I played Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor today. I had a very good time with it. The reason? I really like Rocksteady’s Arkham games. And a great deal of the time, playing Mordor is like playing a video game adaptation of some non-existent, magical-medieval, alt-universe Batman comic. Henry has already covered the branching, evolving, organic world of the game, whose characters and power structures adapt on the fly in response to your actions. I’ll divert you here to read about those. But suffice to say, they do work, and they’re really rather impressive. Instead I want to talk about Mordor’s core gameplay. It’s damn fun stuff, and there’s no denying it. But neither will you be able to pretend that you don’t find it just a little bit overly familiar.
Orc-slaying combat? X or Square is your attack button, Y or Triangle performs counters when enemy attack icons flash up on screen. And A or X sends you flipping over your foes’ heads to perform a rear-angled stabbing. It’s really useful against the heavy Orcs with shields. And you can do finishers when they hit the ground. Yeah, I know. As for general athleticism, A or X also performs your evasive roll, while holding it down initiates smooth sprints, mantling, climbing, and acrobatic leaps off cliff. Look, I know, okay?
And while the flashbacks are certainly jarring at first, eventually they--almost--dissolve, because Mordor uses them within a very different context. During my Orc-hunting missions, in which I was tasked with tracking and eliminating several Generals via a variety of different means, I found myself engaging in all kinds of dynamic, open-world shenanigans. Rather than the linear levels of an Arkham game, Mordor plays out over open countryside approaches and wide, intricate, multi-levelled sandbox forts. The means of attacking them might be the same as those of the Dark Knight, but the options within are something else entirely.
It’s all about freedom of strategy, angle of attack, and choosing stealth or assault over large environments and emergent situations. Imagine Batman tackling a Far Cry 3 base assault, and you’re sort of there. Is all of this enough to distract from the game’s oxygen-clear mechanical inspirations? It’s hard to say how it will all feel over the course of a whole campaign, but for now I’m hopeful. I had a great deal of fun with Mordor today, despite the tooth-rattling Gotham City reverberations. And after all, if you’re going to steal, steal from the bat, er, best.
Eager to know more? Click on through the following slides for additional images and info!