Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor, Turns out one cansimply walk in

Praising a game that’s as startlingly derivative as Shadow Of Mordor is something we’d normally be loathe to do, but that’s what’s about to happen. How has a title that’s so reliant on pinching systems from other games managed to win us over? Because it does have one idea of its own, one idea that elevates it into something far greater than it would otherwise be an idea that provides a structure on which everything else hangs, that creates intrigue and direction that would otherwise be lacking. We are talking about the Nemesis system.


The Uruks that roam the land of Mordor in which you’ll be playing have a hierarchy from captains to warlords, each orc is vying for power, trying to move their way up the ranks, or maintain their position. The fun comes when you interject yourself into those power struggles and manipulate them for your own benefit. For example, it’s possible to invade a duel taking place between two Uruks and take out the stronger one in order to move the weaker orc up the ranks. Brilliantly, mini stories will naturally emerge from the system as rivalries develop with orcs that survive their encounters with you, coming back with scars or metal plates on their head, seeking revenge and perhaps even thwarting one of your carefully laid plans, to give but one example.
“MINUS THE NEMESIS SYSTEM, SHADOW OF MORDOR WOULD BE SOMEWHAT UNINSPIRING”
The Nemesis system really comes into its own when you gain the ability to bend orcs to your will.We personally like ordering a couple of orcs to become a warlord’s bodyguard and then turning them against him when we’re ready to take the warlord down, ensuring one of our boys steps into his place. There’s something immensely satisfying about that act of pulling the strings behind the scenes as you make devious calculations about how and when you use the Uruk hierarchy to help you take a target down.

It’s a good job this is so much fun to play with, because in other aspects, Shadow Of Mordor is to be found lacking. While there are a not insignificant number of campaign missions and side quests for you to tackle, we’d be hard pushed to pick out any that are particularly exciting, smart or otherwise noteworthy. The world itself, too, is a little dull, meaning that travelling through it can occasionally feel like a chore (though, admittedly, it's relatively small size makes that less frustrating than it might be).

When it comes to combat and traversal, the game is solid, if unspectacular, with its mechanics lifted from the Batman: Arkham series and Assassin’s Creed respectively. Just as in Batman, there are attack, counter, stun and dodge buttons that you’ll employ in order to build a hit streak, allowing you to periodically perform special moves that you gain throughout the course of the game. The system doesn't have the same sense of flow as the series it’s nicked from, but it remains enjoyable enough. Similarly, while Shadow Of Mordor's Assassin’s Creed like stealth and climbing mechanics are completely unoriginal, they're perfectly functional and facilitate the ability to sneak around a camp taking out orcs in a way that’s undeniably satisfying.

Minus the Nemesis system, then, Shadow Of Mordor would be uninspiring, to say the least. It would be a game that's taken ideas that work in other series and re-presented them, in the case of the game’s combat particularly, as a facsimile that’s recognisable, but lacks the soul of the original. It would be
a game with a solid base, but without anything special to really hook you in, grab your attention or drive you through the experience.

Mercifully, though, the Nemesis system does change everything. Once you start to get to grips with it, all Shadow Of Mordor’s weaknesses suddenly start to matter very little. The perverse Machiavellian pleasure that arises from manipulating your enemies provides you with the incentive to set your own goals and build grand plans, gives you a reason to poke at the game’s possibilities and play around in its world. In short, the Nemesis system makes Shadow Of Mordor a far better game than its shameless cribbing of elements from other titles might lead you to believe.

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