Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Review, PC Gameplay And Performance With Orc-Slaying Fun

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Story And Gameplay Format

Shadows of War continues the narrative from SoM. The war for Middle-Earth rages on with Sauron as the big bad guy we know so well from the Hobbit and LOTR series. In the beginning, you set out to disrupt the various armies of Sauron. However, about 6-8 hours into the game's 30-hour campaign, the player’s focus shifts a bit from toppling Sauron to focusing more attention on "Dominating" enemies to be indoctrinated into your ranks (more on this below).

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I'm the Lord of Many Rings. Wait, what?

It can't be understated: SoW is a must-play for action-RPG fans. Yet unforgiving Tolkien-enthusiasts should take heed. This one does not adhere closely to the famous lore. We see alliances with characters that would never be caught dead with each other in Lord of The Rings. In addition, a new Ring of Power is swiftly and easily forged only to be as easily lost, as if it were a mere cereal box trinket. The Orcs again, as they did in SoM, feel less menacing and more for comedic value than their book or movie counterparts. Those are just a few of the loose liberties taken with the established mythos. But we digress…

Missions and structure will be very familiar to most gamers. You are tasked with assassination missions, sabotage, search & rescue and the like. Again, like Shadow of Mordor, the Nemesis system returns in earnest to potentially upend these seemingly mundane mission types. Expanding on the system from SoM, in Shadow of War the Nemesis system includes more territories as these are now part of the game world. You can view and identify key members of each army and target them for attack.

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Meet your new Nemesis. This charming fellow has your number and he's coming just for you. 

Taking out an army's captain is the best way to disrupt the group. Yet if an enemy kills the player then they can be elevated in their Orc ranks and will definitely taunt and single you out when you next meet. It’s a simple but elegant system that continues to throw players for a loop. Just when you think you have the drop on a captain you’ve been hunting, a lowly grunt catches you off guard with a glance killing blow. The grunt moves his way up the command chain to gloat another day. Meanwhile, now you have an additional higher ranked Orc looking to gut you specifically. It all works to add a flavorful bit of chaos to the battles while making each more personal as your number of Nemeses grow.

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Luckily, you can also Dominate Orcs to become Followers who will fight for you, creating massive battles similar in scope to For Honor. You can also port over any Followers from Shadows of Mordor to bolster your ranks. Along the way you will amass a variety of weapons and abilities that can be upgraded to increase both fighting efficacy, and how bad-ass you look while deftly carving through the Orc hordes. Some of this is locked behind either a heavy grind wall or even less-savory micro-transactions. Finally, there is a multiplayer component where you can attack the fortified locations of other players, which have been freed from Orc occupation. Also, in the Ranked version of this mode, players run the risk of permanently losing their followers in the process.

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Chain mail, don't leave the castle without it.

While the story may not respect the established lore, it dishes up some truly exciting and visceral gameplay with a parkour system for scaling the environment, that is very similar to the Assassin’s Creed series and the fluid nail-biting combat system found in the Batman series of PC and console games. Adding to that much-needed, replay-driven dynamism is the newly bolstered Nemesis enemy system, which is yet again a breath of fresh air to the otherwise standard fare mission structure.

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