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 Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Carabas
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PostSubject: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:07 pm

I've caved and I've picked it up. I got a chance to play for two hours today and it's pretty good so far.

I had misgivings since I'm a Lord of the Rings purist and I consider the movies to be on the verge of heresy. This game does stray a bit from what I would consider canon but with a little suspension of disbelief it's definitely playable by a purist (at least the type who like me can tell the difference between a game adaptation and the source material).

The game makes use of the setting and the lore and builds up on that to cater to its narrative which I won't spoil here. Let's just say that you're playing a ranger from Gondor named Talion who ends up stuck (quite appropriately considering the title of the game) in Mordor. That sounds pretty hardcore considering the Land of Shadows is the last place in Middle Earth where a Ranger would want to go on vacation.

The gameplay is rather interesting and it's difficult not to think about the Assassin's Creed series when playing this title. In fact it looks pretty much like Assassin's Creed in Mordor until you actually play the game and notice some differences in the way the controls feel. Still, it's definitely a game that caters to the same audience who would enjoy some sort of free roaming experience, hunting for collectibles and planning out assassinations.

Ironically here lies the main problem. After two hours of playing the game I can say I'm enjoying it a lot but I have to admit that I really like the Assassin's Creed series (minus the annoying Abstergo sequences in which you play in modern times). The reason why I'm bringing this up is simple: in order to really have fun with Shadow of Mordor you have to be able to enjoy killing orcs by the dozen because that's what the game is about. From what I can tell so far the quests are mostly about killing more orcs. Once you accept that fact it's possible to recognize that the game is really good at what it does.

There is definitely something cool about playing a badass LotR Ranger who fights like good old Aragorn with some moves that can only remind us of the Witcher (or maybe Batman from the Arkham series). At first it may seem pretty easy but things can get more interesting once you start running into orc captains. These guys are tough and if you're not lucky you can end up facing several at the same time (in which case a tactical retreat may be the wise option). The interesting thing about these orc captains is that they are mostly randomized and have different strengths and weaknesses, they can also have some specific ambitions and goals. They can also rise within the ranks and end up near the top of the Dark Lord's armies.

Obviously I haven't been able to see the whole extent of this system but it looks like it adds a much needed dynamic factor to a recipe that could otherwise grow stale pretty fast (unless you're a big fan of collectibles).

You can get into real vendettas with these captains as some of them can cheat death making their ultimate demise all the more satisfying.

I will probably have more things to say as I progress through the game. Visually it is a treat and it runs better than the Witcher 2 on my computer. Some characters may look a bit drab (I'm thinking of human slaves but in their case that may be appropriate) but the orcs are just incredible, they have that great orc vibe and a certain uniqueness due to the randomization which really help with immersion IMO.

Random elements in a sandbox game usually make for great entertainment value so hopefully the main story won't be too much of a letdown.

Last but not least, I haven't seen or read anything about dragons so far. I can't tell you how nice it is to play a fantasy game that doesn't showcase overgrown fire-breathing lizards.

Just to give you an idea here are some screenshots I've found on the net that show the way orc captains are presented in the game:

Spoiler:
 

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Sue77
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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Fri Oct 24, 2014 8:52 pm

Sounds good! The orcs look amazing, but I can't help myself from giving them silly labels!

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Carabas
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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Fri Oct 24, 2014 9:20 pm

I love silly labels! Very Happy

It makes them more shall we say personable...

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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:09 am

My coworker has been raving about this game. LotR, to me, is boring shite, and I am not a fan of Ass-assin's Creed either.

I would insert a video of Clerks 2 where Randall does his LotR imitation but I am already way over my allocated monthly data Laughing

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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:18 am

Just skip this (awesome) game Z because the strong point is playing in this setting and the assassination based gameplay and going by your post I'd say you wouldn't like it.

That being said it's the most fun I've had with a fantasy game since Kingdoms of Amalur and Bound by Flame. Smile

I've played a little more last night and the nemesis system is very interesting. I've crossed paths with a fearsome orc captain who had many increased resistances and some annoying abilities allowing him to call orc warriors to his aid making him a much harder foe to defeat. I've managed to kill him (or so I thought) only to find out that he had managed to survive an got a nasty piece of iron grafted into his skull where I had hit him...

It's funny how giving a name and some traits to orcs turn them into interesting foes. Going after that orc that ran away or the one who managed to kick your ass is a lot more satisfying than going after a predetermined opponent.

I've also played two quests from the main storyline and I rather like how they played out. My only regret is that the game uses cutscenes for these quests and if you're using a custom skin for your character it looks rather odd because the character reverts to the default skin during cutscenes (I've been using the Dark Ranger skin but I've decided to go back to the default skin after realizing that).

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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Sat Oct 25, 2014 7:17 pm

Yeah, looking back at my post is looks like bashing Laughing

While I am no LotR fan -- I did read the books, but I didn't like them -- I can see the value and appeal in the game. The vendetta system is intriguing, settling scores with old enemies does appeal to me, and I agree that hunting down a nemesis is more satisfying than just another nameless orc. Assassinations are a lot of fun, true, but so is a pure stealth game.

I can see the appeal and I can see why you'd like this game, bro, but I guess this one is to me what builders are for you, not of much interest.

Bonus point for the lack of overgrown lizards, though. Unimaginative, cookie-cutter enemies.

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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Sat Oct 25, 2014 9:39 pm

No problem Z. You know I haven't seen a hobbit so far and I don't expect to see one. After all the game is set in Mordor, that's nightmare material and if anything the game could have looked a bit more dreary (but I can understand that they didn't go for a bleak and seemingly lifeless design).

There are some stealth elements à la Assassin's Creed. You've got challenges in which you have to remain unseen while striking down your foes.

I've played 7 hours and according to the stats I must have completed 7% of the game. There is something to be said about taking on a large band of orcs and testing your limits to see how many you can kill before getting swamped or having to retreat.

This game borrows from the best and the result is pretty solid. I just hope other developers will learn from the nemesis system and introduce similar mechanics in CRPGs and sandbox games. It's certainly an improvement over more traditional enemies.

I may know that there is no real depth behind the shallow interaction with these orc leaders but as far as targets go it doesn't really matter and it's still a fantastic way to fuel a player's imagination.

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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Fri Oct 31, 2014 1:57 am

Enemies being a bit more personalized is what really has me interested in this game. Assassinating Generic Nobleman #26 can get old in, say, Assassin's Creed. Having enemies that you know a little bit, even if all you know about them is their name, would add a lot for me.

Waiting for Steam's winter sale to pick this one up, but I definitely am going to.
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Carabas
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PostSubject: Re: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor   Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:36 pm

Well it depends on your ability to immerse yourself in a story of your own making but there are some nice touches.

I'm still having a lot of fun with it. In fact it's the most fun I've had this year in a fantasy setting with Bound by Flame.

Mordor is a lot like the first Assassin's Creed, there is a decent storyline and some nice sandbox stuff but you can't help thinking that if they made a sequel they would flesh it out even more (a bit like Assassin's Creed 2 being such an improvement over 1).

All in all as long as you enjoy the setting and the idea of slaughtering orcs in different ways you're in for a lot of fun. Smile

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