All Is Fair In Mordor and War
Everything I loved about Shadow of Mordor, has been improved nearly tenfold in Shadow of War. First, let’s zero in on the environments. Gone are the days of the flat landscapes with the occasional hill or structure to climb, and say goodbye to the barren grays of Udun and open greens of Nurn.
Each zone takes on unique and defining characteristics that make you feel like you’re on a long, unexpected journey when really each map is just about the same span as the two before. But with more places to go, places to climb, and actions to partake in, you could almost be tricked into thinking the entire game is one large open world, when in fact it’s actually several small settings filled to the brim with activity and life. Where Shadow of Mordor focused on desolation and destitution environmentally, Shadow of War feels like environments entirely wrapped up in the early days of warfare. Which really helps to drive it home, this is no longer the Gravewalker making hit and run tactics on random enemy officers.
This is war, it’s bloody, people will die. Enemies fall, heroes rise, and destruction awaits at every turn. Talion is not the purely unstoppable superhero he was in the first game, there is a much greater sense of urgency and delicacy in every combat encounter. Especially since orc officers who will rise to meet you, offer far greater threats than they once did in an expanded Nemesis system.
The Nemesis system, arguably the system that slingshot Shadow of Mordor into the mainstream spotlight, is back and highly improved. Randomizing specific Orcs, Uruks, and Ologs from the ground up from strengths and weaknesses, right down to their looks, personalities, and preferred fighting styles. Utilizing the Nemesis Forge in Shadow of Mordor, I even saw the return of my most persistent enemy Zathra the Trainer; an orc archer who hounded me from the early hours of my most recent playthrough of Shadow of Mordor, and no matter how many times I put him down, he kept coming back.
Through stabbings of blade, mauling of caragor, an eye pierced by an arrow, to being burned several times over; Zathra was intent on staying alive. And so he appeared again, even referencing our encounters of the last game. Still covered in bandages, a metal plat still snugly over his eye and forehead, and now much more resilient to the ways I put him down before. My ongoing game of cat and mouse continued on through Shadow of War, and yet despite being my nemesis he’s far from the most interesting orc I’ve encounter.
Narrative has more substance, Nemesis and Ally systems have been revamped and improved upon, environment variety and game length are drastically increased.
A Grindfest of a 4th Act will not be appealing to most people, dangling microtransactions to quicken the pace in front of the consumer is pretty insulting.