Middle-earth: Shadow of War – Talion and Celebrimbor return to fight Sauron’s armies in the new, exciting adventure from Monolith Productions
The Lord of the Rings, the wonderful epic written by J.R.R. Tolkien more than sixty years ago, he has had several movie adaptations over the last decades. The six chapters of the two Hollywood trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, above all, have awakened public interest in this extraordinary fantasy adventure, inducing Warner Bros. and Monolith Productions developers to create a new original set in the most famous Tolkienian universe it is appreciated.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War comes three years after the release of the previous episode, Shadow of Mordor, with the stated purpose of collecting its inheritance and further expanding the fantasy dimension through a series of innovations and improvements to gameplay, storyboard and RPG progression of missions.
Shadow of Mordor was one of the best video games in 2014 but there were still many things to fix and improve to make this new saga a product capable of compete, albeit with different weapons, with productions such as Assassin’s Creed, Dishonored or Darksiders. What choices have the Monolith done to overcome the contradictions of the first chapter and enrich the game system of this new episode?
Over 25 hours of gaming with Talion and Celebrimbor have given us the image of an extremely solid title, as you will find out by reading the rest of our review of The Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War deepens the events that upset Middle-earth in the period between the end of the trilogy of The Hobbit and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings. In addition to the inevitable Sauron and his inexhaustible thirst for conquest, the protagonists of the adventure are the same as Shadow of Mordor, namely Talion, the last Ranger “survived” to the fall of the Black Gate, and the spirit of Celebrimbor, the elven blacksmith who forged the legendary Rings of Power.
To face Sauron and avoid Gondor (and then the whole Middle-earth) falling into his hands, the two improbable heroes of the main campaign will have to appeal to all their strength, to the experience gained by fighting Uruk’s ranks in the previous chapter and above all to the supernatural powers of the New Ring , an object that will allow the player to dominate the minds of enemy commanders with the purpose of forming a loyal army to cast against the Dark Lord of Mordor.
If illustrated in these terms, the Shadow Shadow of War seems to be rather straightforward: thanks to heaven, though, the first impression is not always the right one…
From the very beginning of the adventure and for the whole duration of the singleplayer campaign, we have to deal with different secondary characters who will interact with us in various forms, shaping plot in ever-changing ways and giving us lots of shots and changes of perspective. And this, without considering the enormous narrative contribution given by the last iteration of Nemesis, the procedural system used by Monolith to handle the relations between the tribes that make up the Uruk armies and the military hierarchies of the troops, captains and commanders of the fortresses.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War offers a multi-faceted gaming system with multiple levels of interpretation. The enormous work done by the Monolith Productions guys is based on what has been done in recent years to shape the Shadow of Mordor previous project, starting with the combat system.
The approach adopted by the subsidiary of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment continues to be based almost exclusively on the rapid execution of attack and counterattack moves, with battles against dozens of monstrous orcs and creatures.
The duality between Talion and Celebrimbor, the true mainstay of the mainstream campaign, also leaves a deep mark on gameplay mechanics, as evidenced by the great number of unlockable powers during the adventure to evolve stealth and purely action to make it even more lethal the use of the sword, dagger, bow and creatures dominated by the New Ring.
The most interesting and original aspect of gaming dynamics is however, Nemesis, the system that manages the relations between the tribes of Uruk and the main captains and commanders of the Sauron army. Much of the missions to be carried out during the mainstream campaign and the activities related to the open-world component, in fact, use the Nemesis system to dynamically modify the enemy hierarchies through the killing and acquisition of the orcish commanders and, above all, for planning the conquest of the Mordor strongholds.
Thanks to the Nemesis and the richness of content related to RPG and combat system, therefore, Middle Earth: Shadow of War can effectively overcome the contradictions of the previous episode and keep the interest of users alive even after dozens of hours of gameplay.
Graphics and Sound
By no longer having to comply with the cross-genic obligations of the previous chapter, Middle-earth: Shadow of War can fully exploit the hardware resources of the more modern consoles and PCs to give us a graphically and artistically far-flunger than the one admired in The Shadow of Mordor.
The scenarios that distinguish the main story missions offer very varied and vast environments with dozens of villages, fortresses, forests, caves and wilderness areas to explore freely. The same care in details is also found in character animations, characterization of Uruk commanders, in the plethora of particle effects associated with the explosions and in the depth of the RPG elements that gravitate around the singleplayer campaign.
The soundtrack also maintains the high quality standards of the graphics, mainly due to the variety of audio effects that enrich the clashes, the instrumental songs that give epicity to the most important fighting scenes and the dialogues between the characters.
Middle-earth: The Shadow of War is the perfect synthesis of modern action-adventure. Thanks to an impeccable combat system, a fascinating story and an incredible story, the latest fantasy creature by Monolith Productions and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is not just a repetition of the gameplay that has characterized the previous chapter but, conversely, draws inspiration from them to give us a more free and, in many respects, daring adventure.
The story of Talion and Celebrimbor, for example, fits into the procedural generation of the Nemesis system with an astonishing simplicity and naturalness, regardless of the hours spent playing with the Ranger and its inseparable elvish blacksmith spectrum.
Despite some small lack of inventory management, repetitive search of collectable objects, failure to implement a real multiplayer mode, and progression of history during the most advanced stages of the singleplayer campaign, Middle Earth: The Shadow of War can and should be considered a compulsory purchase for all open-world video enthusiasts with a strong action vocation.