Shadow of War Review
- Publisher: Warner Brothers
- Genre: 3rd person hack and slash adventure
- Release Date:10/10/17
- Platforms:Xbox1, Ps4
- Game Supplied by: Warner Brothers
The sleeper hit from 2014 is back with a bigger and badder version, so dare you step back into Mordor one more time??
Bigger is most certainly not better!
You once again play as Talion who has once again lost the ring of power and needs to take it back. Thus he sets off on his undead quest with Celebrimbor to bring order back to middle earth. The timeline for this game is set after the Hobbit, and before the Fellowship of the Rings, but as for if it follows the story lines of one of the many J R Tolkien books, I fear not.
The story line is not one of this games strengths, but the acting is great. It feels forced, predictable and lacks any levity, which can only be found by the wonderful orc characters you come across in game.
What is a strength of the game are the superb graphics and audio. Graphically, Mordor shines! Details abound, and convey a vibrant alive world, full of detail and noise. The first built up area you come across, has some superb building rendering and weathering. Particle effects in the smoke and fires of the world are outstanding, and the setting sun, breathtaking.
The audio has some superb moments too and it’s hilarious to hear the orcs and minions of middle earth chatter away about their daily lives as you sneak around on the roofs above them. Fires crackle, cages rattle with pent up angry wargs, it’s brilliant. The soundtrack is also fantastic and definitely gives you a LOTR big budget film vibe when the cinematics are being played, or when an adrenaline rush moment of gameplay is happening.
The gameplay itself, especially the combat is slightly more refined than the previous game as the animations are incredibly smooth, and seamlessly move from parries and thrusts of your sword, to over the top but satisfying finishing moves.
Tailion has a much bigger skill tree and a wider variety of collectables to find and the world is around 5 times bigger than before, with pretty much the same things to do to as before ( more on this in a minute ), but later in the game there are castle sieges to make and even later defend. Conquering one of these castles frankly is one of gamings most rewarding moments, defending it even more.
But – personally I found a whole host of gameplay issues that frankly frustrated and bored me. First of all the combat.
The combat here is nothing more than attack or parry, stun or jump. Because of the semi auto lock on, you can just mash the attack button, deep within hordes of enemies and then parry when the icon appears. With even just two characters to attack it’s also extremely difficult to single out one particular enemy and avoid the others. The game RYSE got criticized for its simplistic button mashing, but can someone explain to me how the combat here is any better ? In fact i feel it’s even more simplistic and after a few hours, I found it boring and a little frustrating.
Then the other aspect of open world games is the traversal of the game. Apart from the odd bit of riding a beast or Dragon, there is nothing more exciting to do to get around than either walk, run, or the infrequent save point towers. So getting around is, well, boring, and you’ll doing a lot of getting around.
Then the world itself is chocked full of orcs. So many in fact that it’s hard to drop down to their level without being sprung upon by hoards of them, which you can then either run away ( boring ) or button mash and parry, until they are all defeated without any modicum of tactical gameplay, so therefore again… boring. Games like Assassin’s Creed get the number of enemies just right to either single out one man, or fight a big group. Shadow of War just has too many.
There’s side missions, and other aspects of the game to play too, but most, in fact, practically all, just involved nothing more than killing orcs the same way you are in the campaign.
The nemesis system, is a superb gaming achievement and worked superbly well in Shadow of Mordor, but here it is lost. The reason is, in Shadow of Mordor, the world was smaller, and therefore the nemesis system was a much more personal affair of meeting the same orcs who kept defeating you and you got to know and loathe them. Here in Shadow of War, there are so many large areas to unlock, so many territories to defeat and therefore so many captains and orcs to face, they all become nameless and forgettable and therefore non personal to you. There are simply too many. The nemesis system therefore looses what makes it great, it’s personality.
Save points. I spent my first hour and a half getting to a tower, defending it and then having a story cut scene thinking that when I start again it will be right where the cut scene finished. Oh no. The next time I fired up the game I was now over 2000 feet away from where I left the game with armies of orcs between me and not just my objective but the nearest save tower!! Trying to play the game it wanted me to I tried sneaking, I tried fighting, I tried a combination of both, to get back to where I was, to no avail. In the end I just legged it ( boring ).
Then when I opened up the next big section of land to fight through, you are forced to confront a massive house sized troll. The game tells you to shoot it in the mouth with arrows to defeat it. So what happens if you haven’t got any then like I didn’t ? The only way to complete this therefore was to let the Orcs defeat it and you just watched from a distance… how thrilling…. ( not ).
Shortly afterwards I tried to get to the next story objective, but was ambushed by a captain. He could only be hit from behind, but because of the awful combat targeting system continually taking me the wrong direction of where I wanted to go around him, he defeated me and back to a save point half and hour gameplay back again to have to try it all over again.
Lastly, the much talked about micro-transactions. I personally don’t see what all the fuss is about. I can see that game companies are giving the gamer choice of a shortcut with micro-transactions should they need or want them. I played Dead Space 3, BF1, Star Wars Battlefront, and Forza 7 and have not once thought about the need to buy anything. Here in Shadow of War though, they push the line of what is acceptable right to the very edge.
When you get to “an” ending, you then have a choice of either playing for another 15 to 20 hours with no story to pull you, and just simply grind to get to “the” credit ending, or buy legendary orcs to shortcut this. If you loved the game and like grinding then this is no issue whatsoever and you’ll want to grind away. If not….
My end score is not clickbait, it’s genuinely how I felt about the game. I’ve played some amazing open world 3rd person games this year alone, Horizon Zero Dawn, Yakuza Kiwami, and some not so good open world games like Mafia 3 and Gravity Rush 2. All of them (even the not so good ones ) had the players do other things that were interesting and made getting around enjoyable and the combat fun. Sadly if you put Shadow of War up to these games it comes off a distant second. It’s not fun to traverse the game, it’s hasn’t got great combat, and the story is average at best. Add to this the side missions are repetitive, and there is very little to do other than just slaughter hordes and hordes of orcs.
There are most definitely great bits buried deep within the game, but making a game bigger, with more of the same content does not guarantee to make it better. So much so, playing Shadow of War only made me appreciate how refined and spot on Shadow of Mordor was. Monolith, less was so definitely more!!