests straight away to have any of the basics introduced to you. Skills and tricks that are vital are only taught through these, despite the appearance that you should be able to chase down the dozens and dozens of side-quests and collectables that litter the lands. And more confusing, everything you try to do at first will see you massively overwhelmed by enemies. Fight anyone, and you can suddenly find yourself surrounded by fifteen or twenty powerful enemies, with a combat system that can cope with three at once at the most. Die, because you will, and then those enemies get stronger! It self-perpetuates, and makes you feel useless, only making the world harder for you to live in. I’m hearing from many friends that they’ve been put off the game by their first hour with it, and I came close too.

So let me offer you the realisations first, so you don’t have to go through that. First, do the first six main quests (two branches are there at the start, then it splits into three, so pick from each). Vital tutorial information, and indeed vital skills, are only available this way. And second, stealth. It looks like an all-action game, the tutorial sequence at the start presents it like all-action game, but it isn’t an all-action game. You’re going to need to hide, sneak, and pick enemies out using cunning tactics, rather than wade in and start swinging swords. It communicates the opposite, which is ridiculous. But embrace the sneak, and suddenly it makes so much more sense. And thirdly, run away. So many games have taught us not to do this, but here it’s often the right move. Turn, sprint, hide. Orcs are massive thickos, and even climbing onto a nearby roof and removing line of sight has their AI give up looking for you. (It’s best to just say, “orcs are stupid”, and not spoil it for yourself by saying, “The AI is useless”.)

Once you’ve got a whole pile of moves, and you can “teleport” in and out of battle, ride around on the backs of beasties, or bring enemies onto your side, it becomes a far more satisfying experience. Learning a captain’s weakness and exploiting it is enormously satisfying, especially if it involves dropping a nest of flies on him to freak him out, then filling his face with magic arrows, before dropping in on his head from above to stuck a dagger through his brain. Especially if he’s a fucker who’s killed your five times previously. (Dying just has you reappear at the nearest unlocked Forge Tower, as well as levelling up involved baddies.)

The main quests are also well worth pursuing. There’s some lovely story writing in there, and as someone who has never found any love for Tolkein’s world, I have still enjoyed the fan service content here linking The Hobbit to LOTR, and some nice juicy gobbets about those pesky rings. Gollum has a main quest line, and it’s extremely well done (so far, at least), his character pleasingly unpleasant and untrustworthy, and his appearance thoughtful, rather than crowbarred in for recognition. And the banter between Talion and his wraith inhabitant is nicely crafted, with much confusion about whether to trust him or not. Oh, and Ratbag, an orc you’ll be reluctantly working with, is properly funny. It’s lovely to remember that Monolith – even if it’s just the paint on the studio walls that remains from those olden days – can still write genuinely funny comedy lines.

Plus, just like Assassin’s Creed, it’s fun to be a super-nimble killing machine. Darting up the sides of buildings, perching on beams, leaping from wall to wall, is all mostly smooth and satisfying. The bow and arrow is a meaty, satisfying weapon alongside the sword and dagger.

While it becomes a huge amount of fun, there are some frustrations. The mouse/keyboard options are not really sensible. Where the controller can manage quite so many interaction options via long presses and taps, along with multiple buttons being pressed at once, obviously the keyboard cannot, so you’re left with a plainly ridiculous number of keys to try to remember and manage. Perhaps this is why Warner was so keen to hide the PC version? It’s a terrible implementation. However, being a dedicated PC gamer and not owning a controller, at this point, is a little contradictory. Played with my 360 controller, it’s all ideal.

However, it’s glitchy, too. Far too many times I’ve suffered in fights because Talion wouldn’t walk past a stone, or decided he was best friends with a wall. It’s not incessant, at all, but frequent enough to be noticeable, and frustrating. And too many times have I found myself climbing a wall, instead of jumping over an enemy, due to the conflation of the controls.

Also, there’s a really disappointing factor: fallen captains seem to come back to life. I’m not sure whether it’s a bug, or whether their boasts of a kerbillion unique enemies were a touch hollow, but it’s bitterly disappointing to see a captain you’d particularly enjoyed finishing suddenly strolling up again. Sure, you come back to life each time, but it does rather shatter the point if they do. Hopefully this is something that’ll be patched out soon.

Edit: It seems that captains only die when their heads are cut off, which is a bit of a disappointing discovery. (And yet another very poorly communicated feature.) However, it seems to lead to good things, checkout the top highlighted comment.

I have no doubt that Monolith has screwed up the welcome to Shadow Of Mordor. Failing to explain important basics, and perhaps even worse, giving an unhelpful impression of how to play through its opening scenes, means that too many will get (and are getting, according to many forums and anecdotal examples coming my way) daunted by constant death in the face of woefully unfair odds. But get past that, learn how it really needs to be approached, and then it becomes a superbly fun ride. It’s involved, it’s well-constructed, and it’s going to make people cross at Ubisoft. There are so many lovely details, wonderful moments as captains start taking things personally, and that pleasurable zone of proficiently clearing out camps and even capably taking on multiple captains at once.

I shall come back and write more when I’ve finished the game, but based on a hefty chunk of hours with it, this is top stuff. Definitely recommended.

153 Comments

Top comments

  1. Polifemo says:

    Basically this. Beheading them means they die for good. Otherwise they have a chance to come back.
    This is actualy BRILLIANT because you can craft your own moster.
    Grab a dude, throw him in fire, then kill him while hes on fire. He will come back covered in burn scars and a fear of fire.
    Theres lots of different things like this and the stronger the orc gets the better runes he drops when you "kill" him.
    You end up having a fondness for your pet self-created nemesis and can help him climb the ranks. This also aplies to random grunts that you can help climb.

    Its a game unto itself, like breeding pokemons except instead of breeding cute monsters you are nuturing evil monster brutes clad in iron and seething with hate for all living things.

    And the "dead for real" finishers are there for when you just want the bastard to die.
  1. barelyhomosapien says:

    On the point of captains coming back to life. I think I saw it mentioned that “killing” them isn’t actually always killing them? There should be visual cues (more injuries) and their defeat might get referenced the next time he struts around infront of you griping!

    Though when you slice off an orcs head and have it turn back up, would definitely be a bit weird.

    I am suprised how much I like this game so far, despite the how hard it can be early on.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      Cutting their heads off with a finisher or drain intel, is permanent as far as I can tell.

      • Polifemo says:

        Basically this. Beheading them means they die for good. Otherwise they have a chance to come back.
        This is actualy BRILLIANT because you can craft your own moster.
        Grab a dude, throw him in fire, then kill him while hes on fire. He will come back covered in burn scars and a fear of fire.
        Theres lots of different things like this and the stronger the orc gets the better runes he drops when you “kill” him.
        You end up having a fondness for your pet self-created nemesis and can help him climb the ranks. This also aplies to random grunts that you can help climb.

        Its a game unto itself, like breeding pokemons except instead of breeding cute monsters you are nuturing evil monster brutes clad in iron and seething with hate for all living things.

        And the “dead for real” finishers are there for when you just want the bastard to die.

        • Premium User Badge

          John Walker says:

          Thank you – that’s fantastic. I’ve referenced your comment in the review.

          • Greggh says:

            I’ve seen a couple of captains not return at all after some non-beheading killing moves – maybe beheading isn’t the only way to kill for good (or I just didn’t have enough random encounters with stragglers) – though beheading is a sure fire way to do so.

            Also, how does one behead ’em properly and willingly??
            Seemed to be just a randomly assigned killmove animation, even when using the glowing-sword-thingie to finish ’em…

            EDIT: Might be anecdotal, but read this:

            link to gamefaqs.com

          • Boothie says:

            @Greggh i think this is how it should be, surviving being set on fire then stabbed in the throat isnt something that should be easy, they survived by a hairs breadth and hate you all the more for it.

          • khoou715 says:

            I’ve noticed people saying even orcs that were beheaded came back. Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but Uruks are created in Vats. So the dead Uruks may have been thrown back into the Vats to be resurrected?

          • machomuu says:

            Yeah, I found that beheading doesn’t equal permadeath, and apparently there are others that have found the same to be the case. Back when I was in the relatively early game, having ditched the main quest to settle a personal vendetta, I killed an orc who was easily the most stubborn I’ve come across yet. He would often seek me out, spout words of revenge, get killed, and come back looking worse than he did before.

            Around our fourth meeting, I beheaded the guy (having assumed by that point that I just wasn’t killing him definitively enough, despite having stabbed him in the neck in the prior encounter), saying, “If this guy comes back again, I’m gonna lose it.” This statement was made even more priceless in that his “Sauron’s Army” picture was just a pile of bones, bloody gore, and his skull. Then, as I was wandering, a shout rang out, and the camera centered on the once-headless orc. Needless to say, everyone watching lost it.

            But. long story short, it currently doesn’t (always) kill them permanently, but considering the death statuses of the orcs in the “Sauron’s Army” changes depending on how they went out, it’s probably just a glitch.

        • Siimon says:

          Very cool, thanks!

        • Jockie says:

          Goddamn it, I finished the game and with maybe 1 exception used finishers on all the Orc Captains and up because y’know, they look cool. I thought the only way to get a proper nemesis was to die or let them escape.

          • wodin says:

            Never understand how people can complete a game when it’s barely been out..blimey I’d say 90% of all the games I’ve played have never been completed!!

        • dongsweep says:

          I am fighting a captain who is invulnerable to all attacks and ranged attacks and can only be hurt by stealth and fire. I did a drop down stealth to ‘kill’ him but it didn’t cut his head off – does anyone know if I am missing something on how to permanently kill this guy?

          • Jockie says:

            I had a dude like that, I rigged an event so that he got killed by another Captain.

          • Hex says:

            That sounds amazing.

          • Hmm-Hmm. says:

            The better answer is, perhaps, not to kill him, but to make him yours. After all, if he’s so hard to kill he’ll be a very good patsy.

        • Dan Griliopoulos says:

          No, that’s not right. I’ve killed plenty straight out, with arrows and with brutalise kills that didn’t behead. I think they have a certain chance of coming back from the dead anyway, especially if they’re called things like The Hellhawk, and the like.

          • Scabmastah says:

            Am I the only one who hasn’t completely missed the fact that there is a captain trait with a description of something like “Hard to kill, may need to use a finisher to kill him outright.”? I was surprised too when someone I had just killed came back to haunt me and then I saw it in his list of strengths.

        • dreadhatter says:

          yea, but if you just wanna kill any orc you can just throw them off a ledge–even if the ledge is three feet tall– I have been abusing this technique for the whole game. Whenever you get a chance to grab the Uruk you can grab him and throw him off the ledge, and he will “die”! This is a terrible but a brilliant glitch!

    • ncnavguy says:

      You are absolutely correct. If the injury you provide is not fatal and the captain escapes they will show back up, sometimes even commenting on the injury! Ie: “That arrow slashed my face now I will slash yours”
      The nemesis system really is the star of this game and I suspect it will be copied in many other action games to come as it sets a new mark for emergent gameplay. It makes me look forward to how the world mastery system in Dragon Age will play out. If it is successfull then I think the combination of both will be a golden standard for action / rpg games where both the enemies and the enviroment around the player adapt and react to player actions

    • Sanctuary says:

      I just finished this game, and I have to say that either there’s a whole lot of people who only started playing (“mass appeal mainstream”) games around 2005 when the 360 launched, or just a lot of people who aren’t very good at action or action/adventure games. The hype of how difficult it is, or how many times you’ll die to the same orc again and again has me baffled. It’s completely overblown. Are people really this bad at action type games, and are just too used to the insta-kill nonsense seen in the Assassin’s Creed games?

      I died exactly three times to elite orcs, so I don’t know what is going on if you’ve died “fifteen” to the same one.

  2. Duke Nukem says:

    Captains only die for real when their head is cut off. In order to do that you have to use the execution move when they have really low health.

    And you don’t really need to do the main missions in order to get around. I’ve done 2 main missions and a few sidequests and I’ve played 12 hours already, vanquished 20 or more captains and hundreds of individual uruks.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      yeah i hate to say it but I found it extremely easy even before I did more main quests and got more of the wraith moves and upgraded skills/health/runes.
      edit- this is with a 360 pad so it may be a lot harder to play kb/m, i wouldn’t know.

      • crazyd says:

        Yeah, the comments on the difficulty are very odd to me. I’ve only been killed so far by a single orc, and that’s only because a Carnasaur softened me up. Otherwise, I’ve jumped right dab in the middle of huge groups and killed them all without taking damage. I can see this potentially being difficult if you’ve never played Ass Creed / Batman / Sleeping Dog / any other game that plays just like this, but the combat seems super easy to me.

        • Scabmastah says:

          I’ve finished Ass Creed 1 and 2, played most of Arkham Asylum and got 100% completion in Sleeping Dogs. First of all the combat is nothing like Sleeping Dogs which reminds more of fighting game with its myriad of special combo attacks. The only thing it shares with Ass Creed if you ask me, is the parrying system, which reminds more of Arkham Asylum together with the rest of the combat. It alleviates the “Endless punch dance” syndrome of Arkham Asylum a bit, by throwing in killing moves at every 8x of a hit streak (which is nice).

          Anyway, my original point is that I’ve played all these games, I didnt play any of them recently mind you, so I don’t really feel right at home in this games fighting system, I’ve died at least 10 times already and I’ve only played for 5 hours so far. I’ve killed two warchiefs and done a ton of side stuff, most of my deaths have been to Caragors, I’ve died twice trying to figure out how the huge giants work, and the rest of my deaths would be attributed to fighting a mob that contains more than one shield guy and a captain.

          I can see how this system becomes easy once you get one of the magic weapon abilities, or maybe if you upgrade your health from the start, or as you progress through the game and get OP abilities, or if you have a reaction time of 1 sec or less, but for the rest of us mere mortals even when you know what buttons to press it only takes two fuckups and you are dead (the fuckup that kills you and then fucking up the last resort). I think this is why there are a select few who think the game is too easy, but the overwhelming majority finds the game just right or actually challenging.

          To those of you who think this game is too easy all I can say is: Welcome to gaming, it’s a triple A title and its gonna be streamlined for mainstream consumers. Go play Demon’s Souls, which is harder than Dark Souls, which is harder than Dark Souls 2. Also, you are gonna have to gimp yourself intentionally in most modern games for them to be hard, this is how playing games the hard way works. If you don’t want to have to do this, I suggest you play games like I Want To Be The Guy or older games. Arguably the modern gaming industry as big as it is, should be able to accommodate more than one demographic of gamers, but that’s another discussion entirely.

          • Tacroy says:

            or if you have a reaction time of 1 sec or less

            … if you’re alive you should have a reaction time of 1 second or less

    • Jools says:

      Yeah, if this game has one major flaw, it’s the relatively low difficulty with no option to bump it up. I think part of the problem is that the combat is so similar to Arkham * or Sleeping Dogs that anyone who’s put significant time into either game is going to be immediately right at home with how things work. I love the gameplay, I love the nemesis system, I even like the collection stuff, but it’s just too damn easy and it ends up feeling repetitive because of it.

      Still going to play the hell out of it, mind you, but once I’m done I probably won’t be coming back.

      • Duke Nukem says:

        You can make it a bit more difficult if you disable HUD assistance during combat and don’t upgrade your health.

      • CrazedIvan says:

        yes, I couldn’t agree more. While trying to unlock a sword upgrade near the start of the game, I got tossed into a pit with wave after wave of orcs. I had a 113 flow of attacks before getting hit. Coming from the Batman games, I found that the combat here is exactly the same. Tho I believe it is a little slower compared to Batman, thus easier, its more enjoyable. I still need to do the 2nd main mission in the game.

  3. caff says:

    So, what kind of score out of 10?

  4. PopeRatzo says:

    I hear the campaign is pretty short, which is sad for a game based on Tolkein.

    • Monchberter says:

      Hee. I lolled.

    • Greggh says:

      But… even without making ANY progress at all in the campaign FIVE FUCKING HOURS slipped my grasp… and then I noticed (naively) that the skill progression would only “unlock” with campaigning… damn!

    • derbefrier says:

      I have heard around 10 hours for the main questline which isn’t bad for an action game. That doesn’t count side quests collectables etc…

      Its sounds like one of those games that if you don’t stop and smell the roses and just barrel through the campaign you will miss out on a lot. Kinda like elder scrolls games

      • Malarious says:

        I did all of the sidequests and collected all the collectibles in 15 hours, alongside the main story. It’s pretty short, but I’m thinking of firing it up again to mess around with the nemesis system for a while.

  5. Kemuel says:

    This was my favourite game at EGX and I’m remarkably close to buying it in spite of something else coming out Friday that I already have pre-ordered. Even at the demo stand I could appreciate how cool the Nemesis system is, and realllly wanted to play with it in greater depth than the 10 minutes would allow.

  6. Moraven says:

    Seems damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I suppose it would not have hurt to confine the first part of the game to a linear journey through 5-6 main story missions. Maybe make it an option? I liked the the fact I was kinda thrown into the world and just set about to do what I wanted. Pop ups explained the artifacts and many other aspects of the game as I encountered them.

    About Captains coming back, usually they come back but with obvious injuries based on how you defeated them in the past and they are mighty upset about it. (read, not played enough to experience it)

    Basic Uruk also only die if you execute them. You can incapacitate them and they get back up later. This actually lead to a great moment where I had shoved a Uruk archer off a ledge, 2 stories or so. 20 minutes later I was near that location and he was back up there at his post, talking out loud about his experience of suddenly being on his back and looking up at the ledge where he was, but he was though enough and could handle it.

    I was listening in on an Uruk patrol and watched and heard the screams of one Uruk or got a little to close to the fire pit…ran in flames and collapsed onto some sandbags.

    20 minutes in from game start I was dead, due to Rancor throwing a big object at the back of my head as I fought my first captain.

  7. Howard says:

    Humph – Well, Mr Walker, maybe I’ll believe you and try this game again tomorrow, ‘cos it is doing my fuckign head in now! Just had to alt-F4 out of it in utter disgust as, for the 10th time that hour, I was suddenly attacked by not 1, not 2 but 5 fucking captains at once, all of whom came with a guard of at least 5 orcs each – utterly ridiculous.

    I have only done 1 main quest so far, so maybe it is that, but the game is just so damned clunky and badly put together (plus, am I the only one who thinks that is is genuinely quite ugly?) that I may not be able to carry on whatever you promise is on the horizon.

    • Howl says:

      Run away. I’ve not found much in the last ten hours that you can’t simply run away from (the dogs are a pain though). Also make sure you keep an eye out for the alarm enemies in a Stronghold because it’s very difficult to take on a captain or two if their are swarms of enemy reinforcements on top. You want to play conservatively and avoid death because the hierarchy fills up quickly after a couple of deaths and you have to kill them all again to have a chance at the warchiefs.

    • Howard says:

      And, having spent 3 more hours on it today I can say this: nope. Sorry, but not only is the possibly the worst and least accurate licensing of Tolkien ever committed, it is just plainly a terrible game. The constant cut-scenes (seriously: 5 in the MIDDLE OF A FIGHT?!), locked progress, ridiculous AI (that cannot spot you when you are literally touching them but can sight you up a tower, 200 feet away), the DIRE controls (never has any character felt so lumpen, wooden and useless and been more prone to sticking to every god-damned surface in the game) and the flatly lack-luster graphics make this a complete and utter bloody abortion and the fact that it is being so universally hailed has (and you can believe this or not) just stopped me ordering a new graphics card, ‘cos if this is the level of gaming I can expect, then I want out.

      Utter and complete dross.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        Whoah.

        Chill.

        You’re probably by the strongholds. Don’t be. Not till you’ve learned and unlocked things.

        And the controls are very good, bar very occasionally sticking to things.

        • Howard says:

          No, I am not by them, at least not all the time.
          And sorry, the controls are some of the worst I have seen. He moves like he is made out of lead.

          Perfect example of why this game is total crap: Just noticed a main mission lurking at the very top of the map, the one in which you work with another ranger to poison the grog. If it decides to be an arse, that missions is essentially impossible.
          At random points, and for no reason, the orcs will swarm towards you at immense speed, making your detection an absolute certainty as you cannot run away fast enough, especially when Captain LeadFeet decides to get stuck on a blade of grass or some particularly thick air. Also, even though it happily resets your bonus objective each time you are caught, it does not reset the orcs, so you rapidly run out of orcs to stealth kill. Never fear though, for the game WILL randomly begin respawning the orcs in, about 2 feet from you if you attempt to backtrack.

          Total fucking farce. Total garbage game.

          • thebigJ_A says:

            Didn’t happen to me and I just used common sense.

            Not being good at a game isn’t the same as a game being bad. No offense.

  8. Howl says:

    I’m surprised there is no mention of Batman Arkham Origins. Apart from the (brilliant) hierarchy/nemesis system it’s a reskin of Batman:AO. Almost every gameplay element is identical, from the fast travel towers, to the ‘Riddler’ collectibles, main mission/side missions, combat/stealth elements. The combat itself uses the exact same combos, most of the same gadgets and the same controls. Even the enemies in combat are the same, with the shield enemy that needs vaulting over and hitting from behind, the enemy that needs a stun and beatdown, the monstrous enemies that can be stunned and ridden. Apart from the passive runes, most of the combat upgrades are also very similar as well.

    • fish99 says:

      Well technically it’s the Arkham series it’s borrowing from, not Arkham Origins specifically, but yeah maybe John hasn’t played those games,

    • HighlordKiwi says:

      I think if you’ve played an Arkham game then everything makes more sense.

      Anecdotally… I’ve played the first 2 Arkham games and I didn’t have any trouble getting into this game.

  9. goatee21 says:

    I don’t know why people constantly compare other games to each other and say “this game ripped off such and such”. If you boil all fps games down to their basic core you run and shoot things so aren’t they all stealing from each other? Every platformer boils down to jump and walk sideways, does that mean they are all mario? Just because you add something new, say a double jump, does that mean that you have now set yourself apart from other games? If you break a TON of games down to the most simple component aren’t they really all about defeating something so now they are liberally borrowing from each other? I realize comparisons must and will be made but I’ve never understood the phrase “oh this game is such a rip off of such and such”.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Well, yes, I agree in theory. But you have to admit this thing lifts systems more or less wholesale from wildly popular games even a lot of non-enthusiasts have played. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; on the contrary, I’d much rather see great core systems shamelessly swiped than play a shitty reinvention of the wheel, especially if the core systems are nicked in service to being able to spend enough time on the features that are innovative, as Monolith seems to have done with its Nemesis System.

      But I don’t think it’s going too far to say that Monolith have been astonishingly liberal with their, ahem, “creative borrowing.” You can watch any gameplay video and find that out very quickly.

      • Low Life says:

        Based on what was said on this week’s Giant Bombcast there’s a reason why the combat in particular is so similar to the Batman games, and that’s because the game wasn’t always set in the Tolkien universe.

  10. derbefrier says:

    The games been getting good reviews both from players and gaming sites alike. It looks really fun to me and I will probably end up buying it at some point. With Those hefty system requirements I am not sure my aging 560 can handle it.

    • Caelinus says:

      Mine is doing fine as long as you are not expecting everything to be on high-ultra, and turn off some of the more annoying post-processing. Luckily it has a very detailed graphical options menu.

  11. Laurentius says:

    “However, being a dedicated PC gamer and not owning a controller, at this point, is a little contradictory.”

    I heartily disagree.

    So game’s not optimized for m+k then I pass. I was interested in it with all these positive reviews but well it’s not I don’t have games to play…back to Wastland2.

    • Howl says:

      Platform is irrelevant. A dedicated ‘gamer’ would use whatever the game’s control scheme was designed for. This style of game is designed for a controller. Would you play driving/flying/fighting games with keyboard and mouse too? Or use a wheel/joystick/arcadestick?

      • Greggh says:

        But it plays so nice on M+Key… why the hate, Gollum-bros??

      • Hex says:

        There’s no point trying to talk sense to this kind of thing.

      • Laurentius says:

        Except operating driving wheel is easy (even if you don’t know how to drive let alone if you do), joystick are trickier but still pretty straightforward, mouse and keyboard is fricking hard and gamepad is hard. Now after years of playing, k+m is pretty natural for me that’s it. Games that requuire me to buy and master unintuitive and unfamiliar gaming device are no, no for me, as I said there is no shortage of games that don’t require me to do that so…

        • trjp says:

          You just called a joypad an ‘unintuitive gaming device’ – holy moly…

          You’re aware we were playing games with joypads for a LONG time before anyone played one with a keyboard – possibly before anyone INVENTED a mouse!?!?

          • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

            It boggles my mind that people actually say “This device built for gaming is unintuitive for gaming – I’d rather use this device built for writing.”

            One of the best things of being a PC gamer is that I can use a controller. Conversely, console games can’t use m+k.

          • Mark Schaal says:

            Ya gotta admit though, Colossal Cave on a gamepad was a real bear. We all sure did appreciate when they added keyboard support, yep.

          • Premium User Badge

            Harlander says:

            You’re aware we were playing games with joypads for a LONG time before anyone played one with a keyboard – possibly before anyone INVENTED a mouse!?!?

            *eyebrow twitches*

          • LionsPhil says:

            What do a rotary telephone dial and front-panel switches count as?

            Also the mouse was demonstrated, rather famously, in 1968, you tool. Go read up on Douglas Engelbart.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            Is it really appropriate to call someone a tool for not knowing the history of the fucking computer mouse? Their main point was that gamepads were acceptable controllers for some games, so you’re really nitpicking here and only on-topic in the most technical sense.

    • Moraven says:

      In the 90s it seemed it was near standard to own a Gravis GamePad. Add in joysticks, wheels and other controllers.

      To be fair, games like Freelancer and later Mechwarriors have been games tailored more towards M/KB vs Joysticks.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Back in the golden age of a million different home computer formats, the gamepad and one-button joysticks were the norm and most systems didn’t bundle a mouse.

      Gamepads became associated with consoles when mouse input became a standard for computers with the new graphical desktops in the late 80’s.

      The PC is entirely open to input device choice. There’s no reason to dismiss gamepads just because of a change in association. Just use the right tool for the job.

    • fish99 says:

      IMO every gamer should own and be comfortable with gamepads, because it’s the perferred controller for certain types of games. Just like a steering wheel far is superior to mouse/keyboard for racing sims, or a joystick is superior for flight sims, a gamepad is the best option for 3rd person action games. Also the PC has had gamepads forever, it’s not some new invention since the xbox360 pad got windows drivers. I owned a PC gamepad since before the original playstation.

      Don’t let your own snobbery stop you from enjoying some really fun games, like Dark Souls or the Arkham series.

      • Horg says:

        I played through Dark Souls and the first two Arkham games on M+K and enjoyed both. You need the M+K fix for DS, obviously, but that was the developers fault for not understanding how a mouse controlled 3rd person camera was supposed to function. The notion that these games cannot be played at an acceptable standard on M+K is a complete myth. Please stop perpetuating it.

        On the topic of Shadow of Mordor, every review i’ve seen that’s used a M+K has been fairly positive. The controls are reported as extremely precise and fully rebindable, with the exception of a few contextual actions rolled onto the same key. Again, that’s not an inherent fault of the M+K, but a hold over from the limited button space on controllers. It confers the same problem with both devices that your input might not perform the desired action, and if we’re lucky it might get patched out for the M+K.

        • fish99 says:

          “The notion that these games cannot be played at an acceptable standard on M+K is a complete myth. Please stop perpetuating it.”

          I absolutely did not say that, but if the perception that these games are intended for a gamepad has put Laurentius off playing Shadows of Mordor, then it’s likely to have put him/her off the Souls games as well.

          For the record I’ve tried the Arkham games on mouse/keyboard and while it was OK, I prefered them on a pad. As with the Souls games, IMO they were designed with a gamepad in mind.

      • Mark Schaal says:

        It’s not snobbery, some of us old farts honestly have trouble adapting to a totally different controller. I’ve been using a 360 controller for about two years now and am generally comfortable with it, but I still come across commands in fast twitch games that I have trouble with. (Fortunately I don’t tend to like those games.) And don’t get me started on those ports that tell me to use the “Circle” button or the “[menu]” button which aren’t 360 labels but from some other brand of controller.

      • Faxanadu says:

        “a gamepad is the best option for 3rd person action games”

        …why? Mouse is more precise. Keyboard has more buttons than the pad. Why on earth is gamepad any better?

        I know why. Because the conversion from pad to keyboard/mouse is always horrible, poorly done job.

        • suibhne says:

          Not so. There’s one clear, totally legit reason: some games (particularly some third-person games with lots of environmental navigation challenges) are built around analog movement control, which keyboards will never, ever provide.

          Aiming is unquestionably, vastly superior with mouse – Microsoft’s own research demonstrated this – but keyboard cannot beat gamepad for movement control. For first-person games and behind-the-back third-person games, this isn’t an issue; the mouse takes care of analog (or let’s say full-degree-of-motion) control for both aiming and movement. Indeed, the loss of aiming accuracy when moving to a gamepad does much more to decrease player control than the addition of full movement control can ever do to increase it. But third-person games with a fixed camera angle, or with variable camera angles, are generally designed with the assumption that a player has full analog control over movement. The AssCreed games are prime examples: they work beautifully with mouse/keyboard control when the standard behind-the-back camera is operative, but mouse/keyboard can be infuriating when the game switches to fixed camera angles (to heighten tension or highlight platforming challenges in certain scenes, e.g. the Roman tombs in AssBro). The same thing occurs in some scenes in the Tomb Raider games, altho the recent reboot was better about this.

          The funny thing is, Dark Souls is always trotted out as the poster child for gamepads, but that’s ridiculous. Its behind-the-back camera design should work splendidly with mouse control; the only problem with mouse/keyboard in that game is the shoddy PC port, not the game’s actual design. (On the other hand, the rewards for using mouse aiming are also lower, since archery isn’t all that powerful in Dark Souls. In contrast, it’s seriously powerful in Middle-earth.)

          • Faxanadu says:

            But I still don’t understand why. Keyboards have buttons, pads have buttons. What’s the difference? The only advantage I can imagine, is moving camera with one pad and aim with one pad. That would provide a function that keyboard+mouse doesn’t really have, or can’t have, unless in a very awkward fashion. But that’s not a function you see often nor is it extremely useful since you usually shoot where you look…

          • suibhne says:

            The issue isn’t the buttons for specific actions – it’s the degree of movement control. You don’t use buttons to control movement on a gamepad; rather, you use a joystick-like thumbstick. You therefore have a full 360 degrees of movement control. With a keyboard, on the other hand, you only have four buttons for movement, and those can only be combined in limited ways. For example, with a gamepad, I can direct my character to run in any angle at all relative to the camera’s perspective; with keyboard control, I can only choose 8 angles in which to move relative to the camera’s perspective. That difference can be crucial.

            When the camera coincides with the character’s perspective, however, this isn’t really a limitation, because the mouse also provides a full 360 degrees of movement control (and vertical control that’s far superior to that of a gamepad, too). That capability combines with the limited movement options afforded by the keyboard, to give you essentially full control. But when the camera perspective is decoupled from the in-game character perspective, the full degree of motion offered by the mouse no longer operates additively (so to speak) with the keyboard’s much more limited movement control.

            Here’s an example that may clarify. There are platforming sections in AssBro tombs where the character is required to move at, say, 290 degrees relative to a fixed camera. That’s not possible with a keyboard. At best, you only have the options of 0, 45, 90, 135, 180, 225, 270, and 315 degrees relative to the camera. But with an analog gamepad, you can move in pretty much any angle needed relative to the camera.

            Games can be designed with a fixed camera or not. Both are legit design choices. But any game with a fixed camera, even in parts, runs the risk of causing issues for players who only have access to 8 possible directions of movement relative to that fixed camera. A behind-the-back camera or first-person camera, on the other hand, should always be compatible with mouse/keyboard control because the mouse coincides with the camera perspective. That’s why it drives me nuts to run into games like AssBro, in which 99% of the game basically uses full mouselook and 1% switches to a fixed camera requiring non-cardinal angles of motion.

            But, to clarify my response to your earlier post, I still agree entirely with your point. The OP’s argument is objectively wrong. It’s fine to prefer a gamepad for games like this, but there’s no reason that a third-person camera will necessarily work better with one. The crucial difference isn’t third-person or first-person, but whether the player’s perspective (the camera) basically coincides with the character’s perspective. If it does (as in Shadow of Mordor), mouse/keyboard control should always be workable and will often be superior.

    • suibhne says:

      The game works fine with mouse/keyboard. Camera angles are rarely an issue; archery combat is clearly superior (relative to gamepads), especially as the game really rewards headshots and leg-shots; and mouse tracking feels great to me (a former competitive player of first-person shooters), with no obvious smoothing or acceleration – and that’s with vsync enabled, so probably a worst-case scenario. If workable mouse/keyboard control is important to you, it’s definitely not a problem here.

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      Aside from all the heated discussion that spawned from your comment. TotalBiscuit’s “WTF is” video for this didn’t really have any big issues with Mouse+Keyboard. He didn’t like multiple actions bound to one key, but it only seemed to mildly annoy him. Looks like I might enjoy this game.

    • Kaben says:

      Laurentius – this game plays really well on Mouse & Keyboard. I was surpised that it worked so well and there really arent that many keys to worry about. No more than a normal FPS actually. (WASD, LShift,Lcontrol, Space, F, E & V off the top of my head but i never felt that my fingers were getting tangled)

      I have played with both Gamepad & M+K, and i actualy prefer M+K as the bow aiming is far more precise.

  12. Bradamantium says:

    Oh dammit John, for as often as people say you’re a contrarian buzzkill, this is the one time I was hoping for it so I could get rid of the nagging notion that I should play this game immediately. Oh well, there’s a decent deal on at Green Man Gaming.

    • Thurgret says:

      €49.99 is a decent deal? Am I missing something?

      • Premium User Badge

        John Walker says:

        Is that a special edition? The vanilla costs £30 in the UK.

        • Thurgret says:

          That’s the regular edition on GMG and on Steam. That’s not even a case of Internet Oceans, but of Internet Irish Sea. No appreciable income gap, and I think VAT here is no more than 3% higher than in the UK, but it’s €12 more than the UK price anyway. Which is hardly the end of the world, but I don’t like paying more than €40 (and even then, I’m often inclined to wait for sales) except for various niche wargames and sims, which I am somewhat resigned to having to pay premium rates for because of you know who.

        • zhivik says:

          Here is an even better example – in Bulgaria, where I am from, the VAT rate is exactly the same as in the UK – 20%. Guess what the vanilla price is? €50. Under the current exchange rate, I should be paying €38.20, but instead I have to pay 30.9% more. The saddest thing of all is that Valve’s Europe operations are based in Luxembourg, where the VAT rate is 15%. EU VAT legislation allows deliveries to be taxed either in the country of origin or in the country of delivery, so guess which one Valve chooses? On top of that, Luxembourg has some hefty tax breaks for big companies, which further reduces the effective tax paid.

          Thus far, I have seen the issue investigated only regarding Amazon, maybe you could do a piece too? I think I’ll finally file an official complaint with the European Commission, once the hearings of the new commissioners are over. The reason why so many big online retailers keep doing this is because they can. It’s high time someone stops them.

      • Howard says:

        I got the base game and the season pass for just under £28 from here:
        link to g2play.net

      • DragonOfTime says:

        I got the game for ~$40/€32/£25 (no season pass) from here link to oneplay.com

      • fish99 says:

        There’s a 25% off code on the front page of GMG, which brings it down to £22.50 here in the UK.

    • SomeDuder says:

      I’m glad that we still have people willing to buy the regular edition of “Video Games” for full price on launch. Or well, the publishers are. Instead of, like, waiting till the inevitable 75% sale for the GotY edition with all its DLC and whatnot.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Kortney says:

    My roommate asked me how this game was, and I had to tell him “It looks like a good game, I just wish it would tell me how to play it.” Glad I’m not the only one, and I guess I need to work on some more story missions.

  14. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    This is one of those things where I’m glad that I had to figure things out on my own. I think too often we’re forced to slog through insanely long tutorial sequences and then complain about it, whereas this game gives us the absolute basics and sends us on our way. And for what it’s worth, I actually felt like the game set me up to be a stealth player that knows how to counter. The two parts of the opening have you learning the importance of countering attacks, and then sneaking about. Yes, there is some combat, but I didn’t feel like that was the focus at all.

    Also, in my first few minutes of playing, as I was sneaking about, avoiding a close-by captain, a giant animal (which I don’t remember the proper name for) came over and killed the captain and the few orcs he had with him. It was amazing simply because it wasn’t scripted; their paths crossed while I was nearby, they battled, and a clear victor emerged. As an added bonus, it also taught me that I shouldn’t go near that giant creature.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      Exactly, playing the game as a sneaky tricksy ork hunter is very fun. The potential for meta game is huge.

  15. Arglebargle says:

    Well, a useful review. Bad UI, poor design implementation, and substandard presentation of skills. Don’t care if it’s the best thing since sliced bread, those elements drop this to a ‘Pick up for 5 on sale’. The comparison to the Arkham line doesn’t help here either. The conceit that I’ll play it on their preferred interface has sales consequences also.

    • Farsi Myrtle says:

      Bad UI, poor design implementation, and substandard presentation of skills.

      That’s not really the case though. There’s just a lot of stuff happening in this game, as the article points out. Either they could dole out the information slowly during story missions (as they have done), or they could make everyone go through an hour-long tutorial, which would arguably turn off more people than the current implementation does. Or they could have optional tutorials, but I suspect the reason games don’t do that any more is because players skip the tutorials and then complain that the game is too confusing.

      It’s a complex game and that means you’re still learning things a couple of hours into it. I’d rather that than a simple button-masher.

  16. Bobtree says:

    What has me most interested in Shadow of Mordor is that the Nemesis system appears to be a dynamic revival of Mercenaries open world + deck-of-52 targets structure, albeit by way of AC+Batman rather than GTA.

    I may look to pick it up for $30ish when they fix the controller Y-axis inversion option.

  17. Wulfram says:

    But is it a good game even if you do care about the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, that’s what I want to know.

    Not that it matters, since I don’t have a good enough GPU to run it, anyway.

    • Tremble says:

      I didn’t even really perceive it as a LotR game while playing (which I was fine with).

    • thebigJ_A says:

      It’s definitely the nonsense movie universe (Uruks made in vats?? Hell just the version of uruks vs orcs is stuff Jackson made up).

      But if you can ignore the non-canon stuff there are some good bits of Second Age lore and near-lore in there.

  18. Drake Sigar says:

    Looking forward to giving this a try. I wasn’t expecting anything from Shadow of Mordor but once the opinions came out I just had to have it.

  19. johnkillzyou says:

    Does nobody here understand running away is an option? And also, if you want tutorials, go do the missions! That’s all the campaign really is, a tutorial for you to learn how to mess with the orcs. You don’t want to do the tutorial, you can just go have fun. Simple as that.

    • oWn4g3 says:

      Yeah I think there might be people that just want to fight till death. It’s actually possible to escape even from the most crowded fights and it sometimes feels like an accomplishment in itself.

      While death in this game is not that big of a punishment it still feels awesome to escape from its fangs.

    • Blackcompany says:

      One of the hardest lessons I learned early on was…do run away. Those Wraith towers are safe havens for a reason. Running away is not only a viable option but a recommended one. When plans go south in this game, they do so quickly. And with far, far greater repercussions.

      For instance, I now have a level (or is it power level) 13 Captain who hates my grave-walking guts. I’ve beaten him no less then 3 times, but never managed a finishing move on him. So…he keeps coming back. That dude’s got more scars than a rugby team and my god is he pissed about it.

      I have a 3-day weekend coming up this weekend that didnt have anything at all to do with one of my top two most coveted games coming out in conjunction with my birthday – seriously, why would I do that* – but isnt it just convenient nonetheless. Being as I have begun to enjoy the rhythm of the combat system and I now understand running away isnt come cowardly act only I resort to, I plan on delving into some good ole Orc Hunting this weekend.**

      *I totally did that. Of course I did.

      **Between this, Diesel Stormers, Orcs Must Die 2 and that one top down Warhammer 40K shooter on my wish list, I am beginning to think I really have it in for Orcs…

  20. Gog Magog says:

    Hold on, so this game isn’t complete smoked shit?
    Huh.
    It even has stolen animations, which is unironically my favorite thing.
    (remember kids, it’s not stealing, it’s counterfeiting, and you’re a master coldforger damnit, this is art)

  21. Matter says:

    Everyone who played Dark Souls is wondering if you’re trying to be critical or suggesting that it’s awesome that there are few instructions.

    • Flimgoblin says:

      Dark Souls sneakily makes you fight through a vaguely straight-line tutorial section first though (then dumping you in an area where I spent hours dying to skeletons before I found out I should have been going up that tiny path hidden over there round the corner…) so you know the combat moves you should be using you’re just going to die lots failing miserably to do so. This sounds like it’s missing that first “here’s what you should be doing, you won’t, and you’ll fail, but this is what to aim for” section.

      • Farsi Myrtle says:

        No, Mordor has a similar section where you learn the basics of combat (attacking, countering, stealth, etc). You understand how to fight after the first 5 minutes. It’s the other game systems like mounting animals, targeting captains, stronghold alarms, types of quests and sidequests and collectibles, skills and weapon upgrades, etc, that you learn about more slowly afterwards. There’s just a lot of stuff. I expected I would find it more overwhelming than I actually did (and I haven’t played any Ass Creed games so I didn’t have any shortcuts there).

    • Blackcompany says:

      “Everyone who played Dark Souls is wondering if you’re trying to be critical or suggesting that it’s awesome that there are few instructions.”

      At least, we are now. Prior to this comment, we were wondering how long it would take before the difficulty + the vague introduction to mechanics + the emergent exploration would result in some comparison to Dark Souls while simultaneously trying like hell not to make (yet another) comparison of a game to Dark Souls.

      All of which sounds snide but I really am joking. I like being able to compare other games I enjoyed to the Souls series. I often find that I prefer games which leave something to discovery…though I do prefer it be narrative/setting/lore related rather than mechanics, but here’s to learning on the fly in gaming!!

      • Gargenville says:

        There’s this weird mindset where it’s just impossible to make some people see how something that works in one game (like vague, sparse instructions) wouldn’t automatically also be a good thing in every other game ever made, because rather than looking how it fits in and interacts with the rest of the experience they’re grading everything based on how close it is to their ideal of the ONE TRUE PERFECT GAME or something. Like if you apply it to music every naff saxophone riff has to get a free pass because of Baker Street and if you say Mr. Saxobeat is a hate crime you’re a biased Gerry Rafferty fanboy.

  22. DarkLiberator says:

    You really need to play the campaign till you unlock the ability to brand orcs, then the game becomes amazing. Watching your own captains shoot up to the rank of warchief is so satisfying, all with their own nasty personalities.

  23. The Sombrero Kid says:

    It really is a steep learning curve but the it doesn’t punish you for failure, it just chucks yo a bunch of toys and lets you play with them, blow yourself up nvm no big deal, I like it. If you’ve played the Arkham games you probably wont be as perplexed by the combat and will probably find the huge fights just as easy and satisfying, if not more so. It’s probably my Game of the Year tbh.

  24. 7vincent7black7 says:

    Hey guys! Remember back when PC Games also came with a manual you had to read before playing the game? Seems like that isn’t a thing very often anymore. I mean, heck, we don’t even really expect that sort of thing now.

    • P.Funk says:

      Indeed. The physical packaging used to be quite a thing with old PC games. Baldur’s Gate was a helluva thing, with its ornate 5 disc container, the glossy two sided folding map, and the manual that had lots of stuffs in it. Homeworld was another.

      Honestly, I get it, we have a digital world now so physical manuals, but why can’t they just write out information into a PDF and give it to us? Some games actually do of course. Thankfully we can learn HOI3 by reading 3 separate PDFs, two of which are over 100 pages long.

      Its interesting, the era of the overlong interactive tutorial has blunted our ability to write manuals it seems, because even when they forgo the tutorial they still don’t write the manual instead….

  25. Tom Walker says:

    This comment is relatively innocuous.

  26. geldonyetich says:

    I’ve seen the review of a certain baked good-related individual, and it seems to me like this is an elaborate game where you combine open-world exploration with Assassin’s Creed parkour with a sole purpose of directing a sophisticated, well-implemented version of Batman: Arkham Asylum’s brawling mechanic to butcher thousands upon thousands of disgusting semi-demonic Lord Of The Rings-themed orcs….

    ….

    … really, what else could I possibly need?

  27. nekoneko says:

    I hate to be ‘That Guy’ but it seems to me that you might be complaining about the game because you just aren’t very good at it. I played a lot of the Batman games and this is basically the same thing, just reskinned, right down to the control scheme.

    I haven’t touched the main mission yet, instead opting to wander off and get into fights. I managed to get into a scrap with 2 captains almost right away, fought them for a good 5 minutes, then had two MORE show up and join in, and then another one about 30 seconds later. I ‘defeated’ three of them and let two of them run away. I did get down to a single hit from death a couple times and had to perform the epic ‘don’t kill me’ saves, one of which was basically ripped right from LOTR (knocking a knife out of the air with your sword), but the point is that if you’ve ever played the Batman games and got any good at those at all, the fights in this game shouldn’t need to be explained much past the tutorial level.

    • jonahcutter says:

      That’s pretty much what I did and didn’t have too much trouble falling right into the game’s rhythms. I played just the very first story mission, then wandered around the map unlocking forges and clearing the other lore/xp unlocks, taking out orc captains and getting into huge brawls. The combat is lifted straight from the Batman games, including how it unlocks and skills up. The parkour is fairly standard. But it also feels a bit less finicky than that from the Assassin’s Creed games. Though that might be because there’s less of the dense, intricate buildings here.

      There are a LOT of things dropped right in your lap at the start, but outside of the nemesis system (which is a ton of fun) it’s nothing anyone familiar with Batman and Assassin’s Creed hasn’t seen several times before.

      The game is much better than I expected, and pretty damn satisfying. It’s very slick and well-made. Even the writing, while probably not pure Tolkien-lore friendly, can actually be good. I like it that they not only work the standard game trope of dying/respawning into the story, but also make it instrumental in the nemesis system. Writing and gameplay converging with a creative and fun new gameplay system. Well done Monolith.

    • Howard says:

      I hear what you are saying, but you are just WRONG. The controls in this game are horrific: woolly, unresponsive and with too many things bound to one button.
      The main test of a game for me is, when I die, was it my fault or the games. With this, it is the game’s fault EVERY. LAST. TIME.
      Its just terrible.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        Nope.

        If there’s lots of people who’ve played games like the Arkham games and were pretty good at them going, “yeah, this is just like that. I’ve got this down” then it’s your fault most of the times you died. (You can tell by your anger and flat denunciations of others’ comments)

        I had that mindset… when I played Zelda 2 at the age of like eight.

  28. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    I’d rather fuck up because the game didn’t tell me everything than spend five hours in a tutorial a la later Assassins’ Creed.

    I’ll probably pick this up on sale and pretend it’s a game based on a twelve-year-old’s Tolkien fanfic.

  29. Michael Fogg says:

    The dadification of games marches on. His wife and (surprise) teen son go to the fridge right off the bat, and now he’s out for revenge etc. That’s something old Tolkien could truly write also. Did they get their licenses mixed up, feels more like Warhammer than Middle Earth.

  30. gadalia says:

    I’ve never had a captain come back after I’ve killed him, it’ll say “Grogblog the Smelly has been killed”, either you didn’t finish them off or you let them escape. If they come back after killing them it’s either a bug or a something I haven’t seen after playing through the whole game. For difficulty, it’s not too hard but you get overwhelmed really quickly and it becomes increasingly difficult, as soon as you get the ability to control uruks it’s a bit better but you get it half way into the game.
    I found the controls mostly responsive, the speed boost some times doesn’t trigger as fast as I want it to but I haven’t experienced any bugs (I’ve finished the campaign).

    Over all I love the game, but the campaign is a bit too short and 2 of the 3 boss battles are just terrible.

  31. Kamestos says:

    Nobody mentioned the light asynchronous multiplayer element : you sometimes see “vendetta” missions to hunt a captain who killed another player. You have to use the detective/eagle vision/wraith mode to find him and dispatch him for rewards.
    It’s no Dark Souls but still I found it cool.
    You may have to be connected to the WBplay thingy for this to work, I guess.

  32. bonuswavepilot says:

    “But bare with it…” *bear*

    “Gorgum Foul-Spawn is vulnerable to steal and combat finishers…” *stealth*

    “…dropping in on his head from above to stuck a dagger through his brain” *stick*

    Also I think you guys aren’t the only ones to have trouble with preview codes – TotalBiscuit mentioned in his WTF video that they wouldn’t give him one either unless he basically agreed to do a promo for them rather than a review. He managed to wrangle one through ‘contacts’ at the 11th hour.

  33. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Did John just ask for MORE tutorial in an Assassin’s Creed game!?!

  34. Noxman says:

    I haven’t played this yet, I have but glimpsed it over the shoulder of my brother. Everything about this looks pretty good but one thing is holding it back. My eyes immediately felt like they were going to bleed with the horrible tiny console FOV. The main character fills up so much of the screen I get the impression they don’t actually want you to see the game. Peeking past you can see in the distance what looks like a flat pasted on backdrop… That is all world you can go to but it looks rubbish because the low FOV makes it look flat. Do developers really play the game and go ‘oh man look at that amazing vista, it would look so much better if it seemed like you were peering through a hole cut in a cardboard box’?

  35. Shadowcat says:

    But bare with it. It’s worth it.

    Walker recommends gaming naked. (Warning: Film at eleven.)

  36. Cataclysm says:

    Is anyone else getting a crash after a few minutes of being in the game, every time, occasionally displaying an error of “video device removed or reset”? I’ve looked it up and there seems to be a lot of people getting crashes and errors.

    • Gargenville says:

      Are you keeping an eye on your GPU temperatures because repeatedly failing 20-30 minutes into a game with some GPU related error makes me suspect the card hitting critical temperature.

      Also this is stupid but there’s a veeery long shot the game doesn’t prevent the screensaver coming on and then shits itself when it does, so you might want to experiment with that (assuming you even have it on).

  37. RegisteredUser says:

    Its weird to read things like
    “All of it fits in nicely, works smoothly, and once understood doesn’t overwhelm. But when a game says, “Hey, this is an open world, go explore!” and so you do that, it really needs to be able to accommodate it.”
    and
    “makes you feel useless, only making the world harder for you to live in. I’m hearing from many friends that they’ve been put off the game by their first hour with it, and I came close too.”
    and have them be negatives in this game’s context, while apparently at the same time they are the main attractions in the Dark Souls series. With utterly rabid fans.

    Which, btw, I completely fail to relate to. I think these issues are horrible game design choices and find them aggrevating, not challenging. In DS case: Challenge can indeed come from a particular challenge(=enemy), but not from being forced to retread every level from save point to actual problem point before getting another chance to learn. That’s just doing it wrong.
    And not being told anything to understand the game’s functions, numbers etc better, as this review emphasizes, seems also intentionally anti-user.

    • welverin says:

      I have yet to do the main missions, and while there have been a couple of how does that work moments, the game does tell you haw things work with tutorial pop-ups. All of which can be accessed from the menu afterwards as well.

      There might be some abilities I don’t have because they’re automatic unlocks based on missions, but I’m doing fairly well regardless of any such things. The combat is pretty much a straight lift from the Batman Arkham games, and the general game structure is that of Assassins Creed. Familiarity with them makes this much easier to adapt to.

      Despite the extreme similarity to those two game series, both of which I got sick of, this still feels fresh and doesn’t not feel like a chore. Again as both Assassins Creed and the Batman games had become.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        Doing the missions actually unlocks stuff to do, and things that make the world more interesting. The world’s pretty barren till you do five or eight.

  38. Chris England says:

    I don’t think the first hour is screwed up, especially compared to the 15-hour tutorials in Assassins Creed games. The intro sequence teaches you all you need to survive – how to stab, parry, stealth and run away. The other systems are pretty intuitive anyway, even if you’re *determined* to avoid doing the main quests and being taught the more complex stuff.

    I’ve not tried it using a keyboard / mouse, but I’ve found the controls excellent using a 360 gamepad. Really enjoying the experience so far.

  39. marbled says:

    Definitely want to check this out on PC, as I don’t have a next-gen console and I hear the old-gen version will have a scaled back Nemesis system. However, no idea if I’ll be able to play it. My specs are:

    Intel Quad Core Q6700 – 2.66 GHz
    4gb RAM
    GeForce GTX 260
    Asus P5Q Pro Motherboard

    Any chance my pc can handle this game?

    • Gargenville says:

      On paper you’re out of luck, you’re a generation below the minimum system requirements on both the CPU and GPU fronts.

    • Horg says:

      Due to the insane listed specs, i’ve been researching benchmarks for this game to make sure mine can handle it. They seem to have set the system recommendations to achieve a 60 fps average. For example it is entirely possible to load the High textures (3gb VRAM recommended) on a 2GB VRAM card, but you wont get 60 fps consistently. With your 260, based on everything i’ve seen so far, I suspect that you could play the game on low textures with most of the post processing turned off and get around 20-40 FPS. That card had a fairly high memory interface bandwidth for it’s time, so even with slightly less than 1GB VRAM you should be OK. Expect frame spikes though. It’s not a terrible looking game even on low settings so it’s up to you if you think it’s worth it.

      • marbled says:

        Thanks for the advice – might be one I take a chance on when it’s in a sale sometime…

    • Kaben says:

      Comparing my system specs on “Can I Run It”, its showed that my rig would barely meet minimum spec ( only 1gb video card & Im running a 1st gen i7). Howevere i was really pleasantly surprised that i have got this game running smoothly at medium graphical settings. I have had to put vegetation and shadows on minimum but other than that its all medium and it still looks great. ( well as great as its brown colour pallete can look ahha).

      I think most of the comparisons are for the high and HD texture packs which obviously need a lot of horsepower but its well optimised for lower spec machines

  40. Dale Winton says:

    Game of the year for me so far
    Its far cry 3 meets AC games vs batman

    • Moraven says:

      Never played any FC.
      Never played any AC
      Played Batman 1 for two hours.

      Having a lot of fun with Shadow of Mordor.

  41. fredc says:

    Just so I understand, is this basically just like those batman games where you just button-mash to kill large groups of enemies while the background changes occasionally – only with this nemesis thing – or is it actually an open world explorey type thing?

    The batman games were fun for me for about 5 minutes until it became evident that hit key to kick opponent was basically the entire game.

    • zaphod42 says:

      Its more open than Arkham Asylum, but probably not a whole lot more open world than Arkham City.

      The combat is way deeper than just mash buttons to win, though. There’s several harder enemies that require very fast and special moves to respond to. Trust me; it isn’t that easy.

  42. Herabek says:

    Warchiefs, not warlords.*

    I’m not sure I really agree about it failing to emphasize stealth mechanics… within the first few minutes there are challenges asking you to stealth kill a few Uruk, the on screen tips inform you that bushes will auto stealth you, and the skill trees are filled with stealth move unlocks. I keep reading reviews talking about the main story not being interesting enough, but my experience seems to be that the mechanics and the side quests are simply incredibly compelling, and overshadow the main mission because of it, but the main quests certainly aren’t badly done or lacking.

  43. zaphod42 says:

    John I’m sorry but this is the worst review I’ve read on RPS. You shouldn’t be surprised when 3rd-person action games require a controller for decent controls; this is 2014, we’ve established that even PC gamers need a controller once in awhile. It just works better for those games.

    Next you complain about having to do a few story mission to understand things; have you never played Assassin’s Creed or any of the dozens of other games that lock you out and require you to complete story missions? I found Shadow to actually be pretty casual in how it lets you run around or knock out story missions as you want, and they don’t lock very many of your powers behind story missions compared to other games. You just come across as extremely unaware here, like you were just woken from a long sleep to play the first videogame in years. Don’t you regularly review games? I guess not of this genre.

    I find it pretty telling that one of your biggest complaints is addressed and completely refuted by a comment, and you yourself had to edit the review and point out how cool that comment is and how that changes things. It sounds like you just haven’t had enough time to play this game, and you were sleepy from staying up too late to play it to write a proper review.

    Look, I’m sorry they didn’t give you an early-release copy, but you don’t need to whine to us about it. That’s actually pretty common in games these days, isn’t it? I guess you guys only review PC games, but Destiny didn’t send out a pre-release review copy, nor have many other games this year. I know you’re not unfamiliar with this process. But still you have to go on a bit of a rant in the beginning here…. Its just unnecessary.

    Get some sleep. Play the game more. Then come back and write a proper review.

    • Volcanu says:

      Well as it says at the outset, this is “initial impressions” not a full “Wot I Think”. And the fact we havent got a fully considered WIT is because they didnt get sent review code until after the game had launched. Thats pertinent for two reasons. 1 – it often means a publisher is attempting damage limitation, although that doesnt appear to be the case here and 2) lot’s of people will be keen to hear what an RPS writer makes of the game if they are hovering over the “purchase” button. If I were in that position, these initial impressions (which let’s face it are almost overwhelmingly positive) would reassure me that I wouldnt be completely wasting my money.

      Your comparison with Destiny is an odd one, as it’s clearly a game that has to be judged based on the online experience, therefore it isn’t even remotely possible to review it before the servers are live and fully populated. That’s not the case here.

      And “lot’s of other games do it too” isn’t really a great argument as to whether or not something is well handled or not. Lots of horror films employ jump scares, but it doesn’t mean they are somehow above criticism. In any event, John’s comments suggested to me that it was almost the opposite problem to the one you are suggesting, in that the game doesnt strictly force you to do some story missions to get vital powers, but rather forces you to do so by proxy, through making it too hard not to do so. In other words it should either force you to do the first few missions THEN give you the open world, or not make acquiring powers which are vital for even rudimentary exploration of the open world, tied to the main plot.

      I’m just surprised you could read this article and think it comes off as a massive rant. I came away with the impression that he really, really likes and enjoys the game, despite some niggles.

      P.S I’m inclined to agree on the point about gamepads and most 3rd person games, but I know that for many people, pads are still considered the work of beezlebub and hence they want to know how M&K controls work out.

      • Hypnotron says:

        “Your comparison with Destiny is an odd one…”

        Shadows of Mordor, Destiny, Hitman: Absolution, Thief 4, Watchdogs… they’re junk. These games are on the shelf collecting dust a couple of months after release and in a couple of years nobody remembers them.

        These games are not beloved. These are just throw away games. Big budget studios still lack the leadership to ditch these tired concepts.

        Except for Blizzard. They canceled Titan… that took some guts.

  44. amateurviking says:

    WE AIN’T ‘AD NUFFINK BUT MAGGOTY BREAD FOR FREE STINKIN’ DAYS.

    • Humble_Beest says:

      Why Can’t We Have Some Meat? Wot ‘Bout Them? They’re Fresh!

  45. Judas says:

    Nice early pre review. This site is the most honest IMO. Keep up the great work RPS.

  46. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Meh, just play the Two Towers MUD ;)

  47. heyhellowhatsnew says:

    You give this an actual review but again give a pass to Planetary Alliance… smdh