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Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (PS4) Review

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At a Glance...

Formats: PC, Xbox One and PS4 (Reviewed)
Final Score
7.5/ 10

User Rating
1 total rating


We Liked?

  • Nemesis system is bigger and better than ever - and still unique
  • Smooth combat and rapid world traversal
  • Addition of RPG mechanics
  • The internal stories you make are priceless

Not So Much?

  • Story is lacking at best, lore breaking at worst (hello sexy spider lady I'm looking at you!)
  • Some times overwhelming both in scope and the battles
  • Overly complex loot system in places
  • Character movement is odd and Talion is not likeable
  • Can get repetitive and aimless without a story to spur you on

Final Fiendish Findings?

The old adage of “If you liked the first one, you’ll like this” really does ring true here as you’ll be getting more of the same, with a few extra frills added.

Posted October 16, 2017 by

Final Fiendish Findings?

t this generation’s launch good games were scarce… I mean really scarce (I played through the whole of Knack for Thor’s sake!). So when Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor entered the arena, with little or no expectations, the game was lapped up by gamers and press alike, securing multiple Game of the Year awards.

So three years later Monolith have taken the time to expand their original into something incredibly ambitious. Centre stage is the Nemesis system. The clever sub-system that will track the characters in the game, monitor their encounters with you, and set up massive grudge matches between you. Imagine a massive relational database sat in the back-ground keeping tabs on every local captain or bodyguard you run up against. There’s really not much else like it.


So, cards on the table, I really couldn’t see what the fuss was all about with the first Shadow of Mordor game. I put about 15 hours into the game, experienced the Nemesis system, and got thoroughly frustrated by it. I walked away shaking my head and wondering what all the fuss was about other than a clever grudge system. Although Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is literally more of the same only bigger and better, I finally see what the fuss was all about.

But first, the obligatory backstory. You play Talion. A Ranger struck down and resurrected with the life force of a fallen Elven warrior…. Who also happens to be the guy who forged the original rings for Sauron. You are on a quest to defeat Sauron (natch!) and forge a new ring free of the taint of dark magic.

Featuring a combat system that is almost identical to the original, and borrowed heavily from stablemate Batman: Arkham Assylum, the game is a real action brawler with moderate numbers of combos and finishers as well as parrys and counters. It still lacks the finesse of the Batman system, more often than not resulting in a massive button mashing, but it can still feel moderately satisfying taking down swathes of Orcs.

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Missions, side quests, hidden treasures and general brawling all help up your XP allowing for better and better loot to be equipped. This is usually dropped by captains and bodyguards but can sometime come from general grunts walking the lands. Story wise things are more than a little lacklustre, so interspersing the action with these side-quests (finding Shelob’s memories, locating statues to smash etc) helps bolster the game.

XP boosters in a full-price, single player game… Just no!

Whilst we’re talking about the story, it all feels a little unpleasant… You, as Talion, are supposed to be freeing the people of Middle-Earth and getting shot of the marauding Orc scum…. But it feels more like you’re doing a worse job of keeping the place safe than the Orcs… like you’re just rolling through these creatures with no regard for anything… comes off as a little “off” and you don’t really feel the best about yourself.

Traversing the massive open spaces is normally a delight. Movement is rapid and traversal up and over things is a joy – especially when you unlock some of the powers in the skill tree. It might be simple, but it still works very well, especially the ability to throw yourself off a high area and come screaming down to the ground without taking a single bit of fall damage. The game does a good job at times of making you feel like a total bad-arse!


The game looks reasonable. It runs smoothly at a pretty rock solid 30 FPS and on the PS4 Pro you get a toggle for Quality of Resolution. Opting for Quality seems to be the best as you get pretty much the same resolutions (the game uses a dynamic-scaler) but extra AA and luminosity as well as a great draw distance. Talion is does not move well or look good in motion… feels very framey and seems to jump about animation wise – especially notable with the dash move. Voice work, sound design, level design are all solid though.

By making Middle-Earth: Shadow of War MORE in every way Monolith have got themselves into a bit of a pickle… Loot is now convoluted to the point of silliness as is the general upgrade system with each unlock having multiple mini unlocks attached to them. Not to mention each weapon capable of taking slotted gems for different variety and strength all of which can be combined to form stronger versions of themselves.

If that wasn’t bad enough Shadow of War manages to truncate the process even more by throwing in loot crates and micro-transactions! Each crate offering a different element to the game (a lot of cosmetics but also Orcs and modifiers for when you’re playing the domination portion of the game – the over arching strategic part that sees you building small armies). These crates are NOT essential and I still felt like the game was handing me timely upgrades without the need to drop more cash. They’re still an intrusive thing… XP boosters in a full-price, single player game… Just no!


Final Thoughts

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War has some truly incredible moments. Sadly these all come from the random Nemesis system rather than the story arc of the game. The grudge matches that can form and the random weirdness the Orcs say and do all contribute to a unique experience for each player – there’s really nothing else like it on the market besides it’s predecessor.

There are several elements that look to derail the game and each knocks a little more shine from the armour. Having to hold down R1 for a few moments to collect a fallen item is frustrating, sometimes inaccurate, and the cause of several sweary deaths. The overly complicated upgrade and loot system also doesn’t help the overall game.

That said the little stories created by the Nemesis system within the huge sprawling world Monolith have created are worth consideration on their own. Could it be more engaging story-wise? Yes. Could it be better paced and look a bit nicer? Yes.

The old adage of “If you liked the first one, you’ll like this” really does ring true here as you’ll be getting more of the same, with a few extra frills added. For those who missed the first or who bounced off of it like I did I would heartily recommend giving it a chance to get it’s hooks into you… once you realise you’ve just spent the last 4 hours doing nothing but hunting down captains or Orcs who “done you wrong” you’ll understand the power the Nemesis system has.


The product under review was provided by the creator, manufacturer, publisher or their PR representative free of charge and without caveat. Please see our site review policy for more information.


Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.


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