For this review I feel that I must start off with a disclaimer due to the fact that my experience with this game differs so greatly from the great majority of reviews that have been publicized. I am not a fan of the combat mechanics in the Batman game nor was I overjoyed with everything from the Assassins Creed series so in that respect I am no fan of The Shadow of Mordor.
This game seems to me to have ridden the tide of the other The Lord of The Rings content and benefited from the long June thru September game drought, after which we`d play anything. Believe me I am well aware of it’s positive reviews and metacritic ratings. Futhermore, I know gamers and journalists have described the game as “Ground Breaking”, “Innovative”, and “Beyond All Expectations”. Despite popular opinion the best thing I can say about it is that it is mediocre at best.
For those that have not played the game or have not seen game play videos I consider Shadow of Mordor to be a simplified Assassin’s Creed game type in addition, one that lacks the story strengths that AC has. And saying that in reference to AC is much akin to saying it has as much free content as Call Of Duty game.
In game you are placed in the very agile shoes (there is NO fall damage) of Talion the Ranger of the Black gate who has the unfortunate fate of seeing his family slaughtered before his own eyes, before his own life is cut down by the evil forces of Sauron. Not unpredictably his body is resurrected by the Wraith of Vengeance and off they go in typical fashion to kill everything they can. I say They, because you often shift from one to the other, as the lack of any kind of fall damage is written off to the fact that the wraith takes over when you leap off of a tower, and gives you back your body just a moment after you hit the ground. You can also shift into the wraith to scale checkpoint towers which appear as ruins to your mortal eyes. As such, the term “mortal” is used rather loosely in this game.
You do, however, have the option to interrogate Orcs just before you decapitate them.
The interrogation part, and things attached to it, is what apparently made this game so revolutionary. Around the flowery fields of Mordor, there is a mass of Orcs, Orc Captains, Orc Chieftains and so on… The idea behind this was to show how Mordor is an “alive” world, where there are constant fluctuations in the Orc ranks, and you will often find captains kill each other and advance through ranks, or take over positions of the ones you have slain… So when you interrogate an orc captive, you can find out where a particular captain is, what are his strengths and weaknesses and all those interesting facts… Sounds awesome, right ? – Well it’s NOT.
This is just a very nice idea, but I do not think it was carried out properly, it just did not convince me that it is me hacking and slashing orcs mattered much. No matter if you kill captains or not, random fluctuations in the ranks happen, of course this is all just a small animation that you get so you are not phased one bit by which captain is where. Now you might notice how their strength, aka power, grows when they kill each other – and claim how they become tougher enemies. But they dont, power means absolutely nil in this game, since each ork captain is killed with just spamming your mouse buttons – I will get to that in a bit. The whole world being “alive” is not how Skyrim, for example, was a living organism, where things seemed to continue happening no matter were you there to directly influence them, but its more the way AC works, guards patrol back and forth – period.
I said, every captain is killed with just spamming your mouse buttons. And that is how basically all combat in this game works. You have your auto-targeting attack, and your counter-attack of doom. One is left click, the other one is right. And when you get into a fight with 50+ orcs, you can pretty much browse facebook on your phone, as long as you spam Left-Right a billion times per minute, and you will beat the orcish forces. There are a few enemies which require you to leap over them, or stun before you hit them, but the AI is so bad and combat is so easy, that these situations are barely worth mentioning. And if that was not enough, any combat can be escaped by running up a building wall… Yes, if you run up a wall, and simply swing to hold yourself on the other side, 50 orcs will become oblivious of your existence in a matter of seconds, and you will be able to reengage your Captain alone.
This is the main reason I couldnt give this game more then 20 hours of gameplay. We have a policy here on TwentyOz to really play through the games we review, but when something feels like a WoW Fishing Grind from the first minute of the game, I’m sorry but I just couldnt do it anymore… The story aspect of the game seems really secondary. You can run to these instanced missions and do them, but other then earning a small amount of upgrade points, there just isn’t much more that happens. I hardly felt like I am doing anything in the world that’s worth of calling it an accomplishment, besides cutting down the infinite population of Orcs.
The terrain is just bleak… In the first area of the game there are about 6 or 7 parts of Mordor that look almost exactly the same, with one orc “city” and some fortresses… When you run around, it feels like an endless treadmill, a rail-shooter if you will, where orcs slam into you, you kill them and then keep on running. You advance the story, it looks like you might get into the next area, you get all excited, and… it’s exactly the same, with slightly more elevation points here and there, and with something that resembled grass over certain patches of rocks and dirt. Bleak is fine, but reusing the maps to the point there may as well not be extra maps is kind of disappointing.
I dont know… Maybe somebody will say “Well if you played the whole game you would see how amazing it is”, and it may be that such is true… but I just can’t do it. This game is painful to even think about, let alone play for me. I get into it, and I already feel like its a chore to play, to push on and try to see if there is anything fun. The upgrade system is okay, but when everything is attached to combat – which is horrible to begin with, I don’t really feel excited when I increase my health pool, or get another spirit arrow for the Overpowered Bow of Genocide, which has the focus ( slow motion ) ability, where you can headshot kill 6 orcs before they even run up to you.
Also there are so many spirit arrows to loot around, that it feels the Persian Army from 300 might run out of arrows before you manage to. There are a few upgrades that affect your gameplay, for example a move to shadowstep to your opponents and stun or kill them before they can react, or sprint faster, but Shadow of Mordor hardly needs things that make it even easier to kill.
I don’t know, honestly. It’s beyond me how this game is praised left and right, earning up to 9/10 with certain reviewers. Since I am one of the few that finds its so utterly bad, the problem might be inside of me, but alas this is my opinion and my review.
Is Shadow of Mordor worth the money in my opinion? No. While 20oz discourages pirating games, I would have to say it’s so bad it’s not even worth pirating it for free. This is the kind of game that to pay me to play it still wouldn’t make it enjoyable.
Is it possible I have simply lost my mind? Perhaps. I dont know. Maybe it somehow magically turns good near the end. If so, please let me know, but I don’t see it happening.