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Video Game Review: ‘Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor’

By Rob DolenSPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE

Finally! A video game that does justice for Tolkien’s epic saga. “Shadow of Mordor” takes place in between the events of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

The player assumes the role of Talion, a Ranger of Gondor who mans the black gate during a time of dwindling peace as Sauron raises an army.

The story starts off abruptly with the grim death of Talion and his family as they are executed in front of him by the Uruks, a much more gruesome breed of Orcs.

After this sorrowful sight Talion is resurrected by a spectral “Wraith” Elf by the name of Celebrimdor. Celebrimdor is revealed to be the smith master who created the Rings of Power, also dead, who suffered a similar fate to Talion. Together, they use their combined skillset to exact revenge on Sauron.

“Shadow of Mordor” does its best to stay true to Tolkien’s lore quite well, while at the same time follows the typical “desire for revenge and redemption” stereotype.

"Shadow of Mordor” is a third-person action RPG that focuses on against-all-odds combat – similar with the “Batman: Arkham” series – and the development of an elaborate skill tree and attribute system.

Talion’s abilities are wide and varied, allowing for multiple avenues of combat. Talion draws his skills as a ranger with his sword and dagger, while he also adopts the Wraith’s skills with a bow and manipulation of enemies through another dimension of reality. Also traits like total health, weapon slots, and more can be improved as you gain more experience points.

Combat is meaningful in the way that every victory and defeat alters the outcome of the game, achieved by the shifting dynamic known as the “Nemesis System.” This system removes enemies slain by Talion, but can also replace them with targets who defeat Talion in battle and promotes them to higher ranks in Sauron’s army which increases their difficulty to defeat.

At first it’s tough fighting, but as new abilities and attributes are unlocked, combat becomes much more feasible. This creates a sense of importance within every battle and encourages strategic handling for every situation no matter where you are in the story.

The in-game world is similar to that of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Middle Earth in cinema. Mordor is a dark and somber place plagued with shifting storm clouds and torrential downpours.

Navigation of the in-game world can be a little finicky with rapid movement. Sure you can parkour up and down the ruins of Middle Earth like clockwork, but sometimes the slightest tap will send you careening the complete opposite way. The controls are simple, but sometimes execution requires quite a bit of precision as you move along the world.

A solid hour at most will help allow the player to get accustomed to the game-play.

It takes some practice to get used to the ropes, but after some leveling up and due diligence, “Shadow of Mordor” becomes an exciting and intense game that can keep you on your toes.

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