I have to admit, I'm a big fan of Tolkien and the entire lore of middle earth, Peter Jackson made sure I will watch the Lord of the Rings movies, anytime, at any age. By that, I mean I've watched all three movies one after another in a marathon maybe 6-7 times in my life by now, and I would watch it again, as I think I still have the full version downloaded in my PC, not the one from which Netflix cuttted scenes out without mercy.
Story (Spoiler Alert)
This game has its story somewhere between the war against Sauron and the movie series, but still, during the life of Gollum. At the start of the story, the humans still got the control over the gates of Mordor, where, the main character, Talion, is a captain of a group of rangers, at least during the tutorial, because you are caught along with your entire family and sacrificed during a ritual. This makes the entrance of Celebrimbor, the spirit of an elf that refuses to passes to the other world after its shameful defeat that he received from Sauron himself. Being sacrificed, Talion body will become a host for Celebrimbor, well, sort of, Talion it's still Talion, but both of them are present in the same body, somehow, making Talion be resurrected after each fatal blow by Celebrimbor.
This may not sound that interesting if you don't know who Celebrimbor is. (Major Spoiler) He is the elf that forged all the rings of power, and imprisoned by Sauron to make the one ring which he tried to control, but don't worry, there's a DLC that tells the entire story.
The story is completed in multiple ways, one is by looking at artifacts, something pretty usual for games from 2012-2015 if we think about Tomb Raider. Each artifact tells a part of a story that it was involved in. The stories are interactive, meaning that a voice will narrate the entire text. This goes as well for locations and characters.
One more interesting part is the story written on the weapons of Talion, as an upgrade a new part of the story will appear written in Elvish that will boost certain properties of the weapon.
This game is about being a one-man army, and it feels that way, because you're playing with the most powerful character in the game, even through you get to play with Celebrimbor in a DLC, and experience its full potential alone, the combination between him and Talion just feels better.
This is probably one of the most important aspects of the game, something that can keep you entertained for hours. The army of orcs has a ranking of captains and war chiefs, where the war chief is the ultimate position. Each captain has a band that follows him, war chiefs bands might include even some captains.
The orcs serve power, this means, the most cruel, violent or the ones that manage to kill you will assume a captain position. Killing you is an option because you will get resurrected, but the time in game will not stop to pass. They will even have some lines about killing you, and a revenge on the ones that kill you will have a bonus rarity on the runes that they drop when dying.
Being a game that never stops the time for you and only advances by story progress has its perks. Every captain you manage to kill will drop a rune. The rarity of the rune depends on multiple factors, starting with the rank of the captain, if gathered information regarding its fears and strengths and abused them, for example one might be a combat master, making it impossible to execute him in combat, but it might be vulnerable to stealth attacks. The information of a certain captain might be obtained in multiple ways, like saving slaves, searching for papers, or interrogating orcs. All the sources of information are marked with the same symbol on the map and above the head of the targets, even through any orc can tell you who is the captain, only the ones with information know the weakness and strengths.
With the ranking system, the ranks are always modifying, orcs will fight for power and perks of the ranks. This will result in events spawning on the map as the time passes. There are multiple types of events that can occur, from feasts where they celebrate their victory, animal hunts to duels. All of them are great opportunities to catch the captains, to assassinate or to brand them, with the help of a certain ability controlling them to fight for you.
Using the rank system, you can infiltrate your controlled captains and gain influence over it, or, you can just pop the head of every branded orc. There's even an achievement where you have to let a simple orc to kill you, and help him climb the raking ladder until the last level, just to kill him when he's a war chief.
I think one of the best parts of this game is the fact that you can play it how you want, stealth or all in. Besides the stealth mission and challenges, you can as well go all in weapons drawn and kill whatever stands in your way. Again, it's your choice, but this game can be more Assassin's Creed than Assassin's Creed: Odyssey.
The skill points you receive during the game can be invested to unlock in the ability tree. This is divided in 2 separates trees, one for Talion and one for Celebrimbor, each of them growing in a direction, Talion becoming an even more skilled fighter, and Celebrimbor unlocking more and more of his elf powers from when he was alive.
The way you will be using the skills to play is entirely your choice, but the game throws so many points at you that, at the end of the game, it is pretty unusual to have some locked skills.
There are 2 main skills that change the entire game, one is mid-fight execution, that basically will allow you to instantly kill someone when achieving a combo of a multiple of 8 (5 after a skill) in a bloody satisfying manner. The next screenshots will show some of it, but I think a youtube video is better to see the fighting in all its glory. (Fighting)
The second ability is branding, controlling orcs, caragors, trolls, basically everything that can fight in this game, to folow you, making some interesting combinations, and yes there are achievements for some combinations.
The map is relatively small, there are only 2 in the main game, not too big, but enough for their purpose. All the main points are shown on the map, even the runes that you left behind after killing a captain. You can teleport to any of the light towers if you aren't in combat mode, which is a great way to get from point to point on the map, crucial if you want to perfect the game.
The main points of start are the tower of light; Accessible only by Celebrimbor and unseen by the orcs, that were once build in the defiance of Sauron, now are just ruins hold together by the elf magic.
Mastering the game
This is game that require some strategy if you want to reach that 100% achievements. After completing the game with both DLC's you still have to do the trials, in which you have to do a certain number of tasks like killng all the captains using monsters or brading a certain number in 40-60 minute. No wonder they have a 0.9-1.1% rarity, these are hard, but I can say I'm in the 0.9% that perfected this game.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor have become one of my favourite games I ever played. Even after I mastered the game I still kept it installed for quite some time. Even through you're not a fan of the elfs and orcs stories, this game is super fun to play, but if you're familiar with Lord of the Rings you have to try this game. For me it was the perfect match between a fun gameplay and a good story but I would also like to know more opinions on it.