When Shadow of Mordor released in 2014, its “nemesis system” was brilliant enough that many people hoped it would define a new generation of games. Years later, that vision of industry-wide character hierarchies that learn, evolve, và remember the player never came khổng lồ pass. Shadow of War, the follow-up, further sophisticates its legion of orcs, but that niggling question of “wouldn’t this system be cool in a different game” still sneaks up on you. Và this time, given the limits of an expanded version of this system in a macabre world of orcs, it’s damning.

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Shadow of War stars Talion, a buff-and-gruff protagonist who would be generic were it not for the fact he is technically dead. Talion becomes known as ‘The Gravewalker’ thanks to lớn a vengeful elf wraith, Celebrimbor, who latches onto his body and keeps him alive. In the first game, Celebrimbor is introduced as the crafter of the Rings of Power—this is a Lord of The Rings game—and, by granting Talion otherworldly skills, he drafts him into a war to stop the forces of Sauron. By the kết thúc of Shadow of Mordor, Talion decides it is time for a new Ring of Power, one that cannot be tainted by the forces of evil. That’s where the second game takes off: Talion forges a ring to lớn fight against the return of Sauron, but wouldn’t you know it, things don’t go according lớn plan. Immediately, the ring falls into the wrong hands. You’d think any of the people involved would have learned by now.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a huge LOTR fan to enjoy Shadow of War. There are all sorts special quests & collectibles that dive into the larger lore if you’re into that, but the story, on the whole, is silly. Characters are paper-thin & their story lines are largely boring if not nonsensical. In one egregious example, a main character betrays their morals at the last second without much explanation. But the narrative shallowness doesn’t matter. You are here for the orcs—or, excuse me, the uruk-hai if we’re being pedantic.

Your eventual goal is lớn build an army of orcs khổng lồ defeat Sauron once & for all. This time around, your efforts are focused on the network of orcs who occupy/control various castles, each of which has its own chain of command. At the top, you’ve got mighty Overlords who run the place. You can’t just beeline khổng lồ the Overlord, chop his head off, và call it a day. You’ve got lớn thin the lower ranks & infiltrate the castle before you can overtake it. Beneath an Overlord are Warchiefs, each of which defends a regional fort & specific areas of a castle. Và each Warchief commands a wider pool of henchmen called Captains, which act as their bodyguards. While the upper echelons at the castle are initially phối in stone, the larger infantry constantly shifts & vies for power. Shadow of Mordor smartly packaged these politics by tying them khổng lồ orc culture itself, và Shadow of War widens the repertoire of events orcs can participate in.


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An orc might try climbing the ranks by leading a hunt, raiding a camp, or killing a rival, among other things. That’s where you come in. Shadow of War is an open-world action game, and you have the freedom lớn meddle in orc affairs however you see fit. The trò chơi is segmented into a handful of different regions, each with its own battalion of orcs, and you can roam between them at will. Sometimes, you might stumble into an orc sự kiện without even meaning to, because captains are everywhere. You’ll know exactly when you’ve found a high-ranking orc. Not only does the trò chơi pause lớn zoom up on their faces, often, grunt orcs burst into a welcoming chant. If these special orcs catch sight of you, they will introduce themselves. Most of the time, Captains và Warchiefs threaten or mock you as if they are cutting a pro wrestling promo on you, which immediately makes it personal. These aren’t just tough enemies. They’re calling you out, trying to lớn make you look like a fool. What are you going to vày about it?

These introductions are the cornerstone of the Shadow of War experience. Each one tells you the proficiencies of the orc, which, along with hãng sản xuất intel you can gather about their strengths & weaknesses, is info you’ll use to lớn attack your target. Maybe the orc is a “poisonous terror tracker” or a “cursed mystic trickster.” More importantly, it gives you a better look at your orc. Each one is randomly generated, with its own facial features, voice-acting, clothes, weapons, & class. Dig a little deeper and you’ll know what they’re into, what hurts them & what throws them into a rage. Throughout it all, I felt like I was on some messed-up dating site, browsing orc profiles, except they all contained sensitive health information for some reason. I was always excited when I crossed a cool or handsome orc that that had unusual abilities, because it was more likely that my fight with them would be memorable. I hated when I came across ugly or boring orcs, because there was a greater chance I wouldn’t remember them after the fact.

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All of this will sound familiar if you played the first game, but the difference is in scope. The underlying ethos of Shadow of War seems to lớn be more. More types of orcs, for instance: in the 45 hours I spent with the game, I kept seeing new stuff all the way khổng lồ the end. Your playgrounds are bigger this time around, stocked with more points of interest, quests, collectables, và types of toys lớn torment your prey. The number of things you can vì chưng in this game is overwhelming at first, because you’re barely eased into it. It’s all just there from the get-go, though you might not know how to lớn use it for best effect. Maps are bursting with things lượt thích spider sacs, deadly fly nests, beasts, and drinking wells, all of which you can manipulate to lớn terrorize orcs. There are also plenty of combat options: you can sneak, you can teleport, you can materialize animals or allies, you can freeze and poison enemies—the menu goes on and on. Và with Talion’s ability khổng lồ swiftly climb everything, the trò chơi often feels like it is brimming with possibility.

Even minor things have complexity. Every ability in the skill tree has three sub-abilities, only one of which you can activate at a time. All gear has stats and can be upgraded khổng lồ grant you extra skills, like setting an enemy on fire, provided you complete a gear-specific challenge first. All gear has sockets, where you can add upgradeable gems that grant extra health, damage, and more. There are even daily challenges now. A lot of this didn’t feel essential lớn the experience, nor did it feel lượt thích it improved the game. Some of it didn’t even make sense. For instance: if the ring I crafted at the start of the game was so unique & mighty, why was I equipping rings dropped from random orcs?

Regardless of all this new stuff, I fell into a familiar pattern playing Shadow of War. First, I’d go into a camp, any camp. I’d walk through the front door, as if everything was cool. Someone would always sound the alarm to lớn sic more orcs on me, but I didn’t care. Talion is so powerful that you can kill or run away from anyone with ease, at least on Normal difficulty. Then, I’d go into Wraith World, a detective-style mode that lets you see things of interest, like footprints or distant orcs, even through walls. I’d pinpoint orcs who had information on Captains và Warchiefs, và I’d go after them. Once within my grasp, I’d “dominate” them, forcing them khổng lồ tell me what they know. I was never certain why Mordor’s leadership let so many grunts walk around with such valuable information, but hey. Within 10 minutes, I would have a full dossier on every orc of interest. Then, it was time to track them down.

Once in their vicinity, it was time to lớn plan. I’d scope out the map and see what I could use against the Captain or Warchief. Any listed weaknesses would be go-tos, but you aren’t always lucky enough lớn have any of that stuff lying around. If you’re patient, you can wait around to see if the Captain walks by a Caragor pen that you want lớn blow open, or a campfire that you can detonate, as two quick examples. Certain attacks or scenarios can “daze” Captains and Warchiefs, and you can capitalize on it by railing on them with your sword, bow, or dagger.

Fights are hardly ever one-on-ones, however, as you are constantly surrounded by lesser grunts who all attack you at once. You can handle it, though. Shadow of War’s combat system, which is lifted from its publisher’s Batman Arkham series, make combos the name of the game. The higher your combo, the more damage you do. Big hit streaks power up your ‘Might,’ which you can use to do special moves lượt thích Executions. Every kill within this beefs up your ‘Wrath,’ which, once full, allows you khổng lồ unleash ‘Elven Rage,’ a move that slows down time to give you unlimited Executions. The trick to lớn maintaining a high streak is anticipating và parrying external attacks, which threatens khổng lồ pull you out of a combo. You can also deploy special moves in-between regular hits without snapping your streak. Thus, all battles followed a certain tempo, almost as if you are mentally juggling a soccer ball. Even death had a certain rhythm khổng lồ it, thanks khổng lồ “Last Chance” button prompts that can save you.

The beauty of it all is that, no matter how much carefully you plot an orc death, things can and do go wrong. The fun is in learning to improvise while everything goes to lớn shit. One time, I landed a critical that mix my sword, along with all the dry grass surrounding me, on fire. Orcs ran in every direction, screaming, và before long, I was on fire, too. Another time, I was hunting a specific orc, only khổng lồ encounter two different orcs who were feuding with one another. I barely escaped, only to have yet another orc, this time an assassin, sneak attack me. I killed that one, only khổng lồ stumble on yet another captain while I was low on health. He was looking for revenge on his brother, who I had fought earlier that day. What he didn’t know was that brother wasn’t actually dead. Fun fact: sometimes, orcs come back to life, stronger, angrier và uglier than before. None of those compare to the pain of having a grunt kill you, though. Any orc on the totem pole fortuitous enough lớn land the last blow on Talion can get promoted into a Captain. It only happened a couple of times for me, but no matter what I was doing before, I would always drop everything to lớn go after these assholes. How dare they?

In the first game, figuring out unwritten rules of the nemesis system was a constant source of delight. This time around, some of that sheen has worn off. I knew for example, going in, that orcs could come back from death, và I knew that enemies would remember our encounters. By comparison, all the other ‘twists’ didn’t feel like a big deal. Things like surprise attacks from assassins felt less like like like interesting curveballs than they did annoyances, lượt thích blocking a troll on Twitter only to have them come back under a slightly different username. The only time the trò chơi surprised me was the time an orc accidentally killed me and broke my best sword with his bare hands. Even then, Talion outclassed him so profoundly in their next encounter, và my revenge was so immediate, that the whole exchange felt like a trifle. The trò chơi gifted me a more souped-up version of the blade I had lost, which could have been a trophy, except soon afterward, I replaced that sword with something that had a higher attack. At some point, I must have destroyed that weapon for points. I don’t even remember the orc’s name now, or his face.