by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
SKILLS AND ABILITIES
Instead, I chose to tackle some of the story missions to see what Shadow of War has in store. The first mission involved rescuing a group of soldiers who were imprisoned in a nearby ruin, during which I tested some of Talion’s new abilities and saw some of the new systems in play. One of my favourite new abilities is based off of one of the most powerful attacks in the first game: shadow-strike. Talion could teleport to a distant enemy and silently kill them without anyone noticing. In Shadow of War, Talion now has the option to grapple enemies towards him from a distance, effectively reversing the ability. No more risking getting spotted by archers while climbing a tower - instead, yank an archer off a tower and kill them behind the nearest outcropping.
The skill and item system have also received overhauls. Now, once players unlock a skill, they can choose to unlock one of three modifiers that change how it functions, though only one can be active at a time. In terms of items there are more statistical differences between weapons and armour, but they can also be embedded with runes which improve their attributes further. Playing through the mission felt exactly like playing the first game: alternating between sneaking and pitched melee combat. But Talion remains engaging and has just as many varied combat skills as he does in the original.
BEATING THE BALROG
The second story mission I tackled involved trying to prevent a group of orcs from summoning a Balrog. Despite Talion’s best efforts, the Balrog is summoned regardless of how quickly he kills the summoners, resulting in a visually awesome scene where it emerges from a pit of lava to wreak havoc upon every living creature nearby. Fortunately a friendly nature spirit arrives to combat their mortal nemesis, with Talion jumping down to lend a helping hand. Unfortunately, what should have been an epic confrontation with one of the franchises’ greatest and most memorable creatures, instead fell into the category of a typical video game boss. You wait for the glowing weak point to shine, shoot them with a bow, rinse and repeat. It felt dull to play, and even though I got to control the nature spirit in the second half of the encounter, beating the Balrog was a chore. My only solace from the encounter was that the Balrog escaped, leaving open the possibility of a rematch that may prove to be more exciting.
After an hour of exploring Mordor, I am much more excited for Shadow of War now than I was when it was first announced. It feels like a proper sequel for Shadow of Mordor, enhancing the elements that worked so well in the original and expanding upon the types of missions and encounters the player engages in. Though I have only scratched the surface of the game, I’m eager to see what else Mordor can throw at me when it launches on October 10.