For many years Warner Bros. has been going hand in hand with publishing open world games with brilliant combat systems, the Batman Arkham series is the best known. Although they were developed by Rocksteady Studios the influences can be seen in Monolith’s Shadow of Mordor whether this was coincidental or Warner Bros. giving Monolith a gentle nudge is unclear. 

With Middle Earth: Shadow of War due for release later this year, I decided to delve back into Mordor and Reconnect with Talion to see what made this game special in the first place. The graphics are stunning and you can feel yourself being transported to Mordor, you can see the true ugliness of the Orcs and while the lower ones tend to blend into one another, the Captains and Warchiefs all look different and individual. The land of Middle Earth has been perfectly recreated here, and while I’m not a big LOTR fan I can see where they have taken influence from the source material, trying to keep the lore as intact as they possibly can.

The great thing about a game like this is that no matter how much knowledge you have of the world or the characters, it’s all about the gameplay in the end and here it is fantastic. The intuitive combat system which allows you to switch effortlessly from stealth to all-out attack, combat finishers and executions are brutal but satisfying. Having the ability to survey your surrounding and plot out a course of attack whether that be picking off orcs one by one, letting a Carragor loose to provide chaos or just rush in and keep hitting until they die.

The nemesis system is the jewel of the game, focusing on a captain and working your way up to the war chiefs give a brilliant way to keep you occupied while going around the map collecting herbs and doing side missions. The system of weaknesses and strengths for each enemy allows for even more ways to take down an opponent, some captains can be taken down with one stealth attack and are afraid of fire while others can only be taken down when the sun is highest in the sky as a Cccarragor howls at a pond while stood on grass. It is that in-depth for its system that you can find yourself studying the best way to deal with each captain.

For myself I love games that I have to think about, the likes of the Arkham series was fantastic in its execution of detective mode and working your way around a room, and Shadow of Mordor takes it to the next logical step. While Batman would find it difficult to face enemies with guns and need to use stealth, Mordor gives the choice to you, some enemies are better to be taken down with stealth but others still need that brute force. The combat and choices alone just pips the Arkham series in my eyes and while both franchises are drawing from a rich history, Middle Earth doesn’t fling it in your face at every turn, which makes for a much more relaxed and enjoyable game.

The only disappointment is the story itself, and for a single player game that a big disappointment, which is at times confusing and boring and doesn’t grab in the way it should. The pacing is all wrong and while I like to play side missions first it doesn’t take away my enjoyment of a main story in other games of its type like it does here. With the new game just around the corner, I hope that they don’t go over board in changes the basis combat system, all that is needed is a better story, a graphical update and perhaps a few tweaks to add new features and we could see an instant classic.

Shadow of Mordor is still a fantastic game with some of the best graphics I have seen in a game even comparing to games now (and yes I know it has only been 3 years but things advance so fast in the world of games) and with a brilliantly intuitive combat system and some top gameplay, you’ll find yourself captivated by the sights, sounds and fights within Mordor. A must play for all ages in my opinion and a great way to get excited for Shadow of War in the Autumn.