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A well Produced and Violent Adventure in Mordor

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    Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – Game of the Year Edition

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    A well Produced and Violent Adventure in Mordor

    {Spoiler Free Review}
    Shadow of Mordor is a really well made game. Granted it is a little of a mixture of various triple-A titles rolled into one (Most noticeable influences are The Batman and Assassins Creed games), however, there is so much care and devotion put into this game that it really has an identity all its own. The production in this game is really quite astonishing, it really captures both the beauty and brutality of this universe in a way that no other Lord of the Rings game has before. If you are a fan of the books and/or movies then this will be evident to you. This review will focus on the core game mechanics, presentation, as well as discussing the specific elements regarding the Game of the Year version in relation to the core game.

    Graphics/Presentation – The game is not that impressive from a graphical perspective, it will not "wow" people over by looking at it compared to some of its peers. Where the game does shine however is in its art design and atmosphere. As previously stated, the designers have just nailed the Middle Earth look and feel. The main character looks just how you would expect a ranger from Gondor to look, the weapons (for the characters and enemies) in particular look fantastic and earthy. Mordor is a wild and violent land and the visual style really reflects this. The creatures that inhibit Mordor also look great, with my favourite being the Caragor, a Middle Earth equivalent of a Sabre-tooth Tiger. Regarding the performance side, it would have been nice to see the frame-rate at a nice 60 frames per second, however this is a minor issue. The camera can be a little unruly occasionally during combat, but this is an issue with most 3rd person games. Overall a good looking game that has great stylish and atmospheric touches.

    Sound Design/Music – Shadow of Mordor really shines in this department. The voice acting in particular is very well done, the main protagonist is voiced with a good deal of restraint which makes him a good character. Sometimes he says more with a simple nod of his head than other characters do with a paragraph of dialogue. The Uruk’s are all voiced similar to how they are in the movies. Some of the things they come out with are quite humorous, and it is good that they remember previous encounters with the protagonist. Every time you play the game the enemies are generated differently and your story and interactions with them will change as time goes on. An example could be a captain that you set aflame but who manages to escape. If you encounter the same captain again he will have visible scars and talk about your previous fight, all while having a very personal reason to get revenge. The music is fantastic, a full orchestral score with an emphasis on chants and percussive instruments really fits the brutal tone the game is going for. The sound effects also deserve special mention, every attack has a real sense of impact and sudden swells come on for important sections such as finishing blows or notifications. The game is well mixed and sounds fantastic when listened to with a good set of headphones where you can hear every little detail. Unfortunately some audio issues with the Game of the Year Edition were evident that were not in the core game. An example would be the sound that should activate during the "branding" animation being absent at times. It’s a small issue that is only made evident due to how excellent the audio is overall.

    Play-ability – Shadow of Mordor’s core game mechanics can be summed up with four main game-play styles. Exploration and Collecting, Stealth, Archery/ranged combat and Melee fighting. What is interesting is that in one encounter all of these styles can be incorporated in one fight. At the beginning of the game (when your character is less powerful) you will most likely be performing hit and run guerrilla style raids on your enemies and using the environment to create havoc. You will be getting the job done then getting out before too many enemies swarm you. Thankfully getting around in the game is a breeze. Similar to Batman’s "Detective mode" you can assess an area and use the environment to your advantage before engaging in a fight. As the game progresses the extent to which you can decimate enemies is insane. By the time you are around 75% into the game you are so powerful it is actually humorous. It is pure power-fantasy to storm into a Uruk stronghold and chop heads off left right and center. In a good use of enemy AI sometimes enemies will run to try to get reinforcements, or if things are going badly for them they might simply panic and try to get as far away from you as possible. When you fight War-chiefs however you are in for a big fight regardless of how strong you are. These are truly epic brawls that will play out differently for everyone who plays the game. You sometimes have to study the War-chief and work out the quickest way to kill him or put a little work into exploiting his weakness or fear. These little touches really make the game come alive.

    Replay-ability – Most people will want to play through the game at least twice. From running around doing everything the game has to offer you’d be looking at roughly 40 hours of game-time, which these days, is very good value for money.

    Game of the Year Content – The Game of the Year Version has all the DLC on the disc. Two separate campaigns are available and it is important to know when it is the best time to play them.
    "Lord of the Hunt" should be played once you have done the mission where you meet the dwarf "Torvin" in the main game.
    "The Bright Lord" should be played after the main game as it contains too many spoilers to be played before.
    The other items are Runes, specific missions, and a challenge mode.

    Summary – Shadow of Mordor is a well-made game that has just a few minor flaws. It would be good to have some sort of base or settlement away from the relentless nature of Mordor’s plains and strongholds. Also some of the supporting cast are a little forgettable and just serve really to get you from Point A to Point B. The ending to the core game really needed an epic boss encounter and some people will be a bit disappointed that it doesn’t, however, "The Bright Lord" DLC (which is the last thing you should play) has an incredibly epic boss fight that makes up for this. A brilliant game, if you are anyway interested you owe it to yourself to try it.

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