Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) Video Game Review

Title: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Release date: 2014.
Console (player on): PC.
Console (also available on): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.
Play Time: 30.8 hours.
Mode(s): Single-Player.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure.
Developer: Monolith Productions.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Producer(s): Nathan Edson & Zeb Wedell.
Designer(s): Michael de Plater.
Programmer(s): Matthew Rice.
Artist(s): Philip Straub.
Writer(s): Christian Cantamessa.
Composer(s): Garry Schyman & Garry Grigg.
Voice Actor(s): Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Jack Quaid, Matthew Mercer, Claudia Black, Travis Willingham, Liam O’Brian, Nolan North, and many more!
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.


Vengeance is a double-edged sword. Once it takes ahold of your soul, lingering long enough to corrupt it at its very core, it becomes a toxic driving force for heroes who once were perceived as exalted champions among their people, as saints, pursuers of virtuous beliefs, now slowly turning to the darkness for solace. It’s only among the strongest of souls that reside an ability to resist temptation, to refuse to kneel before impulsive and violent desires, and it is the journey towards acknowledging this power that remains a colossal challenge for many. Once they finally grasp the slim ray of light and hope deep within themselves, their life can finally begin anew. But what will it take to get to that point? Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, the gaming world is introduced to a brand-new hero established within J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium and Peter Jackson’s movie franchise who sets out to exact revenge upon those who have taken his loved ones.

What is Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) about? Set between the events that unfold in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movie trilogies, the story introduces ranger Talion, captain of Gondor, guarding the Black Gate of Mordor. When his garrison is assaulted by Sauron’s Uruk-hai, fierce and ruthless orcs, void of unselfish beliefs, his wife Loreth and son Dirhael are captured by the three Black Númenórean captains: the Hammer of Sauron, the Tower of Sauron, and the Black Hand of Sauron. The latter, also their leader, thus utilizes their prisoners for a ritual blood sacrifice in hopes of summoning the wraith of an Elf Lord. The process inadvertently fails as the wraith fuses with Talion instead who, upon waking up from the tragedy, seeks to avenge his family no matter the costs.

(c) Player.One.

The story is fully accessible even to players unfamiliar with author J.R.R. Tolkien’s books or Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations. The developers created a multi-plotted non-linear narrative set within an epic fantasy sandbox universe that gives players freedom in how they progress through the story with various little side-quests to explore the world. Brilliantly utilizing Tolkien’s legendarium, the world of Mordor is wonderfully constructed, with orcs ravaging the territory, enslaving humans, and wild creatures roaming around, both dangerous to allies and enemies. The quest for revenge being the primary tale makes for a refreshing and cathartic journey as players acquaint themselves with the protagonist and his way of life as he slays away, more often than not in a majestic and brutal fashion, at the Uruk-hai that pervades Mordor. The mysterious wraith of an Elf Lord that serves as his guiding voice, while also bestowing upon him unique powers, is a fantastic secondary character that players. Once players discover his identity, well-known in the Second Age of Middle-earth’s history, the story builds up its intrigue as one starts to wonder about the Elf Lord’s hidden motivations.

The game’s most innovative feature lies in its thoroughly clever nemesis system which constantly creates a unique power struggle and climate within the game as the Uruk-hai continuously try and climb up the ladder to become captains and bodyguards, especially by killing Talion. This ever-increasing difficulty that completely depends on a player’s ability to survive within Mordor makes for a fantastic gameplay mechanism, further enhanced by the ability to interrogate orcs to extract information on other orcs, such as their strengths and weaknesses. The third-person open-world structure is also beautifully utilized to allow players to roam around, parkour their way across infrastructures, and decide how to use their environment to either frontally assault orc camps or approach through stealth. The combat system is also impeccable, reminiscent of what is praised in the Batman: Arkham and Assassin’s Creed franchise, allowing players to attack, dodge, and use special Wraith-infused abilities to brutally slay Uruk. And, believe me, when you get to brutalize orcs, you REALLY get to do so in all of its gory and glorious splendour.

Although it is a wonderfully-constructed game, with excellent graphics and a phenomenal score, pivoting around a solid story that doesn’t necessarily break new grounds but creatively utilizes many wonderful elements from Tolkien’s universe, whether it’s the presence of the little River-folk ring-obsessed creature or the Dark Lord himself, the gameplay can, however, become quite repetitive, especially if there’s no willingness from the player to intentionally change up their playstyle throughout the campaign. Furthermore, boss battles are quite disappointing, easily and effortlessly dealt with if you’ve mastered the basic controls. The most damaging factor of the game, to the player’s overall experience that is, is in fact its final act which unfortunately ends on a very anticlimactic point, mostly filled with cutscenes, as players indulge in the developers’ teaser for the next and final game in the franchise.

(c) IMDb.

Since its release, two additional downloadable contents are also available. The first downloadable content called Lord of the Hunt sees the return of an in-game ally, the dwarf Torvin, with whom Talion will join forces to wage war against an army led by the Beastmaster Warchiefs. To do so, players will learn to control powerful beasts roaming around Mordor in hopes to put an end to the enemies’ desire to claim the wilds of the Lands of Shadow. Without being overcomplicated, the content is fairly linear and offers more of the good stuff already present in the main story, which in itself is something players could definitely never say no to. The second downloadable content called The Bright Lord allows players to play the Elf Lord from the main campaign and follows the story that eventually leads him to face off against Sauron himself. While this content offers excellent lore material, it poorly utilizes the nemesis system, keeping the gameplay limited despite new abilities to use and enemies to face off. The final showdown, however, is as grandiose as you’d expect it, almost compensating for the weak ending of the original game.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) is an immersive and enthralling forway into an Uruk-hai-infested world, addictively built around an excellent nemesis system, as players follow Gondorian ranger Talion in his quest for revenge.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) is out since September 30th, 2014.

Have you played this game?
Will you? What do you think about it?
Share your thoughts with me!


24 thoughts on “Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) Video Game Review

  1. What does “parkour” mean? I’ve seen it recently in another blog/post and it seems to be videogame related parlance.

    Tolkien never mentions possession, that I’m aware of, so do the creators of the game just “make it so, number one!” or is there genuine thought put into the idea?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its a game mechanic or term for any kind of climbing. The Assassins Creed games made it a very popular thing, the ability to climb up about almost everything in the game world. Not just platforming in a straight line… Way more advanced than the first Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider games. in short…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It’s not specific to video games actually. Growing up, around 2007+, it became this activity that some people started to actively do: running around and maneuvering through obstacles, climbing walls, strategically getting across rooftops, etc. It grew in popularity through Youtube (where you’ll probably find countless videos of people parkouring), at least, it’s my impression, and you see a lot of it in action movies too. Of course, it’s also quite common in video games.

      That’s true. At least in everything I’ve read up to The Silmarillion, there’s no such thing as a possession but the creators made good use of it here; it doesn’t feel like it doesn’t fit into the world, you know? After all, in Silmarillion, when Sauron is defeated, it does mention something along the lines that his soul flees, so there’s at least that idea of body versus soul. It wouldn’t be too farfetched to think that souls can be put into a body, especially through some magical ritual. Anyway, it made for a cool premise to make this story work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Despite my love of Middle-earth I don’t think I’ve ever tried playing a video game in that setting. I did once try an old role playing game of it with some friends in college, though. That was fun. I see at least 4 of the voice talent are from Critical Role, a group who plays D&D online. These days I do more watching other folks play than doing it myself. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If there was any way for you to try this, I’d recommend it! Maybe just watching playthroughs on Youtube could give you an idea of what’s up. There are some people who do “movie versions” of the game by putting together all the cutscenes and gameplay. That might also be an option, if you have 2-3 hours to spare and are interested enough in the game hahah I saw some of those older Lord of the Rings games and was impressed by the sheer number of PC games that were made, some very much praised but don’t visually stand-out to today’s…standard hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I may check out some of the videos. You’re absolutely right about the graphics today standing out against most anything from the past. And the role playing game we tried was actually good old pen and paper. No clue what it was called. There were lots of those games around in the day, probably still are. And all the graphics were in our heads. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is one of those games I bought used a while back during my collecting games, played it for about half an hour to make sure it works, and then forgot about it. I’ve wanted to actually play it fever since, but I’m not sure when that’ll be.

    Liked by 1 person

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