Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC) (2014)

Overview: An action-adventure RPG set in Middle-earth and takes place between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.*

One of two protagonists, Talion (right), faces an Uruk Captain.

*Technically the game isn't canon and doesn't truly belong to the story, but if it did, then that's when it would take place.

The game was free for the weekend but I was traveling and didn't have the internet speed to download it.

[20181027 Edit]

The first full day home after traveling, I just felt like watching movies and so I spent most of the day doing so. Then at around nine o'clock in the evening I decided to start downloading the game. Unfortunately, it hadn't occurred to me that the game's files totaled a whopping 42 GB! With my internet connection, that was going to take two to three hours to download! Feeling tired, I fell asleep while waiting for the download to finish.

[20181027 Edit]

20170709 AM Hours:
Fortunately, I woke up a little before two in the morning (2AM) and started playing the game (if I hadn't woken up, there would have been a chance I miss the free-to-play window altogether).

With just six percent completion, I stopped playing at around 6:20 AM.

Preparing to stealth kill a urinating Uruk.

Game Time: ~ 263 min (2:00 AM - 6:23 AM)

[20181027 Edit]

When I woke up, I resumed the game and played it nonstop - in part because the trial officially expired at 10 AM, but Steam didn't force me to quit (at 10 AM). As such, I was able to continue playing past the official expiration time. Abusing this design, I left the game open on pause while I ate and used the restroom.

Playing the game with the mindset of it being free allowed me to take chances and make mistakes (such as dying and tossing runes, etc.). With that being said, I played the game as I would any other adventure game, with minimal use of online help. In fact, I only noted looking up a video for "Cutting the Lines" after I had tried three times and died. Personally I tried to kite and replenish but apparently the flaw in this strategy was that the spawn rate was faster than my kill rate. Solution: attracting the Caragors was my key to victory.

Tip: When looking to ground execute an Uruk, get on the other side of him first to make it harder for other Uruks to interrupt the execution (or more time before deciding to bale on an execution and counter the new attacker).

Intel on a Uruk Warchief.

A little after 11 PM, I finally decide to stop playing. (39% Completion)

While Steam didn't allow me to play more, the game was still on sale for $4. I had so much fun that I considered buying it before going to bed. I did not, however, end up buying the game and decided to sleep on the purchase.

[20170711][20181027 Edit]

Unfortunately, I woke up late and the sale had expired. Oh well.

[20181027 Edit]

Fortunately, early this morning, I was searching for Shadow of Mordor and saw the game on sale for $3! I immediately decided to buy it.*

*The deal would expire just a couple hours later.

[20181027 Edit]

Ledge kill.

Steam Game Time: 18.1 hours total

Fighting Mechanics:
+ Thoroughly satisfying.
+ Doesn't grow old; there's a lot of variation
+ New abilities get added/can be unlocked as progress through the main story is achieved
~ Some of the fighting mechanics lack transparency; for example, critical strike, focus (why can't I choose when to use focus), and drain vs. stealth drain.

Traversing Mechanics:
+ Generally fluid; almost feels like you can climb anything
+ Animation is beautiful
~ Not always intuitive; sometimes messes up, but usually doesn't put too much a damper on the overall experience

Unlocking skills.

Stealth Mechanics:
+ Stealth kills are fun, but get repetitive.
~ Not as detailed as a stealth game; sometimes you can walk in front of an orc but far enough away
- At times the stealth makes the game too easy. For example, attract an orc, stealth ledge kill, rinse and repeat. Sometimes another orc is nearby. Really? He didn't notice I just pulled his friend down from the ledge?

Boss Related Gameplay:
~ Gathering intel on bosses is fun at first. But it gets tedious. Especially if I died and new orcs join the ranks. Annoying.
~ Similarly, the hierarchy is fun at first.
- Sometimes too many bosses will spawn. And it's hard enough to kill certain bosses with regular enemies. This causes a drawn out resources game or attempting to single out the boss.

Other Mechanics:
+ The rune system is decent; could have been improved with the ability to save a rune profile; also if all three rune pages were just shown at once; maybe a drag and drop system instead of clicking on a rune slot before seeing and choosing a rune as well
+ Riding caragors is fun.

After enough free-the-slave missions, slaves will occasionally help Talion fight Uruks.

~ Lots of items to collect
- It would have been nice to collect herbs and store them on hand for healing on the fly. Instead it's this strange all-or-nothing. Most of the time when I'm casually going across the world and pass a plant I don't need it. Then When I'm in a fight, I wish I could heal.
- Running from caragors and/or killing them is annoying. Maybe that's the point. They are fearsome beasts. Hint: when possible, run them towards a group of orcs to refocus aggro.

The main reason I enjoy the game is for the fighting. After about fifteen hours into the game, fighting and moving became intuitive and any fight that didn't involve a boss often felt as fluid as watching a movie. Run up a wall, run towards an enemy archer, stealth kill, leap over some arches, dive stealth kill an orc below, engage in a fight, run up another wall and take some enemies out with the bow, and so on without pause. It's awesome.

With respect to fighting, the only other open-world game that has a similar fighting system which I've played is Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Fighting was a lot of fun in those games and the fact that Shadow of Mordor managed to create an equally fulfilling, if not better, experience with a similar fighting system deserves a round of applause. Of course, it could be the setting, which would be why Arkham City no longer felt as fun as Arkham Asylum.

A stealth kill.

Overall, I've written more for Shadow of Mordor than I've written for most video games I've played and that, despite any criticism above, should represent how much I enjoyed it. In fact, I could potentially write more about the game, but feel that it would suffice to conclude that I enjoyed being immersed into the fantasy world of Middle-earth and that I would highly recommend the game. I've seen a lot of titles with a "Game of the Year" award, and this one lives up to the name.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC, PS4, and Xbox One) (2014)

Relevant Links:
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Wikipedia.org)
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC) (IGN.com)
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Steam Store Page)

One of two protagonists, a wraith (left), gains intel from an Uruk.

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