All Orcs Must Die

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is the epitome of a sequel. Every aspect of Shadow of Mordor has been polished and expanded, and the fighting mechanics remain smooth as ever. Tearing through hordes of orcs feels almost as effortless as Darth Vader killing rebel scum in the final scene of Rogue One. The improved nemesis system has allowed me to create my own stories as I play through the campaign and grind through countless outposts and forts, which only enhances the campaign.

As you fight your way to different quest start points, you will find that Talion, with the help of his wraith possession, is the most bad-ass ranger in all of Middle-Earth. The competition between Legolas and Gimli at Helms Deep sounds like child’s play compared to the full armies that Talion decimates in search of the ideal captain to recruit. In my time with the Shadow of War, I’ve found that most of my time has been spent stumbling across orc captains and captain events while I bask in the sheer overpowered abilities of The Gravewalker. Killing orcs between quests greatly resembles how Grand Theft Auto can consume hours of your time as you cause mayhem in the streets. Also, when you feel like it’s time to make an escape and begin your next quest, it is extremely easy to run away. Just remember, if you run from a horde of orcs that consists of a captain, he will remind you next time you see him that you couldn’t take the heat.

The improved nemesis system has allowed me to write my own story parallel with Talion’s quests. I have found that the most enjoyable part of the game is all based around this system. Whether an orc betrays you or a foe returns from the dead, the nemesis system will trigger emotions you didn’t know you could have during a video game. The first time one of my captains tackled an enemy on the verge of striking me down, I knew I owed that orc my life, and when the time came, I made a point of promoting him to show my gratitude. On the flip side, the first time an ally turned on me while I was surrounded by enemy captains, I made a point of killing him first. As he dropped to his knees in defeat he begged for forgiveness and promised to be loyal from now on. The words barely escaped his lips before I pressed the button that would send his head rolling off the fort wall.

While most critics had deducted points for having a mediocre story, I must admit that I rather enjoy what I have seen thus far. Admittedly, I am a huge Tolkien fan and have done tons of independent research into the lore of Middle-Earth. The campaign feels like a classic side story in Tolkien’s universe, and while it doesn’t fit into The Lord of the Rings (apparently the very end some how ties it into the Fellowship quest, but I have no idea how that’s possible from the way things look) it’s certainly just as immersive as the classic novels. As Talion becomes more and more powerful, he gains more and more followers. As you build your army, you can’t help but wonder whether Talion and Celebrimbor are truly on the side of righteousness. From what I have played so far, I can’t help but hope for further games in the series. How amazing would it be to conquer all of Mordor in Shadow of War and end the trilogy with a game that allows you to march your orcs across all of Middle-Earth. The idea of riding a caragor through Minas Tirith or beheading the Rohirrim at Helm’s Deep is enough to get me to donate to a Kickstarter.

While I haven’t seen the entire story yet, I am excited to see where Talion and Celebrimbor end up. I am looking forward to more epic fort battles and more betrayals from my bodyguards. Where some critics found issue with the story, I can’t find a fault with any tale from Tolkien’s universe. Watching fire rain from the skies as I charge the gates of an orc infested fort, scratches an itch I have had since playing through The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on PS2. If you are a fan of all things Middle-Earth, you need to get this game. If you aren’t a fan of Tolkien’s universe, you should be.

Jacob Wolf

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