Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Middle-earth: Shadow of War
 
 

“I just wanted to hold you”, sobs Hoglik, the orc that killed me fifteen minutes ago.

“I know,” I say to myself, as I cut his head off.

 
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Shadow of War has some... memorable moments.

If you played 2013’s Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you know the bones of what to expect here. Shadow of War (SoW) follows the same basic formula; it’s half Assassin’s Creed, half FarCry, and half Arkham Asylum. Too many halves? Well, SoW doesn’t play by your rules.

Picking up immediately after the ending of Shadow of Mordor where (spoilers incoming) Talion and Celebrimbor – the wraith sharing his body – have successfully forged a new Ring, to rival the One Ring itself and give them a fighting chance against Sauron. But then a sexy spider kidnaps your ghost roommate, and from there on out the plot just sort of happens.

The weird tone from the first game carries over into the sequel. By turns it’s epic and serious, with big action set pieces and truly emotional moments. But then an Australian orc captain calls another a drongo and the immersion is gone like Gandalf into the pits of Khazad-dûm. The humorous asides are jarring and tonally inconsistent, but I’ll be damned if they’re not hilarious – and I love them anyway.

Bruz, you have my heart, you inappropriately charming jerk.

Speaking of weird voice acting, there are more than a couple of characters where ease of understanding becomes an issue. When Act 2 begins, you’ll meet Carnan; before this happens, turn on subtitles. Trust me on this.

The Nemesis system, which defined Shadow of Mordor, is back and better than ever. Any rank and file orc that kills you gets promoted to Captain, given a personality and a cool nickname, and you can get revenge on him after you rise from the dead. The speed with which the game seems to generate this is still really impressive, effectively seamless, and the characters that come out are works of art (see Hoglik above). Some orc names seem more common than others; I get than not everyone is unique, but I’ve met three Hogliks now.

Captains drop loot which can be upgraded, but it lacks the connection of the first game, where you upgraded your Ranger equipment – all of which felt personal. This is just random junk that I ditch as soon as I have something better.

On a personal note, I might finally be suffering from open-world fatigue. The opening area of the game, Minas Ithil, is a Gondorian city under siege. Jumping off ruined statues, diving between shattered houses and markets, retaking the city inch by inch; I loved every second, and spent six hours of the game pointedly ignoring the main quest and just having fun.

Then I got to the second area, and realised how big the game actually was. I sighed. Because there was another four to go, and DLC on the horizon.

It’s not like there’s nothing to do; this is a huge world, sure, but Monolith has packed it with side-quests, collectibles, and all sorts of shenanigans to keep you a busy Boromir. It’s just that there’s too much to do, and it’s difficult to see where to start. Eventually I settled into a routine; grab the various collectibles and fast travel points, taking out as many Captains as I could on the way, then do a couple of the challenge quests, then focus on the story. It’s not hard, just a bit overwhelming.

As someone who played War in the North (pity me), Shadow of War could be a lot worse. A lot worse. I remember when Lord of the Rings games were awful. That being said, there are a few elements where it looks like the budget just ran out; loading screens are static images, cycling with no animation between them. This doesn’t sound like a big deal until you see it, and are instantly transported to 2004.

What other jarring, inappropriate choices could I mention? What’s that? Oh, you want me to talk about the loot boxes you’ve heard so much about.

Let’s jam; I’ve never had a real problem with loot boxes. I’ve bought some in Overwatch for the sweet skins, and I bought one in Destiny 2 recently for that sweet instant regret. I got some cosmetic junk, most of which I’ll never use, but I never felt personally insulted by them until I played Shadow of War.

Up until the final Act, the loot boxes are there, but irrelevant. The in-game currency ones don’t drop much of use, and you can’t use the fancy orcs from the other ones. But the endgame wants you to grind so much you learn to hate a game you’ve spent upwards of 30 hours in. Unless, of course, you buy the loot boxes.

I loved Shadow of War... until I didn’t. So I’m of two minds; on the one hand, I had a great experience with the game until it started begging me for cash. It’s like a great meal that ends up giving you food poisoning; the vomiting and unpleasantness doesn’t undo the fact that the food was delicious, but the aftermath means you won’t be going back anytime soon.

Shadow of War’s first three-quarters deserve a 9. The endgame is a 6 at best. But it’d be disingenuous to give it either, so let’s split the difference.

SoW is a great game, until it isn’t. And it’s such a shame, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think you’d all enjoy it. If you want an open world fantasy adventure, excellent and enjoyable combat, personal grudges with a variety of excellent uruk friends, and like spidery women, angst, and Gollum cameos, play it.

But, like Brad Pitt, you don’t want what’s in the box.


Brian received a physical copy of Middle-earth: Shadow of War from WB for review.


Middle-earth: Shadow of War
"Endgame aside, Shadow of War hits the right marks, and is worth another run through the Black Gate."
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War
7.5
Good
 
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


 

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Comments Comments (12)

 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 3:11 PM
4
Great review but I'm going to have to pull you up on the food analogy.

Having had food poisoning, I have to say the greatest meal in the world would be undone if I suffered those consequences as a result.

Id rather have a big mac and not vomiting, than the greatest meal on earth, with it :P
 
 
 
Posted by CoffeeAddict
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 3:27 PM
1
2 November 2017, 03:11 PM Reply to drunk_monk
Great review but I'm going to have to pull you up on the food analogy.

Having had food poisoning, I have to say the greatest meal in the world would be undone if I suffered those consequences as a result.

Id rather have a big mac and not vomiting, than the greatest meal on earth, with it :P
Going to have to side with DM on this one. I too would look back unforgivingly on the food that gave me bad food poisoning.
 
 
 
Posted by siamese
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 3:33 PM
3
"Up until the final Act, the loot boxes are there, but irrelevant. The in-game currency ones don’t drop much of use, and you can’t use the fancy orcs from the other ones. But the endgame wants you to grind so much you learn to hate a game you’ve spent upwards of 30 hours in. Unless, of course, you buy the loot boxes."

This is absolutely intolerable. I won't be buying it unless theres a GOTY edition with everything bundled in for a normal retail price.
 
 
 
Posted by birdman
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 3:45 PM
2
2 November 2017, 03:33 PM Reply to siamese
"Up until the final Act, the loot boxes are there, but irrelevant. The in-game currency ones don’t drop much of use, and you can’t use the fancy orcs from the other ones. But the endgame wants you to grind so much you learn to hate a game you’ve spent upwards of 30 hours in. Unless, of course, you buy the loot boxes."

This is absolutely intolerable. I won't be buying it unless theres a GOTY edition with everything bundled in for a normal retail price.
Agreed, people need to protest this type of abhorrent behaviour with their wallets!
 
 
 
Posted by Bank
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 3:58 PM
2
2 November 2017, 03:45 PM Reply to birdman
Agreed, people need to protest this type of abhorrent behaviour with their wallets!
DONE. Voted.
 
 
 
Posted by darklordfoamy
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 4:42 PM
1
And this is what I've been hearing in most places and why while I do intend to get the game to wait until a version comes out with all the DLC or it comes heavily down in price.

Such a shame to as the game looks really good just at the end you suddenly find a wall blocking your way which just ruins it.
 
 
 
Posted by cortez72
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 4:58 PM
-
I'm glad that the end review score took a dive off loot boxes. I had no doubt the meta-game would be good, the last offering was. But the business model and game changing editions to fit said business model should review badly on an otherwise good product.

To use a meal analogy, I was loving the steak dinner, until they stopped me and asked me to pay extra to eat the last couple of mouthfuls. Maybe the steak should have just cost more up front if they couldn't afford to sell the whole thing for the listed price. Or maybe the restaurant owner is just greedy, leveraging off the quality of the chef's steak?
 
 
 
Posted by ChieftaiNZ
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 7:13 PM
2
2 November 2017, 04:58 PM Reply to cortez72
I'm glad that the end review score took a dive off loot boxes. I had no doubt the meta-game would be good, the last offering was. But the business model and game changing editions to fit said business model should review badly on an otherwise good product.

To use a meal analogy, I was loving the steak dinner, until they stopped me and asked me to pay extra to eat the last couple of mouthfuls. Maybe the steak should have just cost more up front if they couldn't afford to sell the whole thing for the listed price. Or maybe the restaurant owner is just greedy, leveraging off the quality of the chef's steak?
Its a single player game. if they absolutely need to make more money post-launch make and sell good expansion packs like The Witcher 3 did.
 
 
 
Posted by kniteowl
On Thursday 2 Nov 2017 7:24 PM
1
Good thing I play with subtitles on all the time then!
 
 
 
Posted by cortez72
On Friday 3 Nov 2017 3:25 PM
-
2 November 2017, 07:13 PM Reply to ChieftaiNZ
Its a single player game. if they absolutely need to make more money post-launch make and sell good expansion packs like The Witcher 3 did.
This exactly!
 
 
 
Posted by jtbthatsme
On Sunday 5 Nov 2017 4:42 PM
-
Haven't dived too far into this yet but what are the barriers to finishing the game? I don't mind a grind but if you are going to mention the near necessity to buy loot boxes can someone elaborate more?
 
 
 
Posted by Xaphriel
On Monday 6 Nov 2017 2:06 PM
1
5 November 2017, 04:42 PM Reply to jtbthatsme
Haven't dived too far into this yet but what are the barriers to finishing the game? I don't mind a grind but if you are going to mention the near necessity to buy loot boxes can someone elaborate more?
Absolutely. So, as I said, you progress you capture all these forts, staff them with orcs, and go about your business of doing more of that. The postgame, Shadow Wars, involves defending these forts, but now against waves of orcs that are WAY more powerful than your own. I had guys at like level 16 or so in my first one before I knew what was up, and they didn't do so great.

I haven't worked this out so bear with me while I lapse into speculation, but I think it'll take approximately eight sh*ttons longer than what I would consider a 'reasonable' grind to get your house in order for Shadow Wars. I'm not fundamentally against grinding, but I am fundamentally for fun.

You can either sit there and cry and eat can after can of orc food until your tears smell enough like orc food for some good ones to fall from the RNG sky, or grab some war chests to increase your POWAH faster. This is the rub; the leveling and stuff is cute and fun, but not when you have to do it like this. It sucks all the fun out and makes it a chore.

From what I hear, the final ending is a cutscene and not much more. Either way I don't have it in me to face the grind.