Yesterday I played the second Tolkien property game in my Steam Backlog Bonanza: Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor. It came out in 2014, I bought it in 2016 for $7.50, one of the more expensive titles on this list.
First the good news: The story of this game starts out fantastic, one of the best I’ve seen. It began with yet another “this is the epic story of the entire history of Middle-earth” prologue and I started to roll my eyes. But before I could even complete my ocular gymnastics, the prologue stopped and we saw the main guy.
Within seconds, we see a relatable character in conflict. We don’t know where he is, but he’s standing over a body. We find out it’s his son. We find out they’ve been fighting orcs. Then we find out he lost his wife too. Then we find out all three of them were captured and ritually sacrificed, but somehow this guy turned into a ghost. It’s a really bad day for this guy and it sucked me into his world completely. It was really well done. I’ll be taking notes for the next time I write a book.
Another selling point is the voice acting. It’s good, and IMDB confirms that I did indeed recognize the voice of Laura Bailey as the wife. Who ahem got killed right away. IMDB also says that most of the cast of Critical Role is in the game somewhere, and a lot of other recognizable voice actors like Phil Lamarr and John DiMaggio.
Now for the bad news: The game itself didn’t suck me in at all. The story basically ends after the opening cut scenes, and then we are thrust into a Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed-style open world game, with a lot of stealth mechanics. You’re supposed to stealth around Mordor and kill orc captains. It wasn’t clear to me why you’re supposed to do that. To be honest, it wasn’t clear to me at all why your guy is a ghost, either. The story started so strong and then it just … evaporated into nonsense. I was expected to be led through a story of revenge, or a story of finding and saving his wife and son, but the story just … disappeared. I was left in Mordor with no idea what to do.
I played with a controller. The number of buttons you have to remember to perform combat is pretty ridiculous, and they’re all obscure. Y to deflect, A to dodge, X + trigger to do an execution, trigger to stealth. Maybe it was the same as the first game, but to me it seemed completely random, like no other controller game I’ve played. It was a whole lot to remember.
Incidentally, if you do happen to find an orc captain, they kill you dead. I imagine you’re supposed to level up a lot before you tackle them. I didn’t fully understand it. Also, if you’re spotted, every orc within a 20-mile radius runs up to kill you. It wasn’t a very easy game in the beginning.
Will I play more? I doubt it. Maybe if I had nothing else to do. Far Cry-style open world games are usually fun for me, but there are just so many of them. I still haven’t even scratched the surface of Horizon Zero Dawn yet, which is a much better game, in my opinion.
Stream Production Notes: Nothing unusual to report, except I wasn’t really in the mood to play this game, so it probably affected my enjoyment of it. My mind was more on the impending launch of WoW Classic.
Previously on the Steam Backlog Bonanza: Enclave.