One of the most critically acclaimed LOTR games goes under the PGE microscope.
JRR Tolkien’s masterful trilogy was a major influence on the high fantasy genre and has become a multibillion dollar IP that spans everything from movies and theater to action figures and video games. On the video game front, LOTR has created 36 officially licensed games. While the universe is portrayed well in each one of these game, the critical reception has been inconsistent at best. The latest installment has received high praise and was even mentioned in many game of the year conversations. But is it a perfect experience? Let’s take a look.
Shadow of Mordor
I loved the introduction of the Nemesis System and feel like this new mechanic makes the game feel like it belongs on the new gaming system, but I have to agree with Matt Miller’s Game Informer review when it comes to the overall package. Real good, but not quite great. Here’s how it breaks down against our PGE criteria.
Running around Mordor with lead character Talion was a trip. I truly felt like a ranger behind enemy lines and it was fantastic. If you’ve only experienced LOTR through the books or movies, covertly taking down the Mordor army is more fun than you imagined. It’s delightfully brutal, yet accessible and satisfying. The gameplay kept me locked in as I’d gladly take on the next horde of orcs roaming around the bend when traveling between missions.
There are no real safe zones on the map, so you’re always in danger of getting attack by a horde of angry orcs/uruks/goblins. Fortunately, fending off the attack manages to steer clear of frustration. There’s enough variety in the abilities that you can test different strategies if your initial attempt proves feeble. Missions aren’t excruciating, but more often than not you’re forced to pull from your plethora of abilities to get past specific missions rather than simply hacking your way through the story. Things get a little stale towards the end of the campaign, but there was enough mission variety and collectables along the way to keep the experience fresh each time I sat down to play.
The Nemesis System inherently presents multiple ways to complete specific tasks. The more you play by it’s rules, the easier it gets. However, by the end of the campaign I felt less challenged than I did during the middle 50% and unlocking the final mission felt more like a chore than culmination of all the training missions that got me there.
Shadow of Mordor was teaching me how to play by its rules all the way up to the penultimate story mission. This was troubling. I’d much prefer getting the majority of my “training” done sooner so that I can be let out into the wild to exploit my new found talents. Instead, I was being taught new aspects of the game with each NPC that I met. One character that’s encountered shortly after unlocking the 2nd half of the game actually taught me an ability that I had figured out on my own within the first 30 minutes of the game.
Of course, you’re free to execute all sorts of side quests, search for collectables and partake in general orc hunting in-between story missions, but those activities felt empty enough in comparison that I wanted to focus on continuing Talion’s story over exploring and causing general chaos.
Main Game: Excellent
I was immediately pulled into the tangential story-line that SOH presents against the backdrop of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There was obvious care that went into wrapping the world with the deep mythology blanket that is the LOTR universe. In short, the world is gorgeous. It’s beautifully dark, grungy, and creepy.
Living on top of the digital world of Mordor are characters with robust bios, artifacts that uncover meaningful story elements, and enemies with personality. Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment did an excellent job of including content for both newcomers and veterans of the franchise. As a long time fan of the franchise, the in-game lore was presented well and I found myself eagerly diving into the menus each time I encountered something new.
Extension: Unexceptional - Official Shadow of Mordor Palantir - Fan Fueled by Wikia (Free)
(Evaluation written by Aaron Campbell, Rated M Gaming Network)
After spending some time with the Shadow of Mordor app I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it's a pretty informative app that's nicely laid out. You can pick a mission, read up on it, watch a walk through and get background information on the races involved.
It does a good job of presenting Wikia data in a similar fashion to the IGN Skyrim wiki app that released last generation. If you're having difficulty with a particular mission it's definitely a useful tool to have access to.
But in the other hand it's an app that feels like it would be right at home releasing 5 years ago. The gimmick of listening to your game audio and displaying the relevant mission information feels old in a time when games can link to their second screen apps directly. It doesn't give you any real time information regarding the areas you are in (at least not during my time with it)
If you're engaging with the nemesis system outside of story missions it can't give you any relevant data on the captain you're taking on. When I did enter a mission I must admit I was impressed that I was able to quickly display the appropriate page. But once the mission was over it went back to being useless.
The biggest flaw with the "listening" feature became apparent when I settled down to an evening of gaming with my headset on. Once I shut off the surround sound the app had nothing to listen too so it missed all the audio queues from missions. Its something what shouldn't happen with a true second screen experience.
There’s a lot of fantastic pieces to SOH. When considered individually, they’re beautifully produced elements of gaming. However, when you start to put the puzzle together it’s clear that they don’t all fit together as well as you’d like.
Final Verdict: Not Perfect
Here’s the list of games that I’m planning on tackling next in my quest to find the Perfect Gaming Experience.
PGE Game Queue: (in no particular order)
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Grand Theft Auto V
Feel free to post a comment if there are any games you think I should add to the list. Keep in mind that they must have a game extension of some sort (e.g. mobile app) in order to fit the Perfect Gaming Experience criteria.
See you online!
Rated M Gaming Network
XBL: Broke Box