Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is the follow up to Shadow of Mordor and while its certainly similar, the game is greatly expanded upon in many key areas. The story continues the Ranger's journey as he aims to defend the city of Minas Ithil from the oncoming waves of Orcs. This is of course just a small portion of the experience and acts as an opening for the larger scale of the overall game. Broken down into four acts, Shadow of War is a lengthy game with many quests and activities to take part in. It starts off with a more linear open world approach and then opens up entirely allowing choice in how you conquer the regions of the land.
I actually felt this aspect was a tad too long in that you need to capture everything to progress which leads an inquiry into if the microtransactions led into this choice. Regardless, I can't really complain if a game wants me to spend more time within it if it's damn awesome. The narrative is excellent here following an individual that questions his role of vengeance and how best to go by it all the while being persuaded by his Wraith buddy that lives within him. It's a battle of the light and the dark with this being a growing theme towards the ending of the story.
There's a nice sense of progression here within the landscape and a continued change from the open world to linear, then back again to open conquest. It's got a certain quality of strength in how long the story is, but I can see some getting fatigued from this as it was almost daunting to get through it all quickly. While I did find the general story to be excellent, I also felt that at times certain key characters were forgotten or just brushed aside for periods of time and it would have been nice to see more overlap between the factions the Ranger deals with.
The Nemesis system is basically the same, but with minor refinements and a lead into the large Siege portion of the game. This area is something I felt was important due to the microtransaction options. While playing through the game you're constantly earning coins to buy things in the marketplace, Gold can also be used here which is mainly collected through purchases. This area has an option for loot based chests or character based chests. The character based ones grant you followers and improvements for them. These are important because they fill out your bases and help protect you during sieges.
The sieges are epic, where you either fight for or defend a fortress point. This is done by capturing points or defending them and of course choosing some bonuses if you have enough points. These don't matter too much earlier in the game, but you definitely notice an impact in the late game and for parts of the multiplayer integration. The Nemsis system plays into this hierarchy of Orcs and there are many options to use your troops. Have them betray each other, tell them to go spy or even battle them off against each other. It's large, there are tons of options and with so many Orcs it always feels unique.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War looks fantastic, there were so many special moments throughout and the world is stunning. It might not be the prettiest of games, but the grit is captured perfectly and it really gets that Lord of the Rings aesthetic right. The cutscenes were a particularly shining example of quality as they were engaging, well paced and looked great. The Orcs look gruesome, there are so many combinations of them and they're all so fun to deal with in their weird ways. The combat felt much better with this entry as I was rarely given an overwhelming situation and the battles felt better equipped for larger numbers. You get a smooth selection of gear to unleash on enemies and that can be upgraded through the large skill tree. I liked my array of weapons to deal with enemies and that the power of the ring could compel them.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is a large game, it provides countless hours of gameplay and consistently brings new twists along the way. Some parts of the story could have been tied together better and it does feel long, but I can't complain for getting more of what's a really enjoyable time. The grind might feel real towards the end or even the repetitive combat might get to you, but it's a satisfying battle throughout. The Nemesis system is great and the Siege parts felt epic in scale, I question the microtransaction aspect since this is single player but I didn't feel it ever took anything away from the experience. This game packs a large story, tons of side things to do and many epic grudge matches against Orcs that are friends or your worst nightmare.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Review on Xbox One
Review Code Provided by LEX PR