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Middle Earth: Shadow of War Review

Produced by Monolith, the Middle-Earth Shadow Of games provide a distinctly unique experience into not just the Lord of the Rings universe established by Tolkien, but also into an intricate system of memorable AI encounters with self-made enemies through the complex web of intrigue known as "The Nemesis System." With a combat system inspired by (and practically ripped from) the Batman Arkham Games and Assassin's Creed, Shadow of Mordor and War's experience promises to be exhilarating each step of the way, as you clamber atop the mountainous pits of Mount Doom to confront the Dark Lord Sauron atop Barad-Dur and take Mordor for your own in fiery conquest.

Right off the bat, I can assure you Shadow of War is the superior game. Whilst Shadow of Mordor is certainly a brilliant game all of its own, containing the foundations of the fantastic Nemesis System alongside introducing the characters, storyline, and subsequent quests necessary; Shadow of War remains its natural evolution, and as such contains several noteworthy upgrades to its predecessor. Most importantly, for my sake anyways, would be the deepening of the Nemesis System's intrigue with the stories it could tell. In Shadow of Mordor, an enemy Orc could kill you and be promoted by the ranks, or you could slay him and he'd return with a burning vengeance. Or perhaps you could end up recruiting an Orc you liked and pitting him against your hated enemy to create an epic confrontational battle. However, that was practically the entirety of the Nemesis System's scope, and while that is still breathtakingly impressive for a game to perform on its own, it expands upon that greatly in the sequel. Now, Orcs pressganged into your service can betray you, or perform espionage operations in your stead, even securing enemy informants for your usage by taking initiative rather than your outright command. Your enemies now have an increased list of motivations to bludgeon you. Some are obsessed with you, and not in a healthy way (if there is indeed any healthy way to be obsessed with anything), some desire vengeance for your murder of their blood-brother kinsmen, and others battle you simply to thieve your loot. In Shadow of War, the court intrigue politics of Sauron's murderous army goes surprisingly in-depth with detail, and it'll make for several memorable moments during the campaign and afterwards, when you play in the "Shadow Wars" gamemode.

To be sure, the Nemesis System is this game's greatest allure. The story itself is non-canonical to the Lord of the Rings overall, and whilst it does present many interesting ideas with a brilliant central character dynamic (those being of Talion and Celebrimbor), there's nothing revolutionary about the arcs and plotlines on display here. A man loses his family to great evil, and is manipulated by a villainous ghost with ulterior motives to vengeance. You battle a horde of evil Orcs and their commanders along the way, and encounter twists and turns that will make your skin... mildly vibrate in disappointment? Really, while the story can provide some medium of entertainment and engagement, you will most certainly encounter and uncover the most joy with the well-crafted Nemesis System that has limitless potential for future titles.

Shadow of Mordor and War both have massive replay potentials, and they're both games that are worth every dollar. To create enemies that are specially tailored to your session is a feat not many IPs can say they've ever accomplished, so I highly recommend this game to all prospecting buyers! 10/10, would behead Orcs again.

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