Shock confession: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a far better game than I was expecting

I’ve lost count of how many orc heads I’ve seen cascading – in slow motion – across my TV screen in Monolith’s Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

At a quick guesstimate, I’d say I’ve seen hundreds of green-skinned orc heads captured in glorious slow-motion.

The cascading heads come courtesy of the game’s brutal execution finishing moves, activated after you’ve caused enough damage to an orc. And they are brutal.

rollingheadmordorPicture this: Globules of blood spraying from a head that has been disconnected from a neck, slowly around. On more than one occasion I noticed that the unfortunate victims mouth was still open, clearly in shock with what has just happened.

Shadow of Mordor is also brutal in its killing, letting you not only stealthily kill orcs but brutalize them, often terrorising other orcs in the area, causing them to run off. Shadow of Mordor doesn’t pull any punches in the gore department.

And you know what? I just can’t get enough of the game. I love Shadow of Mordor – and I’m hardly a Lord of The Rings fan. In fact, if it had hobbits wandering around, I’d probably stop playing. It does have Gollum, though, but that’s fine by mean.

In fact, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – with a ranger hero who is stuck between the realms of the living and dead and is out to avenge the brutal murder of his family – has almost blindsided me with how good it is.

I bought it expecting a good game, one that I would enjoy (I based my purchase solely on what online friends had told me about it) . But what I wasn’t expecting was a game that captured my attention and cajoles me to do “just one more mission”before bedtime.

Shadow_of_MordorI’m not going to go in the intricacies of Shadow of Mordor, except to say that the game’s nemesis system is pure genius. In a nut shell, it works like this: Orcs are collected in a hierarchical system, each with its personality, strengths and weaknesses, but – here’s the interesting thing – orcs will “remember”if they’ve fought you before, whether you injured them, whether they ran away.  It’s an almost breathing eco-system. It’s fascinated.

It gets deeper.  When you die – and you don’t really die you just return to your spirit form briefly at one of the game’s forge towers – the orcs don’t stand still twiddling their thumbs. Power struggles erupt between the orcs: They squabble amongst themselves, fight each other, earn promotions.  So at some point when you face off against the same orc for the third time, he might be wearing an eye patch and have been promoted to captain.

It sounds silly to say but the game feels more alive because of the nemesis system.

I’m about half way through the campaign but I keep getting sidetracked: there’s so much other stuff to do, all of it helping Talion become stronger and more skilled so the tougher orcs aren’t so hard to deal with.

Sure, I’ve got other games to play, but I keep going back to Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.  No doubt, I’ll play less and less as the weeks roll by, but right now, I really am enjoying hunting orcs.

 

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