I was never a fan of The Lord of the Rings franchise but after playing Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor I was immediately hooked. The incredible Nemesis System kept providing new enemies with unique characteristics to fight and its sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War does the same. Providing a more robust version of the Nemesis System Shadow of War creating a dynamic adventure where anything could happen and anyone could appear.

No 2 Are the Same

Shadow of War takes place after the events of the first game with Talion and Celebrimbor forging a brand new Ring of Power for the upcoming war against Sauron. Shockingly the Ring is forcibly traded within the game’s opening and now you must find a new way to not only get it back but build an army against Sauron.

While Shadow of War provides a central story of which to chart your progress the details leading up to those events are unique to your own adventure. This is thanks to the Nemesis System which creates various types of Uruks for Talion and Celebrimbor to fight and recruit throughout their adventure.

Every Uruk comes with their own set of special characteristics, weaknesses, strengths, and personality. This can be a bit overwhelming as you must watch every cinematic for each of these Uruks that appear. Some will charge headfirst, others sneak in for deadly attacks, and sometimes they will betray you. This effective constant change ensures that at any time you can find yourself in an array of circumstances that can yield negative or positive results.

The Nemesis System is Ingenious

The Nemesis system ensures that you can alter the enemy’s ranking by participating in the killing and placement of specific Uruks. If one dies another can take its place and if you’re killed that Uruk will raise the rank with new followers. This constantly changing system provides an endless variation of how Shadow of War’s story can shift. For example, you can shame a target to the brink of insanity and they’ll keep coming after you while talking in an incoherently babbling way.

Talion himself can be upgraded with various pieces of armor and weapons that are based on your level. This means you’re given a constant stream of new upgrades that must be replaced as you level up and gain more influential items. You can further increase your strength by slotting special bonuses to specific items and adding new talents to Talion via the skill tree. Each skill comes with a subskill, of which only one can be equipped, to further customize Talion to suit your playstyle.

Most of your time will be dedicated to building an army against Sauron. This means recruiting various Uruks to your army to fight The Dark Lord and his army. As you grow your army you’ll take on Sauron’s Warlords which are protected in large fortresses that house their own personal guards.

There are various ways you can take down Warlords such as infiltrating their ranks with spies, weakening their control by killing their high-ranking officers or charging into battle with recklessness fury. You’re given the choice of how to tackle these situations and can make your game harder if you choose to do so.

Time to Raid

Siege battles are the highlight of Shadow of War where your entire plan comes together for one massive push. Here battles take place over a series of intervals leading up to one final battle against the Warlord. Once defeated you take control of their fortresses and extend your reach within Middle-earth. You can then choose who becomes the new Warlord and what resources to dedicate production too.

Combat is handled similarly to the first game. Talion has access to 2 types of swords, one for sneaking and the other for active combat, a bow, and Celebrimbor’s wraith abilities. Because of the Nemesis System, enemies will react base on your attacks. For example, if you use your vault too much they’ll adapt making it impossible. This means that adaptation is paramount to surviving, therefore accommodating each type of combat style will yield much more positive results than sticking to a particular method.

Middle-earth is Your Playground

When you’re not fighting you’ll be running from one location to another. Thankfully movement has been dramatically improved from the first game allowing Talion access to Celebrimbor’s Elven Speed early on in the game and the double jump for better aerial control. Climbing is also much easier thanks to the increased jump.

Exploration is encouraged and gives the player time to find relics that help provide insight into the world. Sauron’s corrupted towers can be purified and used as fast-travel points and location hidden collectables. What can be annoying is that time passes when you fast-travel allowing Uruk ranks to replenish themselves, and erasing time spent weakening their numbers.

Side missions are provided that yield helpful gear but mostly follow the same pattern. You’ll locate specific items, track them, and sometimes try to find hidden stanzas for ancient poetry. All of these grant experience and gear making them useful distractions when killing Uruks becomes dull.

Loot Boxes….yea….

Okay, let’s talk microtransactions. Although the game doesn’t require you to use them you can earn in-game currency or purchase it using real-world money for loot boxes. These range from weapons and armor for Talion to Uruks. Everything is leveled based on your current level so you cannot buy loot boxes and have access to powerful items early on in the game. However, while this is optional it does provide a very slippery slope that could lead to troublesome issues down the line.

Like the first game, the end-game content for Shadow of War isn’t anything meaningful. At the end of the adventure, Sauron will mount attacks against your fortresses and it’s up to you to defend them, if you fail you must take them from the Uruk that killed you. It’s an interesting take but it quickly loses its appeal.

An online mode is available that allows you to take on other gamers custom Siege towers in both ranked and just-for-fun matches. Ranked puts your allies at risk and if killed they’re gone for good while the social mode doesn’t put anyone at risk but doesn’t count your victories. It’s a fun mode and the community has come out with some difficult challenges but this mode depends on how much fun you already had with the game’s siege mode.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War takes everything that made the first game a success and improved on it. The Nemesis System is much more complicated and engaging, providing new exciting challenges throughout the 60-hour campaign; with each new Uruk acting like a boss encounter. The end-game content may be lacking but the adventure leading up to the finale easily kept me hooked right till the credits started rolling.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review
The Pros
  • Nemesis System
  • Various Uruks
  • Siege Battles
The Cons
  • Fast-Travel System Passes Time
  • Microtransactions
  • End-Game Content
8.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Adam S
Sr.Staff Writer

Adam is a Senior Staff Writer for GamerAssaultWeekly with over 5 years of experience in writing and is completely obsessed with video games. He holds a BA from Brooklyn College and lives in NY.