Middle-Earth: Shadow of War First Impressions
I loaded up Middle-Earth: Shadow of War for the first time last night thanks to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment PR in Toronto, Canada, and was wowed from the moment I began exploring areas of Middle Earth. While those who played Shadow of Mordor a few years ago will be right at home with the gameplay in Shadow of War, enough changes have been evident early on to make me satisfied that Warner Bros. actually build on their previous blockbuster, not just created a carbon copy. If you are on the fence about Shadow of War because you think it might be too much of what you’ve already played, think again. Pick up Shadow of War now, as it is completely worth the price!
For those on Xbox One and Playstation 4, there are a handful of larger titles hitting the consoles ahead of the Christmas season, and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is one of those titles. While blockbuster games can often compete for your the money in your wallet, it is sometimes hard to decide which to buy. If you enjoy the Lord of the Rings franchise, stealth titles, or open world exploration games, don’t look much further than this one. And to Monolith Studios credit, a lot has been tweaked and changed from the original to the sequel.
The first thing that instantly made an impression on me was actually exploring lush, forested environments. In Shadow of Mordor, these areas basically didn’t exist, as for the most part, Mordor is a desolate wasteland. In Shadow of War, however, you actually begin your adventure in Gondor, outside the city of Minis Ithil, a multi-sectioned city mostly under the command of Mordor forces. Right away, the developers are throwing players into something a bit different, and although I assume the desolate wastelands of Mordor are on the horizon as I progress through the story, this is an instant welcomed change of pace!
Because you are in Gondor, you will be surrounded by Gondorian soldiers, who will fight alongside you against the orcs. Again, a welcomed change of pace from the last title were, for the most part, you fought alone. What was most impressive, however, was not that the soldiers fought for you, but depending on how many captured soldiers you help, Gondor Sergeants – more powerful AI allies – can randomly enter your battles to save your life. Let me explain.
A few hours into Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, I was only a level 5 with a few high level weapons from killing orc captains who were a much higher level than myself. Stumbling around Minis Ithil, I ran into a level 20, epic orc captain. Let’s face it, I didn’t stand a chance, but I wasn’t about to run away and give him the satisfaction that would ultimately come back to haunt me through the Nemesis System – still very much a part of the game again by the way! After numerous near death experiences – where the captain raises his weapon to finish you off, giving you seconds to click the right controller button to parry his attack – which, by the way, get harder and harder to do after consecutive attacks, a Gondor Sergeant jumped in front of the blow and stabbed the Orc Captain through the belly, killing him instantly.
This was a new experience for me, and one that I very much welcomed. I spent a good 5 minutes working on that boss, making smart tactical movements, but ultimately getting bested because, well, it was a Level 4 v. Level 20 fight I wasn’t going to win. Having the Sergeant step in and make the kill not only awarded me with lots of experience, but also some great loot for early in the game. This has happened only one time in about 4 hours of game time, so I doubt it will happen often. However, it was a nice addition to the game that feels realistic – you saved his butt, he saves yours.