Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (2017) Video Game Review

Title: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.

Release date: 2017.
Console (player on): PC.
Console (also available on): PlayStation 4 & Xbox One.
Play Time: 41 hours.
Mode(s): Single-Player, Multiplayer.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy.
Developer: Monolith Productions.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Director(s): Michael de Plater.
Producer(s): Nathan Edson.
Designer(s): Bob Roberts.
Programmer(s): Matthew Rice.
Artist(s): Philip Straub.
Writer(s): Tony Elias & Christian Cantamessa.
Composer(s): Garry Schyman & Nathan 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: 7.5 out of 10.

Previously in the Middle-Earth video game franchise:
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014).


Sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire in hopes of relinquishing an evil far greater than what you could have ever envisioned. Through sheer determination, an unparalleled conviction of championing the greater cause, and an unforeseeable plan hidden within the shadows of war, one might be blinded by the certitude of victory until one progressively falls prey to the darkness and its evil ways. But how much evil can one withstand, battle, and conquer before kneeling before it and succumbing to its temptations? Developed once more by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, under the direction of Michael de Plater, this sequel picks up where things were left and further delves into J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium and Peter Jackson’s movie franchise as our heroes tread a fine line in their war against Sauron.

What is Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (2017) about? The story continues by following the Gondorian Ranger by the name of Talion (Troy Baker) who found himself bonded with the spirit of the Elf Lore Celebrimbor (Alastair Duncan). Convinced that a new Ring of Power needs to be forged to rival that of Sauron, the ring is stolen by Shelob (Pollyanna McIntosh) who unveils that they all have a common enemy and could work together to bring down the Great Deceiver. With their eyes set on retrieving a valuable Palantír hidden away in Minas Ithil before Sauron can get his hands on it, their journey leads them to encounter new foes and allies along the way, continuously battling their own internal conflict of good and evil as they march into a way where there’s no turning back. However, how much are they really willing to sacrifice to get what they truly desire?

(c) Polygon.

The narrative expands on the lore of this universe more than ever before with the creation of a new ring, the introduction of new iconic creatures and characters from writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, and new powers inexistent in the source material that allows the writers in this game to make things work. The story remains fairly simple by its nature, clear from the get-go, with Talion and Celebrimbor dominating orcs and capturing countless fortresses as they make their way through Middle-earth until their army is sufficiently powerful to confront Sauron, the Witch-king of Angman and the Nazgûl. There is an incredible amount of latitude taken into justifying many of the events occurring in this story, always with an epic scope, while tying in the journeys of several side characters, from General Castamir’s daughter Idril, his lieutenant Baranor, or even the Elven assassin working under the wings of Galadriel, Eltariel. Unfortunately, in an effort to quickly tie up all loose threads and give players a true ending, the final act does take immense pleasure in taking shortcuts and connecting Talion’s story to that of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy. Although it did feel cheap, a lot is easily pardoned by the journey and the experience of slaying orcs and ologs.

The incredibly original and engaging nemesis system that was introduced in Shadow of Mordor makes a grand return in this sequel and is further expanded as well. Not only can any free-roaming orcs kill you and climb up the ladder in ranks within Sauron’s army, but players can also now dominate captains and warchiefs, send them to infiltrate the overlords, and successfully conduct a coup d’état on enemy fortresses until they belong to you. Despite capturing fortresses, players must also defend them by upgrading them and successfully protecting them from enemy assaults. The battle system, still very reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham games or even the Assassin’s Creed games, is still incredibly responsive, fluid, and engaging, as players can progressively upgrade Talion gears and modify his skill tree according to their playstyle but also according to the enemies and their weaknesses (e.g. use freezing abilities against orcs that fear the element). The game also features several side quests, often pertaining to solving puzzles, retrieving artifacts, or collecting Shelob’s memories, which all offer unique rewards that can help alleviate the game.

(c) Riot Pixels.

There are very few flaws observable in terms of graphics and sound in this sequel. This time around, players get to discover numerous novel environments (e.g. Cirith Ungol, Nurnen, Seregost, and Gorgoroth) and their unique designs, with great parkouring mechanisms as well as the possibility to dominate caragors and ride them around these maps. The inclusion of drakes and unique graugs also make for a very crowded and unique landscape where everything and anything can turn against you or be used against others. The beauty of this world, especially for fans of this universe, also lies in the formidable sound effects, always immersive and wonderfully realistic, within an epic fantasy world. The voice acting is also brilliant, with Alastair Duncan’s Celebrimbor being unquestionably the most memorable take on the legendary character. However, it should be noted that the insane number of orcs who have their own unique lines representing their name make for a fun time, although sometimes their dialogue is too long and really takes you out of the action inappropriately.

Unlike its predecessor, this sequel also contains a multiplayer feature that allows you to avenge fallen players by taking on missions to kill the orcs that killed them or to begin an online conquest to take the fortresses of other players. Although these aren’t mandatory, they do add some extra replayability points for players looking to test their skills beyond what the story campaign has to offer. The second act of the game, which lets players decide where they go and in what order they progress through side quests and conquer enemy fortresses, is also sufficiently long and full of missions that can be accepted to defeat orcs and build your army to your taste. The fourth act, however, is oddly structured, however, and does force upon players an annoyingly long, fundamentally unjustified, grind to actually unlock the true ending. This could easily irritate many players who would prefer to use their time differently but could also be enjoyed as the ultimate finale centered around capturing fortresses and defeating the toughest of orcs, ologs, and Nazgûl.

(c) AnandTech.

The game, for the time being also the only sequel envisioned for this franchise, also released two additional story downloadable contents (DLC). The first is titled “Blade of Galadriel” and is set towards the end of the game and follows Eltariel in her own quest to defeat Sauron and any of his surviving disciples. This short content is structured similarly to Talion’s own journey and introduces numerous new kinds of orcs with unique never-before-seen abilities, which does highlight the developer’s own creative freedom around the matter and the pervasive comedy that was also found in some of the side quests in the main game that was more often than not cringy than funny. However, the story itself, by the end of it at least, does allow players to better grasp Talion’s transformation and Eltariel’s own decisions despite Galadriel’s order.

The second and final DLC is called “Desolation of Mordor” and is a unique take on the game by following Baranor who looks to take control of the fortress of Shindram with the help of the dwarf Torvin (Adam Croasdell) and the Vanishing Sons mercenary camp. Unlike Talion, Baranor does have any wraith within him that can allow him to die and resurrect, making this little story a bit more original as players must navigate through this treacherous world without dying, at the risk of having to restart it all from scratch. Thankfully, the story itself is as short as the previous DLC (around two hours), and the missions are often always around the idea of capturing fortresses and holding them down before taking down the big one with its overlord. His abilities are also a bit more different, with the introduction of a grappling hook and a glider, which are new ways to travel around the world. While inconsequential to the main game’s story, this does offer something different for players who enjoyed Baranor’s character and the world of Middle-earth as conceived by the people over at Monolith Productions.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (2017) is an impressive and immersive sequel, bigger and wilder than its predecessor, yet narratively shallow, as Talion and Celebrimbor build their army to face off Sauron once and for all.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (2017) is out since October 10th, 2017.

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


27 thoughts on “Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (2017) Video Game Review

  1. “Percy Jackson’s movie trilogy.”

    I think you got your Jackson’s mixed up there. Although I’m sure Peter would love to be a demi-god (and maybe is in his own mind? It would explain that Hobbit trilogy).

    As for the game, I could never get past the idea of trying to forge a new ring. No one has that power any more. And Sauron forged all the originals as that was his specialty. So I’d be quitting as soon as that idea came forth 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha thanks for pointing that out! I often make that lapsus! It is now correctly and no connection should be made with Percy! 😂

      Actually, Celebrimbor exists in Tolkien’s books and he’s an eleven smith who was fooled into making the One Ring. Him exisiting in the games makes it so it’s possible for someone to create another One Ring but without Sauron’s corruption. 😂 That is the premise with which you work with throughout these games.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahhhh, good to know. See, this is why I don’t talk too much about Tolkien because I’m just not a lore kind of guy. I end up getting things mixed up and coming up with ideas that aren’t actually supported. Then I use those ideas to deal with competing ideas. But since my initial ideas are wrong, well, this comment happens 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you had a good time with the one despite the lack of narrative depth. Great to hear. The graphics are certainly impressive. Things like this that are built from material created by someone long since dead leave me curious what the creator, Tolkien, in this case, would think of it. Would he be impressed and like all the explorations within his world or would he hate it? Just as I often wonder what various classical composers and musicians would think of modern electric instruments and music. I’d like to think at least some would be fascinated by it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sometimes do wonder what J.R.R. Tolkien and even his son think of everything new related to Middle-earth, from the Amazon show to the upcoming new stuff that they’ve announced. Having also knowledge of how Alan Moore despise most of the adaptations of his own classic material, I can imagine things go both way with the Tolkiens (love or hate it all) hahahah


  3. “…and new powers inexistent in the source material that allows the writers in this game to make things work.” Does it not bother you that there are characters/mobs that don’t belong in the Tolkien world in that game? How much creative freedom should a game have in your opinion?

    Do you always play your games with the sound on?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Considering I’m not the creator of this universe and just a die-hard of it who will always prefer material created by the real creator, I do like to see what others bring to the table. It’s like all the Batman stuff I do read. No one ever reproduces the same thing. Everyone has their own take. It’s how well they sell their ideas that counts.

      For sure! Who plays story-driven games without sound hahahah I can understand turning off the sound if it’s relevant, like, I don’t know, if you’re playing Tetris or something. 😀


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