Middle-earth: Shadow of War – HCF Videogame Review

WB Games – Monolith Productions – 1 Player – Out now on PC, PS4 & Xbox One (version tested)

The eagerly awaited follow up to Shadow of Mordor, picks up more or less where things left off. After a brief recap you catch up with current events where Celebrimbor, your spectral, elven partner has been held captive by Shelob (the giant spider from Return of the King), and he will be released upon relinquishing the ring of power. Upon conceding, Talion exchanges the ring for his friend, and the two come together again. From here Shelob transforms from the huge, arachnophobic nightmare, to what can best be described as sexy halloween costume Shelob. Apropo of nothing she becomes human and keeps that form for subsequent cut scenes and missions. From the off it’s not looking good. This artistic choice puts a dampener on things from then on, which really makes it hard to come back from.

As can be expected from your typical triple A games of present, there’s a seemingly endless tutorial which is interlinked with the opening stages of the story, which finds you fending off invading Urukai, as well as knowing how to move your character forward. There’s a lot to take in as you progress throughout the opening stages, as even a few hours in, you still get taught new features. The nemesis system for example, has had an overhaul from the previous game and has several different explanations and guides as you start to find your feet in the world. You’ll also be learning a new trick or two as you level up, with many different upgrades available as your character steadily increases through the ranks. The overall gameplay feels like a cross between Assassin’s Creed and the Arkham games. You can climb almost any surface, scaling huge buildings and walls, and jumping off these is no problem either, just go for it, you’ll be fine. More AC similararities come in as you scale specific towers to activate beacons, that open up areas on the map, allowing you to find any side quests or items via an eye of Sauron type minigame, which becomes more than tedious before the first one is even finished. In fact almost everything you do seems to be lifted from Asassin’s Creed, with the only thing setting them apart is that it’s Middle-earth. That and there’s no crap Animus bit that Ubisoft always seem to insist is relevant, yet no one actually likes.

There’s a few other fimiliar faces making an appearance, including everyone’s favourite split personality, Gollum, who is on hand to guide you through a few sneaking missions. While his presence is quite amusing at times it doesn’t make up for the monotony of the game play (as mentioned, this is basically Assassin’s Creed), as there’s very much a rinse and repeat feeling to a lot of what’s going on. While some of the mechanics are quite fun to play around with, such as the bow and arrow, which when fully charged, enters a bullet time mode for a brief time, allowing you to pick off several enemies without them being alerted, and some of the executions you can perform are gleefully sadistic. Despite these enjoyable moments and decent combat, which again is basically the same as AC, with a bit of Arkham’s free flow fighting thrown in, it can’t save this from it feeling like a chore. There’s quite a few instances of this being laborious, running the same tasks over and over, and it stops being entertaining. Games don’t have to be fun, but when it no longer entertains, it’s an utter slog. The world is vast and sometimes overwhelming, with some nice scenery and a lot of rock, and there’s a lot to do in that world, but it’s a lot of the same. A flawed game, but if you like sexy transmorgifying spiders and Assassin’s Creed, this might be up your street.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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