The RPS Verdict: Middle-Earth – Shadow Of Mordor

MOOOOOORRRRRRRRRDDDOOOOOOOOORRRRRRR, is the primary form of communication about Monolith’s Middle-hyphen-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor. However, we managed to break free of this trapping, and instead converse about the game in ever-so-slightly more erudite form. Below Jim, Alec and John have a natter about orc killing matter.

Alec: Who is the real monster – Sauron, or the guy who murders eighty orcs every minute?

Jim: One orc death cam is a tragedy, 10,000 orcs killed in a big CG battle a statistic, etc.

John: My rule: if you stand dead still, will they hit you first? THEN YOU ARE THE GOODIE!

Jim: And in the game.

John: Oh, I guess it does apply to games.

Alec: What if you’ve previously hypnotised them into doing your bidding?

Jim: Are we talking about the game now?

John: How much Shadows Of Mordor have you two played?

Alec: I’m a way into the second area, which has grass and hypnotising.

Jim: I’ve only played a few hours, sadly, but it’s a few hours that I will continue with.

John: I’ve finished it, because I’m best.

Jim: Show off.

John: I AM THE KING OF THE ORCS.

Jim: OMG spoilers!

John: (I’m not the king of the orcs, that isn’t really a thing.)

Jim: OMG spoilers!

Jim: So what is That Shadow of Mordor, then, John, if you’re so clever?

John: The Shadow Of The Mordor is a game that adds a bridging story between The Adventures of Mr Hobbit and The Ring Lord Trilogy. You play a man who is dead, but then alive again, with a wraith stuck in his head. You kill orcs.

Alec: Why is it that you intend to continue with it, Jim? After all, there are no robots or miserable irradiated Russian men.

Jim: Basically I like stealth, but I like stealth in open world systems even more, so it’s the perfectest Lord Of The Rings game there ever has been, for me.

Alec: Interesting – I don’t really think of it as a stealth game now. It’s more of controlled chaos game, and stealth is just one way in which I can control said chaos.

Jim: It is, but a more systemic description would be that it is a melee combat game set within an emergent NPC ecosystem, with stealth bits. There’s a great deal in there, as there tends to be with AAA games now, but perhaps the reason I like it best is that it doesn’t seem to get totally snarled up on things that so many other AAA games get obsessed by. Plus it is all stabby.

John: It’s a sort of stealth-not-stealth game. Sneak, sneak, sneak, ULTROBIFFTODEATHYOUALL.

Jim: I think it’s a stealth game, just not wholly one, as per Dishonored or something. In Mordor it’s just that the stealth always ends up with stabbing someone in the gut, rather than not.

Alec: In fact, screwing up stealth almost means a reward. That reward being an enormous fight against an impressively huge number of Uruks, which you will almost certainly win even though it looks impossible to start with.

John: Or an ice cream.

Jim: OMG spoilers! I haven’t got the ice cream yet. But anyway, as I said, it’s a game with a huge amount of stuff in, of which stealth is only a fraction. It feels like a big studio really enjoying the process of making something new and clever. Monolith must be bubbling over with the reception this game has had.

Alec: And yet it’s incredibly beholden to Arkham and Assassin’s Creed. The major difference to AssCreed is that it isn’t really an icon hunt though. Instead you get into these epic, freewheeling scrapes just as you wander around. And even the minor objectives feel so secondary to that.

Jim: It certainly has a lot of icons, though.

John: These chats tend to head toward our picking at the faults, of which there are plenty, so I want to jump in early with a big positive blurst: For me it was Kingdom Of Amalur 2. A vast, quest-bursting world of meaty fights and picking flowers. And by the second half, when I’m perverting Uruk politics, taking control of their minds, and puppeteering their warchiefs, I felt amazing. You get to go from feeling incredibly vulnerable, to being ludicrously powerful, which is a rare arc in games, and one I sorely wish we had more of.

Jim: I haven’t got that bit yet, but it sounds to me like that’s a big step on from Amalur or anything like it, because it’s a proper system for NPCs. Where NPCs are just fights or quest dispensers in most games, here they’re dynamic entities, colliding with you and each other in the systems of the game. It’s the kind of thing people have been talking about for years: a world that is going on without being entirely about the player, even when it is entirely for the player. Dynamism – life! Amalur doesn’t have that.

John: Yes, it’s the sequel!

Jim: That’s just silly.

Alec: Everyone talks about the nemesis system – which we’ll get to in a minute, I suspect – but what I like are the tiny vignettes. Rescuing human prisoners for no real gain, just because you see them being led about by an orc and feel you have to.

John: Yes! First game to do that to me since City Of Heroes.

Jim: Even just watching a patrol do their thing is a delight.

Alec: Trying to work out how to interrogate this one orc you see highlighted as having info on his leaders, when he’s surrounded by half a dozen chums. Making a fire explode, or dropping a hive of wasps then wading into the carnage. Releasing three caragors just to see who they’ll attack.

Jim: That’s always been the promise of open world games, that they are toolkits for the player to mess about with, but it seems to me that most such games still drive the steamroller of their plot through the middle of it all – looking at you, Ass Creed – do you think that’s a problem here?

John: I definitely think the game still leans heavily toward a more guided path, despite your ability to wander off it and muck around at any point, even after it’s ended. There isn’t enough that’s emergent, or variable, for it to enter that territory where the main quest feels optional. Not least because following it is obligatory for unlocking most of the interesting aspects.

Alec: Aye, many of the more exciting skills are locked into story missions. But you can see how it could have become something that was totally systems driven.

Jim: Perhaps it is a link to more of that happening in future games.

Alec: If your nemeses essentially created more complicated objectives on-the-fly, ‘raid this fortress to get to me’, ‘I have stolen the item you need to do x’.

Jim: I mean there will inevitably be a sequel, now, I can’t see a situation where Monolith (or whoever) don’t try to build on that. And it will doubtless be mimicked in numerous ways by other developers: And that’s a good thing.

John: Jim – you’ve said elsewhere that you think the game could have learned other lessons from indie gaming – can you elaborate on that?

Jim: Well I am basically talking about exactly that point I just mentioned: it still leans very heavily on cutscenes and plotting and so on. But maybe that’s fine, maybe that’s necessary. But I always felt like Assassin’s Creed, for example, could have just been a game of assassination missions in a historical setting, and everything else – the story and the cutscene fluff – could have been jettisoned, as an indie would have HAD to do. That would have made for a better game. Indies make the games they do because their games have to be lean. Some leanness from AAA seems like it’s overdue.

John:I think it’s worth noting that they’re really good cutscenes.

Alec: I notice it also leans heavily on cutscenes even for the random systems stuff. i.e. whenever a random ‘boss’ orc enters the fray it pauses combat so he can shout at you for five seconds. Sometimes you’ll get like three of them and the whole battle just becomes a sort of WWE pantomime.

John: Yes, I’m really annoyed with myself for forgetting to rage about that in my review. Incessantly interrupting action to show an Uruk captain saying hello, while the one I’m chasing is trying to escape, and the camera’s then swung the wrong way, and ARGH!

Alec: And you were just on the verge of unleashing an execution move which you now can’t. It’s just very silly.

Jim: Right, and I think that’s what I mean about lessons from indie games: small studios don’t have any choice, they can’t embellish like that, they just have to embrace how their game does stuff, without all the layered on, acted exposition and cinema. It often feels to me like a lot of such things are bolted into AAA games because that’s just how they make games, that’s the way it’s done. The captain interruptions thing is the best example of that, it’s just ridiculous.

Alec: And it’s like the game’s too afraid to breathe, it feels it has to use these cinematic conventions even for its most novel ideas.

Alec: I dream of the game where you notice that a bigger threat has wandered in, because it just looks bloody badass, rather than the game grabbing your chin and making you look in a particular direction. It is great once you do have two or three in play and they’ve done their little talks, and then you’re left free to work out how to deal with this massive, revolving fight that keeps attracting more and more henchmen. A whole lot of tactical rolling and grabbing and throwing and wasp-shooting. When the reinforcements horn sounds, I don’t think ‘oh no, I’m screwed’, I roll my sleeves up and think ‘this is gonna be epic’.

Jim: I really, really enjoy the fighting. And I thought it was going to be like The Witcher 2 or something, but it’s super fluid and ninja. A few people have been saying to me that it looks “all scripted” and “push x to be cool” but it never really feels like that to me, interruptions of captains aside.

Jim: I’ve found the nemesis system super compelling. And I guess that gets better as you go, John?

John:Yes, it really does. When you can control an Uruk, and tell him to become the bodyguard of a Warchief, you can then trigger a fight with the Warchief (itself a unique quest), but his bodyguard/s will turn on him at your command.

Alec: The Uruk mind control has been under-discussed compared to the nemesis thing I think.

John: Or you can have it work in the emergent stuff, turn a bunch of orcs to your side, kick off a fight somewhere, then command them all to turn on their brethren.

Alec: It’s fascinating, the setting of ambushes. Having this small private army waiting around, acting normally until you send the word to unleash hell. That’s a fresh form of stealth.

Jim: What I do find a bit weird is: where the hell did this game come from? It feels like a bolt from the blue to have something this interesting land with so little fanfare?

Alec: It’s easy to imagine a bunch of devs working on a licensed stabby game feeling bored and dispossed, then someone says, ‘Hey, what if…’ But sheer conjecture, of course.

Jim: Yeah, it’s an interview that must happen: quickly to the interviewmobile!

Alec: But also it’s main shtick is something that is in the films.

Jim: In what sense?

Alec: One way in which Jackson added a lot of (frankly artificial) drama is Random Unnamed Uruk With A Scar continues to hound main character x for the course of a battle. And they’re not major enemies, they’re just dudes who pop up and hector for a while until the plot moves on.

Jim: Interesting, yeah. There is a lot of that in the films.

John: There are films?!

Alec: There’s a lot of, ‘Oh no, look what’s happening to Beardman while Elfman surfs down the stairs,’ and then you totally forget about the dude they fought. I guess in this case, they couldn’t use the story. I can imagine a guy watching those films thinking ‘what can we take? What is the essence here, other than crying halflings?’

Jim: And how strange for a film series to give games an idea for a game mechanic, rather than some spurious story stuff. (If indeed that is the inspiration.)

Jim: Why are all the orks from London? “Awight mate, let’s ‘av a gander.”

John: Because London is where orcs live.

Jim: I thought just evil wizards could afford to live on London now?

John: We should wrap up: what’s everyone’s favourite flavour of ice cream?

Jim: My flavour of ice-cream is orc-debuff effect flavour.

John: Rum & Raisin 4EVA.

Alec: You should have said Rum and Wraiths.

Jim: Yeah, that wraith guy seems nice. But he’d make an ice-cream of cobwebs.

John: I was asking a serious question. I don’t understand this frivolity.

Alec: Jim, you are now John’s nemesis.

Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor is out now.

96 Comments

  1. paranoydandroyd says:

    Game is great. Next level: A bipartisan nemesis system where the player’s actions not only affect politics/structure of one organization, but two opposing ones. Hindering one while helping the other, the results of which play out in open-world battles. I need this.

    • tormos says:

      so basically Fail Deadly (link to third-helix.com) with mind control? Sounds awesome. Let’s kickstart it.

      • Wret says:

        Thanks for linking that, some games just deserve a maniacal belly laugh

        From what I’m reading above it really does sound like the better parts of a Dynasty Warriors game with AssCreed fighting.

    • RedViv says:

      I do hope this is where the sequel can go. Abandon that stupidly awful triple-A story and its baggage, make the story through the living NPC system, give us a bunch of factions to play against each other and then let us have fun in an actual open world. Like that one codex quote says, decide to make your own Battle To Unfairly Gang Up On The Poor Orcs – or not.

      • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

        This would be my dream game… if it happened on a setting like Far Cry 2’s.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      It would be fun to do it from the Orc’s point of view. I’d love to have some poncy elf turn up and challenge your dude in lovely Queen’s English and then tell him to fahk off and headbutt him.

      Maybe have a particular clan that you are trying to advance. Get your main character through the upper echelons of Orc politics while balancing clan and personal needs. Fighting and looting human and elven lands, political in-fighting etc. Not sure how you would solve the respawning thing. Maybe have another member of your clan take up the sword and inherit attributes or something?

      Perhaps work on building your own fort/camp alongside this to cover some of the AssCreed real estate madness.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        “The discerning tea enthusiasts clan”.

        Doesn’t sound bad at all.

      • ADamnYankee says:

        You just described my dream 40K game. Fight your way to the position of War Boss while fighting the Imperium who stand in your way of a propoer WAAAAGH. Then the Space Marines show up.

        That would be super fun.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Now we only need to wait for Ubisoft to inevitably implements some of these ideas.

      Before you ask: No; i’m not telling them to make an undying assassin that can play with other’s minds, but they sure can at least finally get the HINT that the more emergent and fully interactive systems there are in a open world game, the better it is.

      Actually, doing such things is how you justify the existence of an open world to begin with, since if you really want to be 100% story/cinematic driven i’d argue a linear path and pacing would work better ( and cost less ).

      • Barchester says:

        Actually, the mind control could easily be implemented in future AssCreed games, as they’re all set in virtual reality anyway. That’d put a fresh spin on the series.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        To be frank, I doubt Ubisoft can pull this off as well as Monolith have.

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      Qazinsky says:

      Agreed, I was personally thinking about something like a Minecraft game with Mount & Blades factions (and combat, because frankly, Minecrafts combat is terrible), toss the Nemesis system into the mix for the lords and leaders and let the player loose on this sand box world.

    • Lowbrow says:

      It’s about time someone made Yojimbo: The Game of the Movie.

  2. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Not that it matters to anyone, but be aware this game requires a 64 bit OS

    • Tei says:

      If you have a CPU that can’t run 64 bits, you probably have something older than a Pentium Dual-Core, that was released in 2006.

      The first 64 bits version of debian was in 2001, and debian is a free download. Microsoft used to have a free version of Windows XP for 64 bits for download from their website.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Aye, it matters even less if you consider that it requires some impressive horsepower to really shine, which would rule out such old systems anyway.

  3. phelix says:

    I like walnut. Or pistache. Or stracciatella. Or just chocolate from a shop where everything is at least €2 per scoop. Agh. Choices!

  4. Crimsoneer says:

    I’m a little disappointed at the “end game” – once you reach a certain level of strength, branding the war chiefs becomes facile, and then, well, there’s nothing to do other than murder them and start again. I would love a New Game +

    • mouton says:

      Doesn’t the game end at some point? Can’t you, like, fulfill your destiny by pissing Sauron in the eye? Or is it a single-player MMO?

      • Crimsoneer says:

        Well, the story mode ends, but then it dumps you back in the open world, and it’s a shame you can’t go around fighting ork wars.

  5. Baring says:

    Damn.. Now i have to buy the game..

  6. Shieldmaiden says:

    Regarding the whole stealthy-biff mixture, the game absolutely nails being Sim Ranger. Long-range sniper archery? Check. Sneaky stabbing? Check. Agile melee combat? Check. Living off the land, using herbs to heal, tracking foes and taming animals? Check, check, check and check.

    It’s every single Aragorn -come-D&D ranger archetype rolled into one fantasy guerilla warrior package. And it is glorious. Now I wish someone would do the same thing for other iconic fantasy RPG classes. Imagine a bard or cleric game in the same vein.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      D&D: Lute hero!

      • derbefrier says:

        Bards are awesome but overlooked a lot because they Aren’t very combat oriented.

        • Shieldmaiden says:

          I think a bard game could work, if they took the Ranger’s Cre…sorry, Shadow of Mordor approach and made you uber-bard. Stereotypical D&D bards are very much jack-of-all-trades characters. Swashbuckling, rapier-based combat supplemented with a range of illusion magic and charm abilities would be ace.

          • ensor says:

            Not only does that sound like a ton of fun, the little villain intros complained about in the article would actually work better in such a game, as it would give the hero a chance to throw in some quippy zingers at his/her foes.

          • derbefrier says:

            yeah theres also prestige classes like Seeker of the Song that have some more offensive capabilities so I am sure theres enough there to draw from. Also this is making think of a time traveling DnD campaign i was in were we fought a journey cover band in a Las Vegas casino that was made up of bards. good times.

          • newprince says:

            Yes! Holy hell, the game mechanics could be glorious. And the story would be refreshing, since it’s not “brooding guy needs to have his family murdered so he can start murdering”.

    • ensor says:

      He’s even a dual weapon, medium/light wielder!

      I like the cleric idea married to the Nemesis system. To take a page out of Dungeon Crawl, imagine an itinerant priest converting followers into a fighting band, as well as slowly building a powerbase of parishoners who construct at first a humble chapel, and eventually a grand cathedral, in the midst of some Godforsaken wilderness of violent heathens.

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        Yes! That’s exactly what I was getting at. It’d be really cool to have it set in the heartland of the Evil Empire just after a bunch of heroes has taken down the Big Bad. So you’re bringing guidance to this shattered land, full of normal people who have been raised in an environment where demonology and necromancer are the norm. At the same time, the Big Bad’s remaining lieutenants are still terrorising them and trying to build new Evil Empires of their own.

        SOMEONE MAKE THIS GAME! Or just give me a competent dev team and a large budget and I will make this game.

    • forddent says:

      More to the point, where’s my game where you play as a shithammered dwarf stumbling about and murdering orcs with an axe, eh? WHO DO I NEED TO THROW MONEY AT TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN? WE DEMAND MORE DWARVEN PROTAGONISTS.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        What I really like about this game is that it gets a lot of people enthusiastic.. and thinking of what excellent games could be made with a similar system. That, to me, is more valuable than what the game itself brings. Now here’s to hoping that we will get to see some of these ideas come to fruition.

  7. derbefrier says:

    Been playing on the xbone (free month of gamefly) and its a pretty cool game. Nothing at all like i expected. The nemesis system is really cool and I hope to see it built on and used in other open world games. I am not that far in it yet, only a few hours, but it already has me hooked.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Aye, the initial impression a year ago or so was not so good, at least for me. A game simply about uber graphixxx, ripping off AssCreed and a LoTR license? ERMAGERD PASS!! NEXT!!

      Instead it turns out as the perfect AssCreed and so much more!

  8. SpacemanSpliff says:

    This game sounds cool.
    I don’t see why they needed to shit all over the lore (LOTR/Simarillion) to sell a good game.
    I get the Hobbit movies are ads for theme parks that haven’t been built yet, but this game could have been an original IP and it still would have done great.
    With all that being said, this is one I look forward to enjoying but secretly I hope I’ll hate it.

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      It’s actually a lot better regarding the lore than I imagined it would be. Depending on how they handle the ultimate fate of Talion in the inevitable sequel, it could be entirely thematically consistent as well. It covers some interesting stuff from outside LotR and the Hobbit as well, which will be a first for a lot of people.

      • Drinking with Skeletons says:

        I was so pleased when I found the Numenorean Morgoth idol, and even more pleased by the vignette attached to it. The game is full of nice little touches like that.

      • RedViv says:

        It really is. They chose a simple breaking point from canon Middle-Earth with the specific circumstances right after the creation of the One Ring, and everything extrapolated from that does seem to fit. I do get why they specifically did not want to call it a LoTR game.

        • Shieldmaiden says:

          I think it’s fantastic. One of my favourite things of recent times has been The One Ring Tolkien RPG, which is set in the same period as Shadow of Mordor. It really is a great period and has restored my faith in the potential of new, interesting stories to come out of the setting.

  9. Humble_Beest says:

    Methinks that I am finally going to get this, this coming weekend

  10. Wowbagger says:

    I think one of the RPS guys mentioned using the nemesis system as a basis for a feudal Japanese game where you play as a ninja, assassinating rival warlords and I thought; that would be the best fricking Tenchu ever made.

    • ADamnYankee says:

      I wish they would make another Tenchu. No other game made me feel more like a stealthy, deadly ninja. And sneaking through a level, systematically eliminating threats was such a joy. Plus grappling hooks!

  11. Granath says:

    I hate, hate, hate articles done in this tone because I have to wade through dozens of inane comments to try to parse out the limited useful information. After reading this, I have no idea Wot You Think because of all of the noise. It may be interesting to those who have already purchased the game but it’s not useful to those who are still considering buying it.

    • Wowbagger says:

      That may be why there’s a WIT of it elsewhere on RPS and this is more of an informal conversation on what they think collectively?

      • Thurgret says:

        John even thought twice about this game, and wrote it all down both times, no less.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      It would be nice to think that the *two* reviews I’ve written of it would have been enough!

      link to rockpapershotgun.com

      link to rockpapershotgun.com

      I don’t think we’ve ever done a Verdict without there being a separate review, btw. Click on the tag for the game name, and you’ll find all the relevant posts.

    • Geebs says:

      I love, love, love articles done in this tone and only hope that one day RPS will surpass the sheer glory of the Bulletstorm verdict. More of this sort of thing!

      • Zekiel says:

        Me too. I find RPS Verdicts consistently the most entertaining thing on the site. More of this sort of thing!

    • Grover says:

      I find it humorous they call it a Verdict without any sort of final judgement. Eschew numerical ratings, that’s fine and dandy, but sometimes you can’t tell if the other members who weren’t in on the main review would suggest buying it. ‘The Conversation’ might be a better name for the feature.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      Have you read ObjectiveGameReviews.com? I think you might really like it.

  12. Slice says:

    Watching a review of the Watch Dogs DLC after playing Mordor I was struck by what an over-hyped gimmick it is in Watch Dogs when Mr. Hacker Dude’s smartphone gives him details of passing pedestrians: “Taking a cooking class. Cheating on his wife. Heavily in debt.” I thought, “Yeah, but is he vulnerable to combat finishers and can I hit him with arrows?” The details just don’t matter in WD whereas they actually inform strategy in Mordor. Of course, all those pedestrians aren’t important enemies like captains in Mordor, fair enough, but then why should I care about their personal life?

  13. iyokus says:

    I find all this praise of the Orc society a little odd. I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm about the nemesis system and the ’emergent’ power balance mechanics of the orc armies, but I haven’t seen any journalist point out that you have to be a bit crap at the game for all of that to work properly.

    If you don’t die to the orcs, you never really build up a particular nemesis, and you never really see the leadership evolving. The orcs gain power, level up, usurp their leaders and all that other interesting stuff every time you die. If you don’t die, nothing much happens. You see the orcs once and kill them. A few might cheat death and pop up with a scar but they never get much tougher and it all feels a little underwhelming.

    My other complaint is entirely subjective; for me, the orcs never felt like characters. They didn’t do enough to make each orc genuinely individual and interesting, and never incorporated the nemesis system properly into quest storytelling. Yeah, lots of quests involve taking out captains and chiefs, but the Ratbag quests were the only time this felt properly implemented. Having more proper orc characters like Ratbag, who worked with and against Talion, using the Nemesis system, would have been great.

    I did love the game, but I wanted to point out some of the issues that seem to have been ignored.

    • maxi0 says:

      You have some very valid criticisms here. There were several occasions when playing where I found myself wishing for a bit more depth to it, or lamenting that the orc politics weren’t played out in real time. None of this took away from the sheer joy of ripping into the Uruk horde, however. It’s just that polished.

      The orc captains could definitely use some fleshing out, but I’m not sure how this could have been achieved short of massive amounts of additional scripting, and that would surely defeat the purpose in an emergent system. And of course, scripting for the thousands of permutations of orc political manoeuvring would be nightmarish at best.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      Thats great but its just not true is it.
      The nemesis system mainly works when you are setting up fights between the orks you branded and the others, then levelling them up. You dont ever have to die.

      • maxi0 says:

        Well that, and the fact there’s a handy speed up time option on the towers.

        • nrvsNRG says:

          Well yeah, anyone who’s actually played the game would know this. It would be pretty crap if Nemesis system was just based on you dieing a lot. Its pretty clear iyokus never got past the first half of the game.

          • iyokus says:

            I did a 100% complete run of the game in the first week of release. Excellent game, as I said. Keep spewing, though, by all means.

          • jonahcutter says:

            It is a weak spot in the design.

            I finished the game with all map unlocks done and fully upgraded, and having died maybe 4 times, a couple of those trying to solo Graugs before I unlocked the heel strike in the story. (I’m not bragging about my skill, I just quickly realized the power of running away when weak and overwhelmed at the start of the game.) I branded orcs left and right, and set up some fights between them or did their rivalry side missions to protect them. I rarely used the time speed up except to go to nighttime occasionally. Not on purpose, it just never seemed that necessary to do, so why? I didn’t realize the system would fall behind. In fact, from a roleplay perspective, why would you speed it up unnecessarily and let the orcs get stronger? If you’re having trouble with the game, don’t speed up time.

            By the end, my “nemesis” was some level 14 orc that had killed me way back at the beginning, once, for whom I only had the vaguest memory. I completely steamrolled him, along with all the captains and elite warchiefs and anything else.

            I didn’t try to phreak the system on purpose, it just sort of happened as I cleared zones of unlocks pretty methodically -before- doing story missions. Along with slaying a few dozen captains, several ranks of warchiefs and uncountable hordes of ordinary uruks. I became so op it was absurd (though no doubt a heady powertrip) and playing through the second half of the game presented almost no challenge. So much so, I’ve been contemplating another run where I don’t upgrade myself at all, and I never retreat from a fight so I definitely will die a lot, thus forcing me to work the nemesis system to advance.

            Shadows of Mordor is great, and I had more fun playing it more than any AAA game in a long time. And the nemesis system is a very cool, creative new gaming system that I’m as excited about as everyone else. But it does have its weak spots. It’s not that hard to rather quickly and unintentionally out-level any challenge it can pose to you. And if you don’t die much nor advance time (which itself is rarely required IIRC), it falls further behind. It can quickly become an entertaining but inconsequential sideshow. And I’m in the same camp as others who would like to see it be the central focus of an entire game. From start to finish.

  14. Yargh says:

    I enjoyed this game through to the end (it certainly wants to have a sequel) but one thing has been bothering me:

    In my mind this game was originally developped as a Samurai/Ronin open world, probably with some demons added in for fun, and then got the Lord of the Rings license dropped onto it.

    That isn’t a complaint by the way, the end product turned out to be great, it’s just that I’d really like to see the Lone Samurai version.

  15. Crazy Hippo says:

    This is one of the most enjoyable games i have played this year, its a cross between Assassins Creed and Batman in terms of gameplay and style. therefore i dubbed it “Assman Shadow of Mordor”

  16. Jeremy says:

    Seriously, this game DID come out of nowhere. I saw the video showing off the nemesis system and the famous line, “penis a picture.” Even after that I thought.. I’ll pass. Then the reviews hit, I watched some gameplay videos, heard from the forums how great the game was and finally picked it up, and it has not disappointed. The cutscenes are a bit jarring, but one thing I really love about those interactions is how the captains bring up past meetings, even in specific ways depending on if you were killed, ran away, or disfigured them in some way. For me, it makes it personal, so I see it as inconvenient during a fight, but one that ends up being more immersive and necessary for me.

  17. trn says:

    This looks and sounds great … but I’m concerned that its success is going to encourage other publishers to follow the cynical marketing tactics employed by Warner Bros.

    I appreciate that Warner Bros are not alone in issuing draconian pre-release contracts – but they were somewhat unique in that their initial terms and conditions were made public. Should we not be voting against bad industry practices with our wallets? Or is that condemning Monolith?

    I hate that I can’t get past the sinking feeling that someone in a marketing department somewhere is looking at sales figures and thinking: ‘our strategy worked’ rather than, ‘we were promoting a killer game’.

    • itsbenderingtime says:

      Voting with your wallet is a mug’s game. Spend your money on what you will enjoy (or what you believe you will enjoy) and let the other chips fall where they may.

    • Horg says:

      If you wait a few weeks (or more) after release, when the hype has died down and people who weren’t paid to promote have gotten time to review properly, then the pre-launch lock down becomes irrelevant. You should do this anyway because pre-ordering is usually a bad idea. It would make more sense to not give any traffic to people accepting paid promotion deals for reviews, especially those who don’t disclose the payments.

      • Jeremy says:

        Yeah, that ‘s kind of how I approach any game purchase, unless it’s something I’ve Kickstarted. Wait for more reviews, and then go to a forum that I trust (RPS Forms do just nicely), and find out the public consensus, and what worked and what didn’t. Unless my purchase is aiding social injustice (coffee/chocolate) then I’ll just purchase those things that I enjoy.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I just wish you didn’t have to trigger the events through either starting a scripted instance, dying or advancing time. It would be much cooler if things ticked along with or without your intervention.
    But otherwise, I still hold that it’s like something Soldak would do on a AAA scale.

    Oh, also? It takes far too long to introduce the branding mechanic. That shit should have been available in the first half of the game.

  19. sleepless says:

    I love the game, and the nemesis system is brilliant, but the Tolkien universe doesn’t fit at all. This was meant to be a Batman game, no doubt about it. The nemesis stuff is PERFECT for a comic book superhero. I hope they will do that in the future, because it would allow them to be really creative with charismatic villains.

    The background doesn’t make any sense, it’s just a bunch of names taken from the books, orcs that look like the ones in the movies and Gollum thrown in there just to remind people that this is a LOTR game.

    Also, I think the environments are a bit dull. They could have done something more interesting with Mordor, because it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to look anyway.

    I’m not sure that I want a Shadow of Mordor 2. They should just use that awesome gameplay and the nemesis system in an original setting, and go crazy with it.

  20. nrvsNRG says:

    If this is how good their first attempt was, think how good the next would be without the little annoyances.

  21. Fenix says:

    Can someone explain the “And in the game.” thing to me? I must have missed it when it happened and seen it popped up several times but I have no idea what’s it about :(

    • nrvsNRG says:

      similar to “…that’s what she said”

    • Gothnak says:

      It is the internet version of a ‘Lazy Comedy Slag’, and here is ‘And then i got off the bus’ to explain more…

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      You see, the gag is deliberately taking someone’s description of a game, or in-game events, as though they were talking about their real life. “…and in the game” implies that the speaker believes the description up to this point was of real life, and they are helpfully pointing out that it is also true of a game. It’s a running joke hereabouts.

  22. Laurentius says:

    So certain mechanics seems novel and really cool ( nemesis system) and I love that you are becoming badass ranger but butchering of Tolkien’s lore ( being a superfan) and my gneral great tiredness of ubisoft’s “icons everywhere” way of dealing with open worlds I think I’ll pass this game, maybe in a few years…

    • Thurgret says:

      It’s cleaves much more closely to Tolkien’s world than the movies did, if that troubles you. The artefacts and the memories are really quite fantastic. The only bit that really doesn’t quite fit is the main character himself.

  23. Radiant says:

    With the same voice actor doing this AND Dawn of War 2 I kept expecting “STRIKE FROM THE SKY BROTHERS!” everytime I lamped someone from above.

    • pepperfez says:

      It really seems like they would have preferred the Warhammer license to the Tolkien one.

      • RedViv says:

        How so?

        • mouton says:

          Dunno what pepperfez means, but Orks have much more personality in the Warhammer setting than in Tolkien and thus would provide a more varied experience in a similar game. Now, Tolkien himself made them with some personality, but Jackson’s pictures reduced them mostly to slavering beasts.

          • RedViv says:

            Well, certainly. The kind of personality that orcs in Warhammer generally have though, that is taken directly from the backstabby not-British-lower-class-expy-not-at-all-Sir! orcs of Tolkien. Bit of a mix with the trolls, I suppose, whose allusion through dialect is as well hidden as a really big not at all stealthy thing.

          • mouton says:

            Well, all orcs come from Tolkien, duh! But they were greatly expanded in Warhammer, with all the goofiness and genocide and dakka.

  24. Rizlar says:

    Of course the orcs are from London – Mordor lies at the very end of the Northern Line.

  25. pilouuuu says:

    I consider this the first real next-gen game. It’s not next-gen because it has slightly shinier graphics, but because it implements interesting new mechanics, gameplay and AI. More of this, please, AAA developers!

    I slightly disagree about the bantering of the orcs when you meet them. It’s great to hear them remember previous fights. I agree that it shouldn’t be done in a cutscene though and they should simply talk without the need of a close-up, but I can forgive that sort of cinematic interruption in a game based on movie franchises. Thankfully we’re getting good games based on great licenses now like this and Arkham. It was about time!

  26. RegisteredUser says:

    I love that you discussed what was dearest to my heart: the question of whether open world games will eventually become TRULY worlds that live with or without you, and not just small spots of instanced things because the ill-equipped hardware of consoles can’t handle anything truly grand.

    Also the dynamic shifting and twisting of enemy AI challenges, such as moving goalposts, politics and similiar.
    4X games already have shifting allegiances and power struggles, but in a slightly different way. I think it would make for quite an interesting thing to include these mechanics into huger worlds such as Elder Scrolls etc(which in turn could use a few thousand hours of combat and general fun improvement, mind).

    Imagine being able to take a streetgang to a ruling body of a whole city, district, nation. Or changing a king/mob rule into a democracy. Etc. There is still this untapped creative potential of infinite possibilities in virtual worlds that we have yet to unlock and are only now thanks to 4-8 CPU cores and 16gb+ ram and nigh infinite disk space approaching as very much handle-able and doable things.
    Its just a question of whether this kind of thing will even be endeavoured if its just enough to do yet another prescripted COD or snorebore AssCreed sequel.

  27. noodlecake says:

    Enjoyable, funny article. I just wanted to say I really enjoy the uruk captains butting in with very shorty orc equivalents to WWE promos. I think there have been many times where I would have killed a captain without even noticing that he was the guy I fought an hour ago at a different place if it wasn’t for the little cutscenes reminding me, even if they do interrupt the action a bit. One thing they could do is have a second camera angle appear in a square in the top/bottom right for him to cut his promo in without interrupting anything, that way it would be even more wrestling-like.

  28. Monkeh says:

    To me it just seems like a way too small ”open” world to really give me that Lord of the Rings-vibe.

  29. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Nice to see some Old Guard banter about such a milestone game.

  30. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    John: There are films?!”

    I love you, you chubby beardy unkempt brilliant wordsmith.

  31. SurprisedMan says:

    Actually you’re only a REAL Uruk if you were born within earshot of Bow Bells’ churchbells.

  32. PedroTheHutt says:

    Personally I still find it a huge turn-off just how little regard the game has for the setting and lore it uses, so the game will probably remain on the digital shelves for me.

  33. pancakeru says:

    Stealth here feels like an add-on after the fact. What is the point in sneaking around if you can just murder everything in sight without much worry? That is the crux of it for me. The difficulty is way too low, and that has flow-on effects for many things:
    – no need for stealth
    – no need for planning/strategy
    – no challenge or sense of accomplishment
    – no need to actually do anything except run around blindly swinging a sword and pressing the ‘counter’ button when the big glowing icon tells you to

    And while I’m on ‘sense of accomplishment’ I have not seen anyone mention the fact that if you free a bunch of slaves or kill a camp of orcs…turn your back for 10 seconds and they’ve all respawned. Whats the point? I just can’t immerse myself in this or have a great deal of fun with it.

    I wish difficuty levels would come back to AAA, and that they would actually think about how to make their games more of a challenge rather than just increasing enemy HP.

  34. Cataclysm says:

    I bought this game on release day and 20 days later I’m still waiting for them to release a patch to fix the crashes many people are experiencing that make the game unplayable for them. From blackscreening as soon as you launch the game to crashing anywhere between 5-30mins of playing the game with “Shadow of Mordor has experienced a problem and stopped working” to “Video device removed or reset”. There has been many people with all kinds of systems reporting these very same issues, from top spec machines to average gaming machines (all of which should run the game fine). The 10-30 minutes each time I manage to play the game before it crashes, the game runs smoothly, showing the machine can run the game fine. There’s various forum threads reporting these issues and various replies with work arounds or solutions, neither of which work for most people.