Middle Earth: Shadow of War is a recent addition to the Lord of the Rings Video game series, and is a follow up the 2014 Game Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor. In this series, you play as a Gondarian Ranger from the Black Gate called Talion (within him lives a wraith called Celebrimbor, the original creator of the one ring). SoW was produced by Monolith Productions and is an open world stealth, action RPG game that aims to fill in the gaps of lore before the beginning of the Hobbit.
The gameplay builds upon the previous Shadow of Mordor free running system, with a few tweaks to the system. A few notable additions were the double jump and auto hide feature when in bushes. These subtle changes have made the movement a lot more fluid and dynamic, and feel a whole less clunky.
Another fun addition the game were drakes. With drakes, you were able to fly across an area and reign absolute hell upon enemy Orcs. Although weaker than other mounts in the previous games, they were something fun that really spiced up the game.
The most notable improvement, however, was to the nemesis system. The nemesis system allows for varied Orc captains to fight with you in unique ways and with diverse Orc personalities. The system actively enables them to counter whatever play style you chose to use— whether it’s a stealth approach, a go in swords first or somewhere in between. The Orc captains gain a better knowledge of your play style to counter you. One Orc that I encountered learned how to stop my vaulting technique forcing me to develop a different play style. The Orc captains all have different traits that will either hinder them or make them stronger, but either way, it encourages you to do research, either by gaining intel or interrogation. What makes the nemesis system truly unique is how the Orc captains mention the previous encounters you had with them and other events. The short speeches they give on these past experiences really transform the world into a living, constantly changing space.
The story of SoW is pretty damn predictable. The main character is your typical manly husky voiced hero, with no real defining features, other than how manly and heroic he is. All the other characters are also uninteresting and no more than what you’d expect, and honestly, you really don’t feel anything for them. I found the writing for each of the characters very hollow and bland, without much personality. I was more invested in the enemies I was fighting. I found that each Orc captain was unique and created its own backstory through each fight I had with him. The Orcs I had gained control of, through a feature that allows you to both brainwash Orc captains and infiltrate fortresses, were full more personality than all the story characters combined.
The one aspect that I loathed in this game was the addition of loot crates. They felt unneeded and just like a quick cash grab by the developers. At the start, there wasn’t really a need for them, but as you progress on everything in the game begins to feel like an endless grind to gain just a single level. I could see the game trying to push users to purchase a loot crate, and after already paying $80 for the game itself, I find microtransactions like these an insult to the players.
Overall, the gameplay of SoW is extremely solid and well made. The nemesis system was satisfying and entertaining and added a more tactical and engaging aspect to what would otherwise be a standard AAA action game. The plotline, however, was uncreative and boring, and the loot boxes were not needed and really left a sour taste after an altogether exciting game.