[drop_cap type=”1/2/3″]M[/drop_cap]iddle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the new Warner Bros. game that’s pulling the proverbial rug from under Tolkienists everywhere. With a great look and feel combined with what promises to be an interesting story arc, this Fantasy RPG has simmered in its own vat of hype and controversy since its announced inception by Monolith last year.
The First Impressions
The game seems like any other RPG, at least in the start. With the controls and game styles resembling other WB games – primarily the Arkham series ( in terms if combat) and Assassin’s Creed (with respect to the look and feel). In the beginning, the game may seem a lot more complicated than it actually is. But after an hour or so of playing the game, it feels comfortable and familiar.
The story throws you right into the character and his tragic past. Talion is a Ranger whose family was slain by the Black Hand of Sauron in front of his eyes. Two brutal deaths (okay, their throats were slit — not ‘brutal’, per say, by modern standards, but still tragic), followed by his own. In the dark void of an afterlife, his soul merges with the wraith of an elf called Celebrimror, and returns to Mordor on a quest to track down the Black Hand and exact his vengeance. To do so, you need to work (meaning ‘fight’) your way up Sauron’s orc army.
Considering the plot and how it interweaves with Tolkienian lore as we know it, the characters aren’t as intricately formed — there are points in the game where you think ‘this guy could have been more than what he is’. The game is, however, entirely set in Sauron’s backyard – in Mordor – and the inherent feeling of dread is shadowed by the reassuring power that the Talion-Wraith combo bring to the experience.
Gameplay and Difficulty
Shadow of Mordor isn’t a difficult game as such. One does realize quite early in the game that it would be a lot more comfortable to play on a controller. It can be played both as a hack-and-slash as well as a stealth game. The tech tree is massive, expanding to skills both as a Ranger and a Wraith. If you build it right, you’ll soon find yourself facing a horde of orcs with some wicked moves. Some of the key combinations (Like Shift+Ctrl+Space) require some time to process in your head, making the ‘stealth’ part of the game a bit tedious. But the game is relatively playable despite the fact that your keys are mapped all over the keyboard. It may take a little practice, but the combos and moves are mapped intelligently, making gameplay a fluid experience – as opposed to some other games (Assassin’s Creed comes to mind), where it’s easy to mix up your moves by getting the keys mixed up in the heat of battle. Yes. a controller would be recommended, but if you generally use a keyboard, you won’t miss it.
The Nemesis Factor
The Nemesis engine forms the crux of the whole game. It’s what makes the few existing shortcomings of Shadow of Mordor worth dismissing. While AI in games have grown to be increasingly impressive over the past few years, the Nemesis engine makes an attempt to take it to a whole new level. NPC enemies that you meet in the game retain memory of your encounter and visibly adapt to suit your game style (taunting you while they’re at it). If any of your foes survive an encounter with you, they retain memory of that fight and come up with the appropriate countermeasures at their next encounter. For example, if you come close to killing them in one-on-one combat, they gain power, and always confront you with a horde of orc followers in the future. Basically – you’ll never meet your foes in the same situation again, and not killing them only makes them stronger. Very Nietzsche. In short: The Nemesis engine makes it possible for every victory to spur you to satisfyingly greater heights and for every loss to make it even more difficult to push forward. A great balance, overall, to keep you on your toes.
Bottomline: Should you?
Yes! The game would definitely be more appreciated by LotR buffs, but even if you’re a Tolkein n00b, the game is challenging and a lot of fun to play. With over “40 hours of gameplay” priced at Rs.999 at Flipkart and Amazon (Steam activation), it’s worth the money and effort.
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