PS4 Game ReviewsMiddle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

Members Login: Register | Why sign up? | Forgot Password?

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

More Game Info (Print This Article)

Graphics:

 

8.5

Gameplay:

 

8.8

Sound:

 

9.0

Control:

 

8.4

Replay Value:

 

9.1

Overall Rating:       8.7

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Developer:

Monolith Productions

Number Of Players:

1-4

Genre:

Action/Adventure

Release Date:

September 30, 2014

What do you get when you combine the fantastical, intriguing open world of Assassin’s Creed and the legendary J.R.R. Tolkien atmosphere? The answer should be obvious: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. You will climb tall buildings, sneak up on unsuspecting enemies, engage in pitched battles with multiple foes, and face down terrifying bosses. In other words, if you’ve always been a “Lord of the Rings” fan and you typically enjoy Ubisoft’s AC series, this is the game for you. From fluid, satisfying combat to great adventure and platforming mechanics, Middle-earth is well worth exploring.

One could argue that a somewhat unstable frame rate puts a damper on an otherwise impressive visual presentation. While it’s true the game isn’t quite as stable as I would’ve liked, there are many wonderfully appointed locales. These well-designed and engaging areas bring you deep inside an admittedly foreboding landscape, and you’re immersed from the get-go. Toss in some very pretty special effects and animations, and the result is a technically accomplished, wildly involving production. I would’ve liked to see some brighter, more charming locales, but such places aren’t overrun with the murderous Uruk-hai, now are they?

The gritty sound effects and sweeping soundtrack take center-stage during this adventure, as the terrifying grunts and growls of your foes contrast with the nicely selected orchestral score. Sauron’s demonic presence has brought darkness to a once-quaint land and you not only see this taint with every step, you hear it, too. The voice acting is excellent and despite not having Andy Serkis for Gollum, the developers found a worthy replacement in Liam O’Brien. In short, the production values, sans the iffy frame rate, are super high, and fans of Tolkien will appreciate the fantastic attention to detail.

The graphics and sound give the player a front-row seat for the end of the world. Well, it’s only the end if Sauron has his way, and you’re out to stop him. Blending the rhythmic combat and parkour platforming of an Assassin’s Creed with the deep, beautifully written “Middle-earth” folklore, Shadow of Mordor places you in the highly capable boots of a ranger named Talion. He’s quite literally a split-personality, as a bitter, angry wraith also calls Talion’s body home. However, it’s important to note that by all rights, Talion should be dead; this ghostly spirit keeps him alive. It’s an intriguing partnership that does indeed have an impact on the story and gameplay.

The designers don’t do enough with such a promising plot line, though, and there are missed opportunities with other characters as well. There’s just so much amazing description and imagination in all of Tolkien’s characters, and they feel somewhat thin and underwhelming in this quest. At the same time, the major characters get their just due: Talion is an interesting, conflicted character, for example, and Gollum is…well, Gollum. I’ve always found him to be an extraordinarily sad and disconcerting character, and his depiction in Middle-earth fits this mental image to a “T.”

As for control, Assassin’s Creed veterans will have no trouble adapting to the basic maneuvering. The Free Run in Ubisoft’s franchise relies on holding down a single button, and you do the same thing in Shadow of Mordor. This ties into the silky smooth animations, which only dip when that inconsistent frame rate stutters and sputters. I would like to clarify that although this is the second time I’ve mentioned the frame rate problem, it is not a deal-breaking flaw. A bigger issue results from a lack of fine-tuned movement, as what should be short, simple actions become overblown when the character misinterprets your command.

Yes, that’s another similarity to the Assassin’s Creed series, where timing, dexterity, and a light touch are required for precision maneuvering. Some may find this off-putting but once you get used to it, you’ll be zipping across the charred landscape with ease. Furthermore, it’s plenty easy enough to execute stealth kills, and the rhythmic nature of the combat rewards the timely and strategic. Just get into the flow of battle, block and parry, and stab when the timing’s right. However, don’t think you can sit in the middle of a swarming band of Uruk-Hai and emerged unscathed, simply by countering every attack.

The fighting system here is a bit more demanding than that. In fact, there are times when you’re so overmatched that you must simply beat a hasty retreat. This results in the player taking a more cautious approach when traversing the war-torn environment, and I appreciate the added strategy. It means my pulse rate rises when approaching a new area, which I know is overrun by the enemy. If I’m going to sneak around, I better be very careful, or I might find myself facing an oncoming charge of 20 or 30 snarling, bloodthirsty foes. Of course, these Orcs aren’t very bright, so it’s usually a better idea to sneak up on them, anyway.

To be clear, the AI isn’t that great. Even though Orcs are pretty stupid, there are times when they should’ve heard me or saw me, and I passed by undetected. That being said, it remains true that charging into a group of foes is hardly the best tactic, as the game always encourages you to first observe. Take your time, plan an attack, and execute with cold, brutal efficiency. That’s usually the best way to deal with the invading hordes, as they’ve only got strength in numbers. Their intelligence and leadership is mediocre at best, so the smart warrior takes advantage of that lacking. The smarter you are, the better off you’ll be when dealing with a Captain.

The arrival of the Captain is a dramatic one. This ill-intentioned chieftain promises your grisly demise and the first time you see him, he might be right. Each time you die and return, he’ll wonder what happened: Are you that ranger’s twin brother? How do you keep cheating death? You’d think it’d be more comical than anything else but it actually works. The sheer number of responses a Captain has at his disposal is incredible; it’ll be a while before you start hearing the same responses. On top of this, you can capture and interrogate enemies, which will give you the skinny on a Captain’s strengths and weaknesses.

As such, this is a well-established, robust adventure that makes you think. The Nemesis system is another big bonus, as your experiences won’t be identical to anyone else’s. The enemies are randomized, which means what you encounter in any given location won’t be exactly what anyone else encounters. Therefore, whether you’re gaining intel from your dominated foe or unleashing a fury of strikes on your hapless victims, it’ll always be fresh. Conceivably, this means that future play-throughs will feel very different, although you might not have time after finishing this campaign, which runs between 25 and 30 hours.

Another huge bonus is that you don’t learn every useful ability in the first few hours. During the second half of the adventure, you learn even more skills: Toward the end, you can command individual captains and assist them in battle, which gives the game a very interesting twist. Granted, there’s not much of a narrative associated with your travels or the Nemesis system, and you have to be content with reading a lot of the lore you find. Again, though, this is hardly anything new in the realm of open-world games. With the exception of some questionable AI and a plot actually worthy of Tolkien, this title has a huge amount going for it.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a game that delivers the fantasy goods in spades. The ultra-anal Tolkien lovers might take issue with Talion and how the game is presented, and the AI and frame-rate issues are clear. That being said, this remains a wildly immersive, engaging adventure with an excellent combination of action and platforming elements. The Nemesis system, finding ways to take down fearsome enemy Captains, interrogating foes, and just exploring a world begging to be relieved of its dark oppression…it’s a heady experience, to be sure. If you thought you had written your holiday schedule in stone and Shadow of Mordor wasn’t included in those plans, it’s time to reassess.

The Good: Great world and sound design throughout. Challenging combat encourages caution and tact. Fluid animations and solid control. Nemesis system is a great, innovative addition. Stellar blend of stealth, action, platforming and adventure elements. Extremely fun and rewarding.

The Bad: AI is questionable. Precise maneuvering takes some practice. Not quite enough done with the plot and characters.

The Ugly: “Orcs are dumb but they can’t be this dumb.”

9/30/2014 Ben Dutka

Put this on your webpage or blog:
Email this to a friend
Follow PSX Extreme on Twitter

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Share on MySpace Share on Delicious Share on Digg Share on Google Buzz Share via E-Mail Share via Tumblr Share via Posterous




New Comment System


Legacy Comment System (45 posts)


Danny007
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 8:38:18 PM
Reply

Man, I gotta say, I don't know what the Lord of the Rings is all about, but I've been so distant from my PS4 that I was willing to buy any new game.
I thought this looked like it might be good, but I wasn't sure. I ended up just buying it anyways to give it a try and I gotta tell ya, this game is so much fun. I freakin' love it. Maybe my favorite game of the year. I hope it sells very well cause it deserves it.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 9:31:43 PM

I suggest after you enjoy you move on to the books and movies, the world of J.R.R. Tolkein's LotR is the greatest fantasy epic endeavor ever undertaken or achieved.

Agree with this comment 7 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Danny007
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 10:38:27 PM

I plan on it!

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

kraygen
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 1:25:51 AM

The Hobbit is the best.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Palpatations911
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 4:22:12 AM

Watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It is up there with other movie franchises like Star Wars, Godfather and Aliens in terms of quality.

Please be advised that each movie is around 3 hours long though =)

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 7:38:15 AM

The Hobbit movies (the two so far)are, like the book, aimed more for children. Good, but true epic feels come from watching the LoTR trilogy.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Vivi_Gamer
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 9:02:48 AM

It's the only fantasy epic, which is part of the problem as the whole fantasy genre cant seem to escape what Tolkein established. Still I have no problem with Lord of the Rings, but I confess I did find the first Hobbit movie dragged on for far too long - especially playing games with Gollum. I didn't see second the part.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

matt99
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 10:06:13 AM

In addition to what Palpitations said, watch the extended trilogy! And on Blu Ray!

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

kraygen
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 2:11:02 PM

The Hobbit may be simpler, but it is a fantastic story. I haven't seen the movies, from the trailers it seems to have very little to do with the book.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 8:58:22 PM
Reply

Glad to see you getting a chance to check out an awesome AAA title Ben. I look forward to checking this out.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 9:28:25 PM
Reply

Wow, I love LotR but have avoided all the games like the plague. Maybe this one I shouldn't.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

fatelementality
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 9:46:26 PM

The Return of the King for PS2 was really the last decent one. This blows it outta the water though.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

xenris
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 12:15:27 AM

Return of the King was very awesome. I actually liked Lord of the Rings war in the North as well but it was very generic in a lot of ways.

This game everyone seems to be raving about so I think I will pick it up at some point, it looks like a good time.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Temjin001
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 10:35:57 AM

I played all them LotR hack 'n slashers on PS2.

It was great killing all those ninjas in them =p

(The Aragorn actor was interviewed about what he thought about those games and he said it was neat seeing himself as a videogame character fighting all those ninjas)

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Temjin001
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 7:18:36 PM

so world doesn't it make you somewhat not want to play it because it has so much AC infleuance?

Personally, that sort of bothers me about it. I already feel like I have too much AC'ishness from AC alone, re-skinning it with Tolkien and altering some mechanics doesn't seem enough for me.
I'll catch it on some blow out sale months from now. Oh, yes, this has price cuts written all over it.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

fatelementality
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 9:43:21 PM
Reply

The fighting system reminds me of the Arkham series more than anything. I see elements of AC & FC3 as well in the parkour, the map & the terrorizing animal rampages. Great game. Just doesn't quite break the mold. Beautful looking though. This will fill the void till Witcher 3.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 9:46:49 PM

No Inquisition?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Geobaldi
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 10:22:02 PM
Reply

Easily one of the best games to have come out in the last few months. This will hold me until Alien comes next week.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 11:10:50 PM

I have such high hopes for Alien.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Vivi_Gamer
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 8:57:14 AM

That is very daring after Colonial Marines....

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 12:37:01 PM

Why would my expectations for a game be diminished because of a different game based on a different movie made by a different developer?

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Solid Fantasy
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 @ 11:46:03 PM
Reply

Weather I ever pick this up or not. When I get home I'm going to go for another watchthrough of the trilogy. All deleted scenes and all in HD! Can't wait for The Hobbit trilogy to do the same thing.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

matt99
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 10:08:31 AM

I got the game and it's great but I really want to watch the trilogy again too aha, so 30 hours of the game and about 10 more for the movies

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Solid Fantasy
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 10:28:48 AM

It's at least 10 hours. Maybe closer to 15.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

telly
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 11:05:43 AM

I'm definitely asking for the trilogy on blu ray this holiday season :) I can't believe it but this game has rekindled my interest in Middle Earth stuff yet again.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

kraygen
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 1:28:55 AM
Reply

I have been very interested in this game, but all the comparison to Assasins Creed has me worried.

To be fair I've only played a few minutes of any AC since the first, but I hated the controls on the first one so much and the other one I played seemed so much like it that I never picked up another one.

Did AC's control scheme ever have a drastic change after the first game? If not I will probably just pass on this game if it is really that similar.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

matt99
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 10:10:53 AM

Ya the control scheme has changed a lot in AC, it's much more fluid now or at least I think so. But I've found this game to play more like the Arkham series than AC so I think you'd be okay with this game (unless of course you hate the Arkham controls aha)

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

kraygen
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 2:15:17 PM

honestly I've only played the first one so far because while it was the best batman game ever made, I still didn't care for it.

The fat man waddle that is often done with unreal engine was prevalent and combat that requires you to push only 2 buttons but requires you to push them precisely at the right time in the midst of big flourishing videos just bores me.

So even if this is more like arkham than ac that only makes me feel like I was right to think about skipping this even though I had high hopes for it.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Turbey
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 3:09:21 AM
Reply

People are gonna Tolkien about this for a long time.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Palpatations911
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 4:19:12 AM
Reply

Why is this game so much smaller than the PC version?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

matt99
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 10:13:16 AM

Because the PC version comes with an Ultra HD texture pack that requires 6GB of VRAM, for the few lucky people who have such an insane gaming rig.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Rachet_JC_FTW
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 5:59:02 AM
Reply

i have read part of the reivew will finish it tomaro in the morning my time but i have a really good feeling about this game looks like alot of potential just like the order

but i will put another word in after i read the other half or so tomaro NZ time

happy gaming

Agree with this comment 2 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Temjin001
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 10:37:41 AM
Reply

Seems like it might be pretty cool beca.... ahh screw I'm just gonna play more Destiny.
(help. help. I didn't even feel like playing it the other night but I did anyway. it's like I'm hooked. It must be a MMO effect I'm not used to yet)

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

telly
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 11:01:16 AM
Reply

I thought I was completely burned out on LoTR stuff -- it just feels like Game of Thrones' moment these days. The show is utterly fantastic -- after Mad Men goes off the air next year, it will be the uncontested best show on TV, in my opinion -- and it's more dark and cynical take on the fantasy epic is utterly intoxicating. I thought I was ready for a break from Middle Earth.

But this game sounds utterly fantastic. My copy is sitting at home right now, can't wait to find a few hours this week to jump in. The only question for me is not whether I'll like it -- this game seems to have everything I could want and much more -- but whether I'm going to ever go back to the mediocre-at-best Destiny once I get into it.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Axe99
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 6:16:55 PM

Game of Thrones is good and all, but there's a couple of classes of difference between the attention to detail and storytelling in Tolkien's work and that of George RR Martin. You can tell one was a professor and the other a journalist ;). Note: Peter Jackson does a pretty good job of dragging LoTR down to (the still high) GoT level.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

telly
Thursday, October 02, 2014 @ 11:00:46 AM

Oh, no question Tolkien was a masterful writer, one of the twentieth century's very best, and league's better than Martin. I honestly don't care much for Martin's prose, but I do find the world he's constructed, and the interplay between the disparate characters and countries, very intriguing.

Lord of the Rings IS the better series, and it's not close. Thankfully it's not an either/or choice, and we can all read, watch and play games from both worlds :)

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

PS3_Wizard
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 11:34:53 AM
Reply

I played this game for 7 hours straight last night after I got home from work. Can't remember the last time that happened. I nominate this game for sleeper hit of the year.

I literally ran around killing numerous captains and random grunts for 5 hours before I even attempted the first story mission. The possibilities are endless.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

big6
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 12:02:52 PM
Reply

Can anyone comment on the multiplayer aspects? Is it coop campaign?

Multiplayer is what interests me the most. That will determine if I'll buy it or not. Thanks

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

PS3_Wizard
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 1:35:07 PM

There is no multiplayer.

Hey Ben, you think in the future when you do reviews you could include the resolution and numbers of players each game supports?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

big6
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 2:57:03 PM

But Ben has it written down as "Number of Players: 1-4".

Shouldn't that say "1", then??

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

PS3_Wizard
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 5:15:55 PM

Yeah it's just 1 player. Im looking at the back of the case now.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lone Wanderer
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 3:57:28 PM
Reply

So far the only multiplayer aspect I've seen (and done) is you can avenge the death of Psn users who died in the game.BTW this game is absolutely amazing! Having so much fun.;)

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Axe99
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 @ 6:17:36 PM
Reply

Cheers for the review Ben :). It's not out in Australia until the 8th of October, but am looking forward to it :).

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Alcaeus
Sunday, October 05, 2014 @ 1:04:03 PM
Reply

You say LotR fans should likes this, but from what I can tell this game has nothing to do with the Lord of the Rings universe? Yeah, they placed it in that setting, but apart from that they just seem to be raping the lore...

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

VictorDeLeon
Monday, October 06, 2014 @ 5:00:16 AM
Reply

I don't care about those : "AI is bad" comments, with our technology AI will never be like a human, the characters you encounter have coding that make up for their perceptions and reactions, so it will never be close to the perception and resourcefulness a huma has

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Leave a Comment

Please login or register to leave a comment.

Our Poll

How often do you visit the site?
Once a day
Several times a day
Every few days
Once a week
This is my first visit
I've never been here, even now I am not here

Previous Poll Results