Shadow of Mordor was simply a buy due to the process of buying games cheap that I wrote about in the previous post. But as the game came closer to release the hype started building for me, then came the reviews. IGN, Polygon, and Joystiq gave it above a 9 and immediately I was extremely excited to get my hands on the game. Not only am I a Lord of the Rings fan, but with the fighting mechanic identical to the awesome Batman Arkham Asylum games I knew this game would be for me. Once I did get my hands on the game I wasn't disappointed one bit.
Now the story for Shadow of Mordor isn't the best, you play as Talion, a ranger whose family is murdered and then he is murdered as well. He is able to come back though thanks to an ancient Elven ghost named Celebrimbor who is known for creating the rings of power. Talion's mission is to get his revenge while Celebrimbor wants to take down Sauron for his betrayal. For the most part the story is the simple revenge tale with some side characters along the way, but honestly the story could be skipped entirely. The boss fights are few and far between, and the final boss is quite a disappointment after all the cool battles you get into throughout the game. Generally SoM is a decent Lord of the Rings story, but it's the game play that completely shines in this wonderfully gory game.
If Assassins Creed and Batman Arkham City had a baby that was set in the Lord of the Rings universe, Shadow of Mordor would be that baby: that is a good thing. The combat in SoM is some of the best from a hack-em-up type game, and brings with it some of the most satisfying kills I have ever witnessed in a video game. As each Uruk limb and head went flying I found my self cheering and feeling like a giddy school child. The one complaint for the Arkham series was that combat couldn't be interrupted during animations making it riskier to preform certain moves, SoM changes this allowing a counter move at any point and during any animation, which makes complete sense when we think about what a real life battle like this would be like.
Besides the combat, the other star of the game is the Nemesis system within the game that makes each kill and death that much more important. Die at the hands of a low level Uruk and see him ascend the ranks to become war chief, or kill a difficult opponent just to see them return and mock you for being unable to completely kill them. During my main play through I was fighting against a nasty Uruk that had almost no weaknesses and was super strong. I was able to uncover that I could kill him instantly with stealth kill and I was able to defeat him. However a little while longer he came back as a body guard of a warchief and over powered me. I went on a hunt after my death to seek revenge and was able to kill him again. However, in one of the final battle he appeared again as my rival in an epic final battle against my own Uruk army. It was one of the coolest moments I have ever experienced in games as I was in disbelief that the Uruk I had the longest feud with ended up becoming one of the final boss battles due to our rivalry in the game.
As the game goes on and you upgrade Talion, you become very powerful and can take down a herd of Uruks very easily using different combos, but it still doesn't take away from the satisfaction of chopping of limbs and heads.
SoM is officially on my list of must buys as well as a candidate for game of the year for me. The game play is one of the best and had the story been better it would have won GOTY from me in a landslide. Everyone should give this game a try as it has been the best games for next gen systems in a state of gaming that hasn't seen many big releases. SoM came out of nowhere for most and hopefully the good publicity and good sales figures can bring us a sequel in the near future.