Shadow Of War a good expansion of Middle Earth franchise

The road to victory against the Orcs is neither swift nor easy. Experience points are needed to unlock more skills. Uncovered gear and gems can be used to enhance weapons and armour, or disposed of in exchange for in-game currency.
The road to victory against the Orcs is neither swift nor easy. Experience points are needed to unlock more skills. Uncovered gear and gems can be used to enhance weapons and armour, or disposed of in exchange for in-game currency.PHOTO: WARNER BROS INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT

It was supposed to launch in August, but Middle Earth: Shadow Of War is finally here. This highly anticipated title is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor from 2014, which is based on the lore from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

What made this franchise stand out was its fluid chained combat in the style of Batman: Arkham, its free roam exploration, and the now-famous Nemesis system, which introduced a multilayered hierarchy that generates adversaries and dialogues based on the player's action.

For example, an Orc that I eliminated will return with improvised armour and related taunts. If an Orc takes me out, it gets promoted to a higher status and will mock me on my last failure the next time around. Each character has strengths and weaknesses and is able to adapt to any routine fighting style, forcing me to alternate between different approaches.

My favourite is an Orc bard who speaks in rhymes and verses. Listening to his taunts and choice of words is entertaining even though he actually means to skin me alive.

Instead of eliminating Orcs, you can also choose to recruit and deploy them for various tasks and assignments.

In Shadow Of War, the aforesaid ecosystem returns, along with gameplay enhancements. You reprise the role of either Talion and Celebrimbor as they plan to amass an army against the forces of Sauron.

The road to victory is neither swift nor easy. Experience points, which are based on an intuitive skill tree, are needed to unlock more skills. Uncovered gear and gems can be used to enhance weapons and armour based on their attributes and grade, or disposed of in exchange for Mirian, the in-game currency. You will keep replacing items and gear as you discover better ones.

At the peak of your progress, you will be conjuring up a formidable army comprising of warchiefs, mounted caragors, towering graugs and screeching drakes. Amazingly, the game runs steadily despite all the chaos happening on-screen. 

  • 9/10

    RATING

    PRICE: From $84.90 (PS4, the version tested; Xbox One; PC)

    GENRE: Role-playing adventure

Although there is much pleasure in free roam exploration, scouring over a vast network of locations can be a tedious affair. Fortunately, Talion is able to double-jump, climb and sprint with haste.

The game now introduces various types of loot chests. These are mystery boxes that you purchase to get desirable items faster. Micro-transaction is becoming a mainstay in recent video-game titles, but in Shadow Of War, you can still unlock high-grade items without spending real money. Simply focus on completing any available task to collect adequate in-game currency.

At the peak of your progress, you will be conjuring up a formidable army comprising of warchiefs, mounted caragors, towering graugs and screeching drakes. Amazingly, the game runs steadily despite all the chaos happening on-screen.

There are a number of modes to play in. In the Social Conquest mode, I can set up a fortress and deploy my best chiefs to defend it. Friendly mode is recommended for starters. Those who dare to venture into the ranked mode to score a better rating may risk losing their precious generals during the siege. I am more interested in Online Vendettas, which are unlocked missions, as I can partake in a communal effort to take on a specific warchief targeted by another player.

It will take longer than watching the entire Lord Of The Rings movie collection to finish this game, but seeing my selected army of cultivated warchiefs succeed at their tasks never gets old. Let the war for Mordor rage on.

•Verdict: Shadow Of War expands the series' gameplay with many enhancements, though the various tasks, missions and objectives will require much dedication from players.

•Nizam Mohd is a freelance writer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Shadow Of War a good expansion of Middle Earth franchise'. Print Edition | Subscribe