Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Second verse, same as the first

Shadow of Mordor has caught more than a little flack for its Batman inspired (stolen) combat dropped into a different environment. This is not exactly fair, the Arkham series did not invent its combat system, just honed it to near perfecting. I do not fault Shadow of Mordor from borrowing it, the system keeps fights manageable even when up against dozens of enemies. It should have freed up development time for other things like creating interesting environments or better writing for the characters. Nope. Instead we get incredible enemy variety in the form of uruk captains and a punishing early difficulty curve the discourages exploration.

Not all bad, not all good.

Shadow of Mordor has no sense of place. The opening area is half destroyed buildings and grey skies and the second is more half destroyed buildings on a grassy savanna. Nothing is memorable. Think back to the Lord of the Rings movies: Mordor is almost a character. The black gates are intimidating as fuck. In the game they are just doors, just another random backdrop that unfortunately detracts from the good that is happening in front of them.

Poor Talion may me immortal but for the first several hours he isn't very tough. Uruk captains killed me just enough time to discourage me from trying their missions. I did other things, avoiding them when possible, and it turned a 'open' ended area into a very linear set of missions. Exploration equaled death if they found me. Many hours later Talion has toughed and I am not constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for Orkug the Human Gnasher to shiv me in the back and then talk about how easy it was to kill me.

Still, it scratches the same itch as Assassin's Creed and inFamous games. Get to new area, do all sub-missions, begrudgingly advance story, move to next area, repeat until credits. It just doesn't do it very well.

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