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    dkirschner's Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)

    [November 20, 2019 07:32:00 PM]
    Summing up additional thoughts on the eve of defeating the Black Hand. My first entry was raving about the Nemesis system, so I’ll continue from there.

    The Nemesis system becomes even more fun (and harrowing) as you gain more control over it. It’s like a giant toybox and you’re playing with action figures. The game lets you get a feel for the system in the first chunk of hours by killing captains and seeing how challenges work and how uruks move through the ranks. Then, you’re introduced to warchiefs. You have to kill all the warchiefs to move to the game’s second area. Warchiefs require special actions to be lured out into the open, so for example, you may have to “brutalize” his favorite uruk. Warchiefs in the second area, now these bad boys have elite captains for guards. When you lure one of them out, you’re in for a battle. But, you can kill their bodyguards by hunting them down beforehand so that the warchief comes out alone, or with just regular uruks.

    The fun part really comes when you gain the “dominate” ability and are able to manipulate Sauron’s army. You can essentially mind control uruks and make them fight for you. They don’t just start hacking their brethren though; you have to activate them. This means you can strategize by queueing up dominated uruk around a captain, then give the signal and they all turn on him. It’s incredibly satisfying. So in that second area, your goal is not to kill all five warchiefs, but to dominate them. I suppose when you fight the Black Hand, then his bodyguards, the warchiefs, will betray him and make your fight easier. When you dominate captains, you can promote them, make them bodyguard of a warchief, or direct them to attempt to murder another captain. Long story short, if you want to, you can dominate Sauron’s entire army, orchestrate duels and things to level up your favorites, and really manipulate the Nemesis system. The potential for control is quite impressive.

    This is all useful because some of the captains and warchiefs (and I’m sure the Black Hand) are difficult battles. Last night, I came across a warchief that was resistant to all of my attacks. How do kill him? I tried a couple times and I could get him to flee (he’s scared of me and of betrayal, so if you have a dominated captain betray him and you show up too, he bails). But even once he was fleeing, I couldn’t do enough damage to him before he escaped. My solution was to dominate about 20 uruks where he patrolled and turn them loose. He simply became overwhelmed as we all hacked at him. It is incredibly satisfying to creatively use the tools the game gives you to overcome obstacles.

    All of the above is the best part of the game. Other things I enjoyed (story, characters, general mission structures, abilities, etc.). Abilities, for example, are drip-fed throughout the campaign. You’re always unlocking something new through completing story missions, and you will have enough power and currency to get most all of the abilities you want without any extra effort. Other things, though, were disappointing. Luckily the disappointing things are easy enough to ignore, though I wish I’d known out of the gate.

    There are two kinds of collectibles in Mordor. I expected something to happen once I collected all of one of them because each piece uncovers more of a picture, that looks like some magical run on a wall (a doorway somewhere??). Alas, nothing happens, just a cryptic poem. Do not waste your time finding collectibles unless you want an achievement. The same goes for the weapon lore quests. I assumed that completing these (10 missions for each of your 3 weapons) would lead to a new ability or a stronger weapon or something, but no, nothing! It’s just some more narrative, while interesting, is not the kind of reward I wanted. Weapon runes are also quite useless. When you kill a captain, he drops a rune you can slot into a weapon. You start the game with some really awesome ones, and I used these the entire game. The ones I found, I hardly ever used. The game hints at more epic runes of the type you start the game with, but I rarely saw one (edit: My epic starting runes were probably from a DLC pack that I didn’t know I had. Why would these be automatically applied?!). Finally, I was disappointed in the second area. It’s the same as the first but with a new coat of pain (ooh, pretty Mordor by the sea instead of industrial Mordor). There are some harder creatures roaming around and some different terrain, but nothing functionally unique. Perhaps the main point is to give Sauron two sub-armies, but that seems to serve you getting the dominate skill and putting it to use only, as you deal with the armies in exactly the same way aside from now being able to dominate uruk.

    And now that I’ve completed the game…

    The last two “boss fights” are a joke. What a letdown! They weren’t even fights! QTEs get outta my face! So much for all the army buildup and investing in my skills for a final showdown. Sigh. This could have been epic.
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    [November 15, 2019 07:05:04 AM]
    The famed Nemesis system. Wow. First impressions: Sauron’s army has a bunch of captains. They have varying “power” levels. If you kill one, you get that much power, a resource that unlocks new tiers on the ability tree. It wasn’t too long before a captain killed me (I got in a scrap with two at once, actually). The one that killed me increased in power and became, formally, my nemesis! The next time I fought him, he was even harder, but I was stronger too and made short work of him. The second one that survived our encounter gained a lesser amount of power. This may add a sort of risk/reward for creating nemeses that get stronger so that you can then kill them for more power. I suppose this could easily spiral out of control if they become too powerful.

    When you kill a captain, another uruk can take his place in the hierarchy. I think this happens over time; one spot was vacant for a couple hours then filled. You can also learn captains’ strengths and weaknesses by gathering intel, either from finding it or from interrogating captains and other uruk with special markers. Strengths are obviously good to know; I came across one captain whom I couldn’t parry. Weaknesses are even better though because, not only can you exploit them, but if you kill the captain with a specific weapon weakness (often weak to ground executions with the blade or combat executions with the sword), they’ll go down in one hit and they’ll drop a nice rune for that weapon.

    At this point, I’m curious how randomized the captains are. Do they have names that give them specific strengths and weaknesses (like “the coward” might give them the easily terrorized trait) or is each uruk a pre-determined character? I have similar questions about the runes, which you can slot into your weapons to receive benefits (additional critical strike chance, resistance to poison, etc.).

    My first impression of Shadow of Mordor is extremely positive. The Nemesis system is already blowing my mind with possibilities and gives the game a “hunting” feel. Interactions between uruks, human slaves, and local wildlife (which I have already killed, been killed by, has killed a captain for me, and has ravaged uruks and humans alike) make Mordor vibrant and deadly. The minimap is busy with icons, though most are herbs and other things that I’ve already learned to filter for the most part. There are a few collectables and quests per area, which so far have all been interesting. There’s a wonderful lore book. Gollum is here. Really excited to play more.
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    dkirschner's Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Thursday 14 November, 2019

    GameLog closed on: Wednesday 20 November, 2019

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Flashy and fun, lots of systems to figure out. Hopefully combat and collecting things doesn't get old. ----------- Combat doesn't get old; collecting things does. Lame final battles. Nemesis system is super innovative though.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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