|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Monolith Productions|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Release: October 10, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence|
And the better you get at it and more you accomplish in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the more Talion grows. There is a rather large skill tree to fill out with points as you make your way across the zones and face Sauron’s forces. Some of these are absolute necessities. Execution and Perfect Counter are two of them, especially since Perfect Counter’s Fatal Counter instantly kills grunts. Unfortunately, the most useful of all is locked away behind Gondorian artifact collection. Normally, you need to hold the trigger button after items drop in the world to collect them, and the base Treasure Hunter skill automatically collects such things. Its upgrades only prove even more useful, resulting in better quality gear and gems or speedier dominations. As for the other abilities, they allow you to build a specialized Talion and make your experience feel more personal and suited to your own strategies.
Then, there are the fortress siege battles. As much fun as it is to amble around and fight people around the world, these major attacks where you have a real sense of purpose give a sense of focus that the rest of the game can sometimes feel like it lacks. Before you can head in, you have to build up an assault force level by gathering an army of recruited orc captains and purchase upgrades for them ahead of the mission. You can take out Warchiefs ahead of time, making their fighters people who are secretly on your side, so they will betray them when you face them. And the overlord fights are really well done, with bosses that provide a real challenge. It is an engaging process that gives you a reason to fool around Middle-earth, completing smaller missions, recruiting orcs, and earning in-game currency, all so you can be prepared for these major events in various acts.
The downside is, these sieges make your orcs, ones you’ve worked with and come to like, disposable. When you participate in a siege, you are going to lose some of your allies. Even if you bolstered your ranks, they will die. And this happens when you are forced to defend your fortresses. This is where the whole loot box controversy could come in. It could be so tempting to pay real cash for some immediate epic and legendary Orcs who will have a far better chance of surviving than spending all the time and effort to find them in the field, fight them, dominate them, use orders to improve them, and maybe have them ready for an assault, only to lose them after one attack. By the end of the second act, I was starting to feel some real frustration when I would lose characters. But, it isn’t difficult to find epic and legendary orcs by the time you get to this point. It is easy enough to enjoy the game without spending any money. Rather, it just ends up making your efforts up to the siege feel a little pointless, since hours of work were gone in one major battle, forcing you to go through more hours of preparation before getting to that enjoyable major battle again.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a definite improvement over Shadow of Mordor. People who played the first game and wanted to see serious growth will be pleased. There are times when it can feel a bit repetitive. I feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I could have spread the experience out over weeks, picking away at segments and really building up to those major sieges. But the Nemesis system does feel stronger this time around, with orcs that can be rather delightful as you continually fight them or prepare them to serve your own purposes in your army. If you don’t take the story too seriously, you should have a good enough time.