From Monolith Productions and Warner Bros. comes the epic gaming event of 2017 – Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Available NOW for Xbox One X, Xbox One, Windows 10 PC (Windows Store and Steam), PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro, here is my review on Xbox One:
Set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an open world action RPG that continues the original narrative of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Players will be engrossed in a richer, more personal and expansive world full of epic heroes and villains, iconic locations, original enemy types, more personalities and a new cast of characters with untold stories.
There was a moment in Shadow of War where I was running alongside my Caragor mount (a big beast dog that orcs ride into battle) and in this moment I was seamlessly stealth stabbing enemy archers, while quickly pressing the right tab on my control pad, commanding my pet to take out badguys to my right. I would then hop onto my Caragor, and then stealth kill some more orcs, using my monstrous pet to bite their faces and snap some orc necks. Then i’d continue running along the ridge, where I would jump off my animal and knife a dude in mid-frikken-air, while my pet would continue to murder more of my foes. It was the most flawless bit of gaming action I have ever seen in a videogame. Ever. The only other action game that comes close (and yet so far away) would be Assassin’s Creed; Black Flag.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an insanely deep, gorgeous and incredible gaming experience. Following up the surprise hit Shadow of Mordor, we follow Talion and his spectral counterpart Celebrimbor as they’ve just forged a brand new ring of power to battle Sauron. Things don’t go according to plan however and the spider Shelob winds up taking said ring, and our dynamic duo are thrust into a battle with dark forces once more and find themselves needing to assemble a new army to take the fight to Sauron’s crew. There’s actually a shitload more story in there, but I won’t ruin anymore of it. For a game that is as massive as Shadow of War is, the story flows extremely well and the cinematic moments are gorgeous.
What really makes this title stand apart from all competitors is how dynamic and clever the AI is… You know when you’re fighting a giant monster, how you can usually just scale up a building or something and slowly pick off the AI with a solid pattern of ranged attacks? I tried to do that to one of those huge Graug beasts and the fucking thing climbed up the tower like King Kong and bitch-slapped me about 200 feet through the air. It scared the shit out of me and I loved it. Or when I think I’m about to kill an orc warchief with a stealth attack and he grabs my dagger and wrestles me off in a scramble that looks like it was choreographed on a movie-set… The violence is ever-changing and always exciting. As much as this is a fantasy game, full of dragons and orcs and giant spiders — it’s also the most realistic action game I think I’ve ever played.
I hate continuously drawing allusions to Arkham City, but Middle-earth: Shadow of War is extremely similar in it’s core fighting mechanics. Except — multiplied by a million. I’m still pulling off brutal kills on my opponents that I’ve never seen before and I’ve been playing this game for hours upon hours. Actually, the game is so big, that it can feel a little intimidating at first. There isn’t much of a tutorial before you’re thrust into enormous battles that would feel right at home with anything we’ve seen on the bigscreen in a Lord of The Rings or Hobbit movie. Now look, I actually loved those Hobbit movies, but Shadow of War is the most fun a fan will have in this universe since Return of The King won all those Academy Awards. The voice acting, dynamic gameplay, incredibly deep strategic systems where you build and army — to the nemesis system where you’ll go to war with orcs you thought dead, or how about when you’re about to die and someone saves your ass in a jaw-dropping display of badassery? Shadow of War is the most complete videogame that I may have ever played. It’s that good.
Some people having been giving the game shit for their loot boxes, where you can spend actual currency to buy and get awesome new gear or soldiers for your army. I haven’t spent a dime of my own money and I’ve purchased these things with “in-game” currency no problem. That option is just there for psychopaths looking to dominate other players online, or because they’re just… lazy. I love all of the customisation in this game. You can find new swords, daggers, bows, suits of armor and even a hood/cape. Each piece of gear, depending on rarity, is also upgradeable if you complete various missions that those items dictate. It’s an interesting system and one that I think works quite well. There is SO much to do in this game, that it can feel overwhelming, but that’s not what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid that Shadow of War’s gigantic world is so much fun, that I could get even more lost in it than I did in Fallout 4. And that my friends… Is terrifying. Shadow of War is a masterpiece and Monolith Productions have just delivered not only the best game of 2017 but one of the greatest gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Yes – it’s that good and you don’t even need to be a big fan of the franchise to get lost in this version of Middle-earth. Buy it.
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