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    kkotter's Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)

    [February 14, 2018 01:29:20 AM]
    I almost exclusively spent my time this play session (around 1.5 hours) doing all of the available missions to free slaves in the surrounding areas. In my past couple of play sessions, I had freed the slaves because I felt morally obligated to, but I didn't see how freeing them helped me at all besides earning a (relatively small) amount of experience. However, when I freed another camp of slaves at this beginning of this play session, I unlocked a wide series of slave-rescuing missions and discovered that rescuing slaves put me in their good graces, and by rescuing more I could unlock intel about leaders in Sauron's army. I was much happier to discover that doing something that the game presents as morally good was actually rewarding in a significant way (does that make me a bad person, that I only really want to do the things that the game's ethical framework say are good if I'm being compensated in a large enough way? Probably).

    Another interesting thing I discovered is that the orcs and uruks will have conversations with each other if you eavesdrop on them. The fascinating thing is that the conversations generally aren't boring and inconsequential; instead, they're about the power struggle in Sauron's army and how they feel about their direct superiors. Occasionally, after I'd fought with some of them, some of them would even discuss me and my prominence among the gossip circles. It was cool to feel like the game world was moving constantly, even if I wasn't doing anything. Having this living, breathing game world made it feel so much more real, and that just increased the impact of the story throughout the game (if the world feels real, then the slave within it are, in some sense, real). This whole system was especially enjoyable because the actual main campaign/storyline isn't particularly interesting or nuanced, but the Nemesis system and the way that the characters interact with it has more than made up for it, in my opinion.

    Speaking of, the Nemesis system is the meat and bones of this game, and it's clear to me now why the game won Game of the Year at GDC. Navigating the political nature of Sauron's army, figuring out who to kill and who to target next, gathering intel on your opponent's weaknesses and strengths and how best to defeat them... it's a fascinating, unique approach to gameplay that I didn't expect to find in a LotR game. I think it's interesting to think how similar systems could be used in other genres to great effect. I mean, come on, now I just want to play a House of Cards game with a Nemesis system in place.
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    [February 13, 2018 12:32:34 AM]
    Got another hour or so of gameplay in today. I'm loving the world the game has set me in -- it feels distinctly Lord of the Rings, and even the fighting system makes me feel like I'm in one of the movies. I think that's one of the games biggest strong points, actually. I've played roughly 3 hours so far, and not once have I ever fought an enemy one on one. At first that frustrated me, but the more I've played, the more I've realized that it's trying to tie into the player fantasy. Because you play as a Ranger, a semi-mythical figure in the LotR universe, fighting a horde of enemies -- and winning -- makes you feel good. It makes you feel powerful and in control while at the same time making every battle, even the small ones, feel tense and chaotic. Also, because of countering and slo-mo critical hits and the ability to flow from enemy to enemy in a stylish way, every fight feels like it could be a choreographed scene from one of the movies. However, the game is set up in such an open-world way that you can often find yourself amidst groups of enemies you're just not equipped to deal with yet, and the resulting deaths feel like the game is punishing you for exploring.

    This concept of exploration punishment was also my first real introduction to the game's Nemesis system, wherein you kill leaders of Sauron's army (or they kill you) and the hierarchy of that army changes. However, dying to one of the leaders increases that leader's power -- and due to my constant (perhaps stupid) exploration, I died again and again to one leader, causing him to be incredibly overpowering. This only means that the Nemesis system is working as intended, and it's really cool in context of the game and world, but it can be frustrating to constantly run into this leader and know that I either run or die.

    I also spent the better part of today's play session ignoring the main story missions and instead freeing slaves captured by orcs. I'm not even sure that the time spent doing so was particularly worth it (I received experience and money for freeing the slaves, but nothing particularly grandiose and nothing that provided any type of narrative), so I'm not sure it was time well spent. The game prompted me to free the slaves and then didn't force me, but that meant that I would've felt like a bad person if I had ignored that hint and not freed the slaves. Interesting ethical situation, there.

    Also, ran into Gollum near the end of my play session? For some reason I thought this game was centuries before the main LotR movies, but apparently not.
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    [February 11, 2018 01:42:43 AM]
    I played for about an hour and a half today. The game has me incredibly interested, even if I am a bit lost and confused. I thought the developers did a very good and interesting job with the opening of the game, which surprised me. About 5 minutes into the game, I was incredibly frustrated with the opening. I hadn't actually been able to play yet, and all the game had been was cutscenes and voiceovers. I'm a firm believer that games should get you to a playable position as quickly as possible, and it looked like the game was going to go full exposition on me instead. This was particularly worrying because the game kept showing flashbacks of the main character's backstory, but they had little weight to me because I didn't know who the main character was. Thankfully, though, it quickly switched, and I was able to actually play these flashbacks -- and even better, the flashbacks were the tutorial for the game. Learning how to sword fight because I was teaching my son how to sword fight was a genius move, really, and let the game avoid many of the problems of tutorial levels as well.

    Actually getting into the main gameplay has been a lot of fun. The "Nemesis" system that I've heard so much about is starting to peek out every once in a while, but it's currently daunting and has had very little explanation by the game. The fighting is fluid and natural, and the controls all feel very smooth. My one major complaint so far is that the game suffers from some pretty serious map and menu UI overload (unfortunately borrowing a little too much from Assassin's Creed here). There's so many icons on both the map and the menu that navigating them becomes a chore, which should be the exact opposite of what both of those things are there for. The game itself has been fun so far, though!
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    kkotter's Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 11 February, 2018

    kkotter's opinion and rating for this game

    No comment, yet.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

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    See info on Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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