Wow. Not sure where to start. This game was freaking amazing. I'll tell you all about it below. I completed with 100% and loved absolutely every minute of it. Its got a narrative that completely sucked me into J.R.R. Tolkien's amazing world of Middle Earth. I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan and this game didn't let me down. I loved that it took place prior to the story we all know and love and I'm okay with the fact that it only loosely fits into the history of Middle Earth.
I don't understand those who choose to knock this game. If you didn't like it then I guess nothing is for everyone, and I get that. Haters gonna hate. Personally I didn't find much not like about Shadow of Mordor. I was thoroughly entertained. It was an excellent and really solid game. It wasn't striving to be anything it isn't. Shadow is exactly as it should be and where it shines it really shines.
I played this on my PC and the graphics were breathtaking. Once in a while I got the slightest bit of frame drop when the graphics were maxed all the way up – but it played with a perfect FPS with just a few of the graphics settings on High instead of Ultra. Both the in game graphics and cut scene graphics were totally awesome.
The graphics in Shadow are very impressive, granted you have a decent PC. I thought the textures were super high quality, the lighting was interesting and dynamic, and the enemies and characters were awesome. The landscape got pretty repetitive but is very detailed and the rendering scaled super smooth into the distance.
Combat in Shadow of Mordor is in my opinion rivaled by few to date and extremely fun to play. It is cinematic, fast paced, and deadly. During combat, time seamlessly shifts into slow motion for special attacks and finishing moves. The combat mechanics have similarities reminiscent of the Batman Arkham series and the Assassin's Creed series, but in my opinion it is not striving to compete with these games. Its got its own thing going on for sure. Shadow's combat is exactly as intended, smooth and forgiving to a point, with excellent boss challenges.
The protagonist, Talion, has been resurrected by the spirit of an ancient Elven wraith, Celebrimbor. So he is obviously going to be way more powerful than those dimwitted orcs. As Talion you often feel unstoppable – which I think can easily be attributed to having Celebrimbor's supernatural powers. I especially like the double block parry, Talon blocks one uruk as Celebrimbor separates from Talion's material body to block another. Moving between the two characters for special moves and combos is an awesome aspect of Shadow's combat. Time slows nearly to a halt when you go into wraith mode to fire the bow but everything keeps moving just so slightly. I really like the archery in this game and put a lot of skill points into it. As you unlock new abilities Talon gains access to more and more of Celebrimbor's deadly powers and combat becomes a little more dynamic each time. The endgame powers, such as the Stealth Brand, Combat Brand, Storm of Urfeal weapon powers, and Shadow Strike Chain are awesome and epic. By the end of the game Talion has all the godly powers you would expect an ancient Elf ghost to have. Finally, while the various finishers, combos, and array of moves becomes a bit repetitive, the game developers made a strong effort to make the moves and cinematic action cut scenes fresh and diverse.
Fighting endless waves of uruks, sneaking around orc camps and picking them off one by one, diving into battle and seeing how many stealth kills you can get before someone notices you, are just a few examples of the excellent combat game play found in Shadow of Mordor. That said, I'm a sucker for anything with sword fighting.
On the note of sword fighting I played almost the whole game with the Flame of Anor rune on my sword which makes the blade burst into flames on a hit streak of 8 or more – causing extra damage and sometimes even igniting enemies. The only thing better than sword fighting is doing so with a flaming sword.
The stealth mechanics in Shadow of Mordor were good but not completely amazing. I would have liked it to be a tad (or a lot) more difficult. Often it felt like the enemies were blind. I mean really? You uruks can't see me like 10 feet in front of you? I'm crouching but I'm right in plain sight directly in front of you! Once again we can attribute Talion's godly stealth powers to being part ghost. I imagine that sneaking about is much easier for ghosts.
Bottom line is that stealth was super fun in Shadow of Mordor but not very difficult and very very forgiving.
I really liked how death was incorporated into the primary game play. I actually liked that I wasn't able save any time I wanted. It made dying unique in comparison to other games. When you die your enemies grow stronger, new challengers move up through the ranks and you are forced to defeat waves and waves of bosses to every degree of difficulty. Early in the game I died more frequently. But since I was going for 100% I was constantly collection bonuses and unlocking powers such that I quickly became a force to be reckoned with. As I got more and more immersed into the game I got more strategic about what battles to fight, when to use stealth, which enemies to take with head shots from the bow, and how to use power struggles to overcome difficult challengers. I died very infrequently in the last two thirds of the game and do agree with people who say this game was too easy. I would very much have liked a difficulty setting as I think I would have enjoyed it more at a difficulty of totally insane.
The world is focused and simplistic in many was. This is part of the charm but I do agree with those of you who said it could have been more detailed, contain more points of interest, and been bigger. This game introduced a lot with the political Nemesis System so maybe something had to suffer. The world serves its purpose well in Shadow and though it doesn't offer endless exploring or something different around every corner, it does fulfill its role as an excellent setting for an expansive battlefield.
The landscape is not very dynamic but interacting with it is fun. You can climb on almost anything, sneak across cables between the battlements, and quickly scale almost any wall. The way in which Talion climbs reminds me of the Uncharted series and the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. Talion actually finds hand holds, leaps to grab hold of crevices and ledges of the crumbling towers and rugged cliffs. He interacts seamlessly with both the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the world.
Personally I really liked Shadow's story. If you are interested in the story you should give this game a playthrough. Suffice it to say that I though the story was original and interesting. The story, and its intro sequence, really made me want to see what was going to happen and made me care about Talion. I liked the few characters the story actually has, especially the dwarf Torvin. I would label the game – especially the end – as nothing short of super duper epic.
The main story line quests really drew me into the game. I like that they worked Gollum into the story while he was in Mordor before going to stalk Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring. The mechanics of Shadow of Mordor are awesome and really fun, however without such a cool story I'm sure I wouldn't have been as invested in it, and probably wouldn't have finished it.
Leveling & Collecting
Leveling was pretty fun and I liked both perk trees. I liked how I got runes to enchance my weapons from fighting bosses, and I liked that I could recycle weaker runes. As you unlock abilities and runes slots you start to gain an edge on your opponents and slowly gain godlike power.
The collecting was awesome. I really like collecting stuff in video games. In Shadow of Mordor you can collect artifacts that you inspect for bits of stories, search for Ithildin puzzle pieces that slowly fill in an awesome graphic, and harvest the plants, herbs, and mushrooms growing in Mordor to complete survival challenges.
I thought this game was a good length. Especially since I did everything. For it to be longer and keep me entertained I think it would have needed a more fragmented storyline with smaller quests and more points of interest, as well as a deeper combat and leveling system. However with a 30 to 40 hour playthrough time it never got boring and I was satisfied when it was over.
The Unique Nemesis System
I'd be lying if I said I would like this game just as much if it didn't have the unique Nemesis System. This is super cool and if you like strategy games this is a very cool hybrid of strategy and action adventure. The game came out for Xbox 360 without the Nemesis System. When I heard that I thought, well that's a lot of bullshit. I didn't really want to play it on an old console and have a sub-par experience, but I also really didn't want to buy an Xbox One. I waited almost a year to play this game, with my co-worker raving about it. It is one of the reasons I bought a maxed out PC from Origin (got it used, I like used stuff).
I especially liked that it actually forced me to use the Nemesis System and branding of War Chiefs to progress the story line. The fact that I had to use the boss system to progress the story made defeating difficult captains and sending them against one another a necessity, not just a cool side product.
Brace yourself. A lot of these quests get super repetitive. Rescue the slaves, defeat the boss, don't get detected, rescue the slaves... again. I had fun with them though and I wouldn't have gotten 100% on the game if the quests stopped being fun (that's not my style). I also really liked the bonus objectives on many of the repetitive quests. I got most of the bonus objectives which added an extra challenge.
A tip for those of you who are trying to get 100%. Make sure to keep up on the hunting challenges, don't leave the last few to the end like I did. The quest, The Great White Graug, will actually have you kill a Dire Caragor and a Horned Graug. And The Messenger quest will have you kill a Ghul Matron. If you are up to date on the hunting challenges when you get these 2 quests you'll save your self some time roaming Mordor for these rare beasts.
I might play through Shadow of Mordor again sometime. But it'll be a run through of the main story. I don't think I'll be getting 100% again.