A lot of people liked Middle-earth Shadow of Mordor when it was launched, people enjoyed it and it got some pretty good reviews, but will the sequel to that game, Middle-earth: Shadow of War be the same?
Well, the reviews are out and so we are going to round all of that up to help you answer the all-important question, should you buy it or not?
Well so far it’s actually doing pretty well with critics and the reviews that have been released so far have resulted in an 81/100 score on Metacritic.
But we aren’t going to leave you there. Here’s what some of those reviewers said about the game:
Similar to the way Batman: Arkham City built on the foundation of Arkham Asylum, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is bigger and more ambitious in scope than Shadow of Mordor, with great results. The way it expands the Nemesis system with far greater variety and fortress sieges makes even better use of the stand-out generated characters, and its battles with memorable uruk captains remain challenging all the way through the campaign and into the clever asynchronous multiplayer beyond.
Developer Monolith must have felt the same way about the lore. I find it staggering that a game as irreverent to Tolkien’s canon could have emerged after all the hullaballoo over invented dwarf-and-elf romances in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. Next to Shadow of War, that kind of thing seems like a mere typo marring an otherwise pristine text. But perhaps Jackson and Monolith are onto something. Maybe, deep down, we all just really want to get into massive battles with piles of orcs, only occasionally stopping to dabble in elvish poetry (and in Shadow of War, you’ll even find some of that). Shadow of Mordor handles this well. It’s fan fiction, and of the type that leads George R.R. Martin to condemn the practice altogether. It’s the fast food of honored fantasy tradition, much as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was, and this is the king-size upgrade.
But by God, it’s delicious.
If you can get past the microtransactions, Shadow Wars seems set to provide a much meatier extended playtime than Shadow of Mordor ever offered. But more than anything, that’s my biggest disappointment with Middle-earth: Shadow of War: Everything about it seems to come with a caveat, some small annoyance or two that you need to dig past to get to the still-very-fun game underneath. The Nemesis System is still a wonder that has yet to be replicated. The movement and combat are thrilling.
Going beyond skills and menus, one of Shadow of War’s more controversial additions is its online storefront where you can pay real-world money to earn loot boxes that have guaranteed high-rarity Orcs and equipment. One early quest in the game gives you a small sum of the paid currency to purchase some loot boxes, but you can also buy them from the store using an earned in-game currency called Mirian.
Despite my criticisms, Shadow of War’s purgatory is seductive. Technically, it is the only game doing the nemesis system these days, and so there’s nowhere else to get this stuff, even as grimly executed as it is, anywhere else. When the game informed me that there would be no turning back after the final mission, I took stock of the nemesis board. I stopped and dominated more even more orcs. I didn’t need them. By this point, I was drowning in orcs. But like a Ring of Power whispering in my ear, I just couldn’t let go.
It all comes back to the orcs. They’re the reason I kept playing, even when I was losing interest in everything else. A motley, gruesome, ill-mannered crew of swines that are a constant joy to fight and befriend. And the increased variety and depth of the nemesis system makes for a much richer experience overall. I just wish the game wasn’t quite so overfed. A lot of developers think sequels need to be bigger and offer more to get people interested, but I’d prefer it if they were just better. Shadow of War is a great action game that feels like it’s yearning to break free from a prison of open world busywork.
To be blunt, the story in Shadow of War is bombastic nonsense. A slow, exposition-laden first act sets the stage for some quite enjoyable substance about the struggles of building an army and saving as many Gondorians as possible, before jumping the shark so enthusiastically that it could probably clear Mount Doom. The sheer exaggeration of the story is matched only by the sincerity with which it is told, creating an effect that’s both off putting and, frankly, a little embarrassing.
But, for the most part, this is big spectacle and richly layered experience. The different regions are beautiful and varied to explore, while Sauron’s forces are alway entertaining to meet and beat. If there are moments that don’t quite click or things that fatigue a little it’s because of that scale. There’s almost an Assassin’s Creed 2 feel of map spatter to all the markers for towers, collectables, bits and so on. I’ve not 100%-ed it but you’re easily looking at a triple figure time should you try. This isn’t a game to get in for the weekend, it’s something to buy and cancel plans for the year.