Nowadays it takes a little more to make a game stand out from the crowd as the market is simply so saturated- but the Lord of the Rings brand always helps. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was a game that I wasn’t hugely looking forward to at release in September 2014. It was the kind of game that I didn’t even know I wanted until I played it. But this game is absolutely worth playing for any fan of The Lord of the Rings, or of good open world gameplay for that matter. In a genius move Monolith Games have taken the best fluid movement from Assassin’s Creed, the free-flow combat mechanics from the Batman: Arkham games and whipped it all up together in a beautifully imagined Lord of the Rings universe.
It is absolutely fun and satisfying to play, offering huge freedom in how the player approaches each scenario. But I want to talk about one feature in particular: the unique in-depth and ingenious Nemesis System which tracks Orc Chieftains and Uruk Leaders in an organic and evolving environment. Killing a chieftain can have huge ramifications, weakening the rest of the clan or leaving openings for underlings to rise up and take power. Dying at the hands of a leader on the other hand increases their strength and standing within their factions. Each target has unique personality traits such as fears and weaknesses that can be exploited in battle. Everything in this system makes the world feel like it is constantly evolving and is the crowning glory of the game.
Shadow of Mordor is an example of a powerful combination of world building, narrative, gameplay and sound creating a memorable and standout experience that draws you into its premise and gives you reason to keep returning. It is one of my favourite games on this console generation.