Last week I moaned that even though I very much enjoyed Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the CG trailer for its sequel Middle Earth: Shadow of War left me cold.
It had no real bite to it, and even as the trailer ended with a note telling us to “watch out for gameplay on March 8th” I had hope that my mind would be changed but not all that much. Well I’m telling you right here and now that I have a full serving of humble pie and I am enjoying every last bit of it.
This video showcases that the stakes are a bit bigger this time around and we aren’t just assaulting orc towns on a map here. We are having full scale wars on fortresses that mirror The Two Towers and Return of the King style clashes. Whereas the first game let’s you assert control over an Orc general or warboss’ mind, they didn’t have much of a personality and turned into more or less drones. Sure that guy had two axes and had some metal sticking out of his face, but for the most part these guys were far more interesting when they were trying to claw your face off. Not that any of this is a knock on the original game mind you, the Nemesis System was a great first step into cultivating your own story lines with how you played that particular game. Shadow of War looks to quadruple down on all of this.
In the original game the orcs wanted to kill you and maybe some other orc that they have a rivalry with, but not much of it felt organic. Here the connections are much more complicated, some can be rivals, friends, feel slighted, mourn the loss of a battle brother and even end up betraying you. You can expect a more varied type of orc in that they can hail from different tribes. Some are hunters and specialized in using monsters in battle, others will be necromancers, some can even be giant trolls. On top of all that you can send chiefs away on certain missions, giving you the feeling like you are the commander of this massive operation to take over Mordor. After you’ve crushed the oppisition, choose a worthy underling to rule in your stead.
While Monolith Productions didn’t show much of anything else, (how else is the open world expanded and improved on? Expanded combat options? The ongoing relationship between Ranger Talion and the dead Elf Celebrimbor) It’s obvious they were keen on showing off the most dynamic and impressive mode in Shadow of War. Hopefully this zoomed out approach doesn’t mean a loss of focus on the smaller details or that the game is just the first one but with canned battles. The strength of the original was never the story which delved into fan-fiction territory at times, it was the personal interactions that Talion had with these orcs. The developers seemed to have zeroed in on this and we can expect some great stuff in August.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War comes out August on PC, PS4 & Xbox One