Middle-Earth Shadow of War: A review mainly in pictures (oh, and some words)

Bruz, you little beauty!!

Bruz the warmonger tank – that’s him above giving Shadow of War main character Talion some sage advice – is probably my favourite orc in Shadow of War.

Sure, he’s got an unmistakable Australian twang – I was half expecting him to be flopping around in a pair of jandals (thongs to my Aussie mates) and singing Waltzing Matilda as he walks along – but for the most part he’s got a likeable charm about him. He’s got a roguish edge about him as he smacks enemy orcs about the head.

Shadow of War continues the tale of slain Talion (and his ghostly passenger, slighted elven king Celebrimbor) as they fight through the plains, valleys and mountains of Middle Earth, intent on regaining the one true ring and defeating the dark lord Sauron (Celebrimbor is slightly bitter because he was betrayed by Sauron). It’s classic Lord of the Rings stuff with elves, rangers, nazgul, a spider-lady, orcs and magic.

What made the original game in the series so good was the nemesis system where if an orc defeats you in battle it moves up through the ranks, gaining a new title and status with the overlord of the fortress he’s aligned with. It’s back with Shadow of War and it’s a good system, with orcs taunting and goading Talion before they defeat him. New to Shadow of War are ambushes, which means that at any point during the game an orc that you’ve had a run in with previously may suddenly appear, trying to puncture you full of homes.

It’s a nice system but it got a little overwhelming at times when during one particular fight, three orcs decided to “ambush” me while I was trying to take out a high-level captain. It was chaotic and from memory, it didn’t end well for two of them or me.

There’s a bit of grind work with Shadow of War: The more I progressed the more I felt things were becoming a chore as I slew orc after orc after orc to earn the valuable XP which could be used to upgrade weapons and equipment. Sure, I could have plonked down real-money for in-game loot boxes but sorry, I’m not going to do that besides, I refused to agree to the online terms and conditions so I was automatically locked out from the market place anyway.

Look, Shadow of War is a good game but I don’t think it’s as good as the original was. The orcs are entertaining, though, with witty banter before they try to gut you and feed your innards to dragons and caragors and I took great delight in dominating orcs and turning them on their foes. It’s also great fun romping into a battle with an orc captain as a body guard that you’ve turned to your cause.

Although, I’m still convinced that moments after I killed an orc captain by decapitating him (he looked like a pirate with a comical moustache, actually) he ambushed me during a fight against another captain. I mean, I’ve heard of reincarnation but that’s taking things a little too far (although, again, one orc that I thought I killed re-appeared telling me his brothers had put him back together again. He did have a few scars, now that I think about it) …


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