I will be honest, when Shadow of War was first announced, and even though I had immensely enjoyed the first game, there were parts of me that felt that another game may get boring if most of the mechanics were the same, and the main reason I was looking forward to the game was due to how Celebrimbor and Talion’s story ended in the last one. After finally playing the game, I am glad that I was wrong, and realised why this game needed to happen.

Shadow of War takes place after the events of Shadow of Mordor where Celebrimbor and Talion manage to craft another ring, and in the opening hours of War manage to lose it to Shelob, who is apparently more seductive now, a far cry from her eight legged arachnid form.

What I mainly like about the story is that it presents an effective conflict in its two main protagonists.

What I mainly like about the story is that it presents an effective conflict in its two main protagonists. On one hand you have Celebrimbor, who is a cynical and resigned individual that only wants to get back the ring, while Talion cares deeply for the people of Gondor and puts their needs before his. This striking contrast often puts both of them at an impasse. It’s this debate back and forth between them about which objective is more important that is enjoyable. Even though the story does feel really loose at times or weird, Troy Baker’s cinematic direction has really prevented it from becoming anything infuriating as he has done a great job in framing each scene involving the characters.

The main gameplay loop is back, where you have to traverse around taking care of different Orcs through the nemesis system, which is an innovative and dynamic hierarchy system that produces foes with interesting traits as well as unique strengths and weaknesses. The Arkham-esque combat is back but with added abilities and traits as well but the essence remains mostly the same. However, the nemesis system has been vastly improved this time around with the added addition of Fortress based hierarchy where you have to take down your enemy residing in towering bases through epic sieges, but how you actually manage to do that is where the game’s most interesting addition lies.

The primary goal of the game is to start your own army in order to go against Talion’s biggest foes yet.

This time the game not only allows you to go against Orc armies, but instead start your own as you are now able to influence and recruit Orcs. In fact I may even say that the primary goal of the game is to start your own army in order to go against Talion’s biggest foes yet. Some of the Orc leaders you come across like Bruz, which most have seen at this year’s comical gameplay highlight for the game, are filled with personality and quirks that make them easily likable. A large part of this I would say is due to the excellent performances of the actors behind them. In fact the developers have even hired stars like Kumail Nanjiani, giving some of the Orcs a familiar sense of humour.

Where this system truly shines yet again however, is when it is not scripted. One of the best things about this game is that it has taken the best aspects of the emergent gameplay from the first one and polished it to make every encounter even more dynamic and personal. Your actions can have very real consequences in this game, and going on a killing spree means making more enemies who get more relentless the more you face them. Some even seemingly come back from the dead, carrying around the scars from the damage you inflicted on them. It feels scary, but most of all it feels satisfying when you go away with a unique narrative that is personal for you. Then there is the shaming mechanic which not only humiliates an enemy but makes them a laughing stock. It is very easy to create relentless maniacs who will stop at nothing to take you out for destroying their lives. I genuinely felt bad for them. The way all these features come together is so well done that I was personally glued to the screen for hours just unravelling the mess I had made killing someone.

The areas are quite large this time around with different sections marked by unique terrain and landmarks that manage to bring diversity to the world.

The areas are quite large this time around with different sections marked by unique terrain and landmarks that manage to bring diversity to the world. There are different tribes as well present within the game, with the devs releasing more as DLC that have their own behaviours and habits, so you have to keep changing your strategy in order to account for various factions.

There are more weapons and apparels this time around as well that can be either bought from the premium currency which you can obtain in game or picked up through gameplay, each with its own perks. Special equipment is also available through Celebrimbor’s flashback quests which give more of an insight to his character. It is really satisfying to control Celebrimbor as he is as brisk as he is deadly. Certain abilities of his can be unlocked and used during the main game as well that is paramount to getting out alive from certain fights.

It would have been better if the game allowed you to purchase what you wanted without having to gamble for them

Loot boxes are also something that exists in this game, granting players weapons and Orc leaders for your armies. Even though it does not feel intrusive since everything can be bought by playing with a bit of effort, it does feel unnecessary. I personally am not a huge fan of Loot boxes in single-player videogames since there is always an uncertainty to them. It would have been better if the game allowed you to purchase what you wanted without having to gamble for them. Still, all in all, it isn’t too much of a distracting feature but does feel unnecessary, artificially padding out the game’s grinding system by limiting what you get without paying.

Overall, Shadow of War is a fantastic game, especially for those that love emergent gameplay loops where your choices matter and meaningful narratives are crafted. Besides the campaign itself is really interesting as you go up against Ringwraith’s and ride Drakes during epic siege battle. Although it could have toned down a lot on the loot box system and used that effort for the game itself.



Author

Haris Iqbal
Haris Iqbal

I am a guy who loves anything with a powerful storyline, whether it be a game, book or movie, it doesn't matter. Just so long as it hooks me in and keeps my imagination captive till the last word/scene! Also, I am huge Silent Hill fan, so I love all things Silent Hill... and anything horror. Huge horror fanatic!