Before I even begin, I must explain myself to all those who love Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. I thought this was going to be a good game. But after discovering how much this game is about doing the same thing over and over and how much it derives from the recent Batman titles, I have to view it as very overrated.
Plot: 6 out of 10
Going in, I thought that the main character, Talion, would be an Aragorn clone. You can see in the picture above how much the two characters look alike. Thankfully, Talion is very different. He is a generic ranger whose lovely wife is killed by orcs. Talion swears revenge on the orcs.
I like revenge stories even though the “many that live deserve death; and some that live deserve life; can you give it to them” line suggests that J.R.R. Tolkien did not and may not have even endorsed this story for any medium. Still, from a shallow perspective, it works. I say shallow because beyond the early scenes with Talion and his wife, there’s little effective emotion that a great revenge story needs.
Beyond how Tolkien would have liked this is a much bigger issue. Talion is killed early on, but the spirit of a dead elf-lord, Celebrimbor, who wants revenge on Sauron as well, brings Talion back so he can get vengeance. Mm-hmm. First of all, Tolkien’s elves are pure-hearted moralists who accept no excuses for not doing the right thing. Just the kind of people who would see greatness in revenge. Worse, this resurrection creates the following credibility problem: why don’t dead elves like Celebrimbor bring back everyone with common cause who died? Where was he when Boromir was killed? I wasn’t supposed to think that hard about this, was I?
There are some cool plot twists later that redeem things somewhat. But it can’t be a great story because the foundation is weak.
Graphics: 5 out of 10
Not all that next-gen, I’m afraid. Talion looks kind of bland. His orc foes and the landscapes don’t look much better. All said, this game looks to be barely above the PS3’s capabilities, but it’s not ugly or anything. For that I direct you to Duck Dynasty (yes, that show got a game).
Sound: 7 out of 10
I’ll give credit where it’s due. The voices strongly resemble the kinds of characters that are being portrayed, especially the orcs. Now, the voice acting is just above average, even though the dialogue is strong. But I’ll rate this category a little higher than that because of how fitting the voices are.
Gameplay: 6 out of 10
It becomes very apparent, very fast, that Shadow of Mordor is one of the most derivative games ever published. Although Talion uses a sword, we’ve got a combat system exactly like the one from the Batman series that began with Arkham Asylum. All that’s left is for Talion to throw up grappling hooks and climb on them.
However, the controls aren’t as good as the Batman games. You won’t notice it easily, but in tight situations, you’ll find that they can screw up. But not really except in a tight situation. They’re not horrible or anything. It’s just that they falter under pressure.
Challenge: 4 out of 10
This is a fairly difficult game, but what sinks it, challenge-wise, is that except for some mostly unimaginative quests here and there, the game is mostly about sneaking past an orc captain’s men and killing the boss. You can only do the same thing over and over so many times before it gets boring.
Overall: 5 out of 10
I know I’m inviting controversy with this score, but it’s my honest opinion. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an OK game, but I can’t see it as a classic.
A final note I wish to leave you with is that the original Assassin’s Creed was originally praised by almost everyone. But over time many have come to view it as a disappointing beginning to what would become a great series. Why? Because the whole game is basically the same assassination mission over and over. Sound kind of like the game I was talking about? Perhaps Shadow of Mordor stands to be viewed differently in the future as well.