Middle-earth: Shadow of War picks up right where Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor left us. Talion and Celebrimbor have created the ring, and in doing so used much of Celebrimbor’s power. This makes for a nice excuse for the player to re-level and re-acquire some of their favorite abilities and discover some new favorites. It’s likely that players won’t mind the grind because of how fun the combat system is.

Combat and Control

In-game screenshot of the Shadow of War skill tree.
In-game screenshot of the skill tree.

The combat is virtually the same but upgraded. Veterans of Shadow of Mordor will easily slide back into stabbing, slicing, and shooting their way through an infinite number of orcs. Shadow of War gives the player plenty of new enemies as well. War trolls, siege beasts, and even dragons are thrown into the mix to spice things up and avoid too much repetition.

The parry and dodge system still works well when faced with dozens of orcs at a time. It makes the player feel invincible against impossible odds. Enemies with shields and enemies that parry frontal attacks seem to be much more common this time around. That small difference makes each fight different and forces the player to adapt to each situation as they come.

The player won’t always feel invincible though. The difficulty ramps up when faced with multiple captains at a time. The captains are much smarter and will now adapt in combat. If you use the same tactic too many times against them, that tactic becomes ineffective. So, be careful and find their weakness early.

Story and Experience

Anyone interested should play Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor first. But just in case the players have not played the first installment or forgot the story, Monolith includes a nice little recap at the beginning. Middle-earth: Shadow of War succeeds in immersing the player in Tolkien lore. The main campaign is fantastic even if it is predictable at points. Outside of the campaign, there are artifacts to collect that each come with an interesting, fully voiced Mordor history lesson. Each of the ringwraiths finally receives background stories that they have been denied since the original Lord of the Rings stories were published.

The experience is amplified with the audio. The collectibles now have fully voiced backstories and the music throughout the game is fantastic. The player is fully immersed in this world from every sense aside from tasting the world.

How Shadow of War improves on Shadow of Mordor

In-game screenshot of the Shadow of War inventory menu.
In-game screenshot of the inventory menu.

Shadow of War, developers have improved and expanded everything fans loved about Shadow of Mordor. Dominating captains and war-chiefs make more sense now thanks to the new fortress-capturing mechanic that allows the player to gain control over entire regions. Leveling up allows the player to choose from a much larger number of skills and perks. Traversing the much larger map is no longer a chore thanks to some new movement mechanics and the ability to summon a caragor to ride at will.

The graphics have not been improved much over the previous game, but the game does not look bad by any means.

Micro-transactions

Micro-transactions. The groans can be heard everywhere. Gamers hate micro-transactions. They make for a solid business plan and nobody can fault companies for that. However, when players feel forced to spend more money to beat a game they already paid a full $60 or more for, then, of course, they will complain. Luckily, from what I have experienced in the game, I never felt forced to buy any extra loot boxes.

Shadow of War is predominantly a single player game, outside of vendetta missions and the optional fortress battles. So, someone buying loot doesn’t hurt the experience of someone who did not. No harm, no foul. Although, near the end of the game expect a lengthy grind if the player does not want to shell out some cash for better orcs. The game requires the player to defend their fortresses against some pretty intense enemies that the player’s orcs will need to be leveled up or replaced to deal with.

Finally, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is available on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One. If you are interested in more reviews, make sure to keep an eye on our game review section!