The Alien Critic Reviews...
The Alien CriticReviews...

TAC Reviews...Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor + DLCs & Shadow of War + Update

Date Posted: 01/09/19


Initially released in 2014 Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor is a third-person, open world action adventure game set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The player takes control of Talion, a Ranger who sets out to avenge his family after they are murdered by the Black Hand, servants of the Dark Lord Sauron. The version I played was for the PS4, and was the Game of the Year Edition.


I have played and reviewed:


Shadow of Mordor

Lord of the Hunt

The Bright Lord


I also went on to play the sequel Middle Earth: Shadow of War which is also listed below for you to enjoy.


Shadow of War

Shadow of War...Update...

Shadow of War...Final Update...


Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor Cover Art


I mentioned in a previous a review that I had then just started Shadow of Mordor and could already tell I was going to like it, because it has all the features that I like in a sandbox game, you start off weak but unlock better powers, new lore, new weapons (or runes in this case) until you are a badass capable of taking on anyone and everyone who stands before you. That opinion may have been a little premature, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


For those of you unfamiliar with the films The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, or the works of J.R.R Tolkien, allow me to give you the basic gist. In the land of Middle Earth there exist men, dwarves, elves, half-lings named hobbits, and Orcs. The world is a solid continent with each group essentially having their own lands. Areas include the Shire, Gondor, and Mordor.


Okay, now bear with me on this because I will try to explain the next bit as far as I understand it. So, the Dark Lord Sauron created numerous Rings of Power which were gifted to the race of men, the elves, and the dwarves. However, in the fires of Mount Doom, Sauron also created another ring, the One Ring, which can control the power of the others and he poured his cruelty, malice and will to conquer into this Ring. Sauron met his undoing during a final battle against an alliance of Elves and Men, in which the Ring was cut off his finger, destroying the Dark Lord.


The Ring was taken by the man who killed Sauron (I won’t get into it here but blah, blah, blah) the One Ring was lost, and has been missing for two thousand years. Unbeknown to most it was found by a hobbit-like creature who took it into the Misty Mountains where the Ring poisoned his mind, extending his life by hundreds of years, and transforming him into a twisted creature known as Gollum. In The Hobbit the Ring was found by the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and Gollum has been searching for it ever since.


In the 60 years between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings the Black Gate (the entrance to the Dark Lord’s former kingdom of Mordor) is guarded by a garrison of men. The Gate is attacked by Orcs loyal to the Dark Lord, and the Black Hand of Sauron murder Talion’s wife, son and Talion himself in a ritual intended to draw the wraith of Celebrimbor into the leader of the Black Hand. However, Celebrimbor instead merges with Talion preventing his death and ensuring that no matter what happens he will not die. Celebrimbor was an Elf Lord has been a wraith for years and has forgotten his past, he grants Talion abilities that he did not have before.


The pair set off into Mordor to avenge Talion’s family and uncover the secrets behind Celebrimbor’s past...


Even before I started playing this game, I knew certain things about it, I’d seen a Zero Punctuation review and knew that it would be possible later in the game to brainwash Orcs, inserting them as sleeper agents into the enemy ranks. See in Mordor there are 5 war chiefs with around 20 captains, some of which serve as bodyguards to the War chiefs, and they are the ones that have the most power. When an Orc becomes a captain they become Uluks, and they will always be trying to increase their own power levels by attacking and killing other Captains. This creates an organic world in which your actions will affect these Orcs, because if a random one kills you they immediately become a captain, and you have the chance of going after them for revenge if you wish. But captains will fight between themselves, killing one another to develop their own positions of power.


The game features the Nemesis system in which Uluks actively remember Talion, and if they have killed him or tangled with him in the past will make reference to it. It really gives the impression this is a constantly changing world with allegiances and powers shifting around you, rather than Talion (or your actions) directly driving everything happening.


I think that in sandbox games I am my own worst enemy because as soon as the tutorial was over I went running off into the world to explore and kill various targets. In doing so I increased my levels of XP, monies to buy upgrades, and was able to unlock new abilities. I encountered frustration because I knew at some point I’d get the ability to control Orcs but didn’t know what it was going to happen. In the first few hours I encountered numerous Captains, for the most part slaughtering them one after another, but it was ultimately all for naught as others replaced them.


Part of the story involves you working with an Orc who seeks to become a War Chief and he wants you to help him, which you do. I thought that perhaps this was going to be the time when I could brainwash Orcs, but nope, the game continues onwards and it is not until around mission 13-ish that you gain the ability to brand Orcs. However, you don’t get to actively command them to attack rivals or do anything until around mission 17. My main issue with that being, that the game only has 20 main missions, so you are the majority of the way through the story before you can start recruiting Uluks. Ones that have been branded can be grabbed and used to gain intel, they can be commanded to attack rivals, become bodyguards for war chiefs and even betray those chiefs.


I have to admit that it was fun recruiting Uluks, instructing them to go after rivals, or betray war chiefs and help them from the shadows when they were challenged by rivals.


There is also an Advance Time mechanic that you use to resolve battles or beast hunts that you don’t need to be directly involved in. If your Branded Uluks are successful they level up to a maximum of 20. I’m honestly not sure if the levels make any difference as I once had a level 3 Orc kill a level 15 Captain. Not sure how that was possible. On that note, if you instruct a level 12 Captain to take on a level 20 Captain and help them to win, your Uluk doesn’t become a level 20 they only go up one level. I also did not encounter any occasion in the game in which a bodyguard with a higher level than a war chief turned on them unless I’d commanded them to do it.


You also really have to Advance Time in order to move on the power struggles between the Orcs, there are even occasions that you may want to let Orcs kill you so new members will join the ranks of the Captains.


The organic nature of the game and the fact that the Orcs all have personalities was a massive point in immersing you into the game’s world. You can overhear Orcs discussing War Chiefs and events happening in the game. Through the use of intel you learn an Uluk’s strengths and weaknesses, which can help you turn the tide in a battle against them. Causing some to flee from the sight of a fight, and it is possible for them to get away meaning you have to track them down all over again.


What I did find odd about the fluctuating power system within the game was that if a Captain flees a battle they don’t get demoted or lose any power, they just remain where they were. There are three rows of several Captains and one row of 5 War Chiefs. I don’t know if their relative position means anything to their overall rankings (with the acceptations of the War Chiefs). But for a world in which Orcs attack one another to gain more power I find it a bit odd that one that flees the sight of a battle is not any more likely to get attacked by a rival than one who always stands their ground and fights.


Having played Assassins Creed Black Flag recently I have to say that Shadow of Mordor reminded me a hell of a lot of an early Assassin’s Creed game. The yellow to red cone of suspicion you see when Orcs were looking at Talion was lifted straight from AC. You can use stealth mechanics, like kill and brand, in fact this could almost be Assassin’s Creed Lord of the Rings edition. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as the early AC games were really good before they got buried under so much faff that had nothing to do with actually assassinating targets.


There were a lot of mechanics that were copy pasted from AC, however a couple that weren’t and really could have been were the mid-mission checkpoints and the ability to sabotage flame towers.


There were numerous missions that were forced stealth sections I had to do over again because I made a single careless mistake. But I wasn’t able to just restart, I have to return to the mission beginning, and trigger it. It pissed me off when Spider-Man had no quick restart and as that game basically included elements from every open world sandbox that had come before it, this is where it may have picked up that bad habit. Thing is if I had spent time painstakingly hunting down and killing various Orcs all quiet like, then made a single error right at the end, I don’t think it is fair to send me back to the beginning of the mission (or fight my way back to the beginning of the mission). If you have four objectives I don’t think it would break the game to give you a check point when you complete each of those objectives.


The forced stealth stuff was a bit annoying and you had to be very cautious if you didn’t want to risk failure, but by far the most irritating mechanic, that wasn’t stolen from Assassin’s Creed was during the stronghold sections.


Mordor is a land that has been taken over by Orcs, this isn’t one of those games where you liberate districts and force enemies out. Strongholds remain under the control of Orcs regardless of what you do, and are commonly places you find Captains. When you attack one, there will be an Orc who runs to a fire tower and lights a torch, this raises into the sky alerting seemingly every Orc in Mordor to race to the stronghold. I’d find myself suddenly having to take on an army of Orcs because one trouble maker with a torch had lit the warning lights. Thing is there was no way to stop this from happening, as the torches couldn’t be sabotaged. You could poison grog but you weren’t able to sneak up to a warning fire and drop some gun power in it or something so it would explode if someone tried to light it.


I spent many a time racing from a stronghold with over a dozen Orcs in pursuit because the fires had been lit before I’d been able to kill the guy with the torch. Plus there isn’t only one per stronghold, there are loads so it is very unlikely that you’d be able to get them all before the fires are lit.


This fighting mechanics were pretty good, once again taken from early AC games, there was the usual attack, critical strike, counter and so on. Perhaps because I’d been playing Black Flag I found the combat pretty easy to get into and only died a couple of times once I had figured out how to move and attack.


The missions are generally varied and Gollum makes an appearance (although not voiced by Andy Sirkis). The biggest failing of the missions are the ones in which you have to rescue humans which are being used as slaves by the Orcs. There are 24 of these missions and each one involves rescuing slaves tied to stakes, literally every one. At the time of writing I’d played the game for over 30 hours and have done the main story, control all of the Captains and War Chiefs, collected all the relics, found all the Elf inscriptions BUT I have only done 13 of the 24 human missions because they are BORING. Running around one area of another killing Orcs, or branding them or whatever, just so I can cut the same generic looking humans from stakes over and over seems just so lazy compared to the work that has gone into the Orcs and other characters. As a result now that I have completed the main game and taken over the Captains and War Chiefs I don’t see why I’d return to the game just to force myself to do the other 11 of these missions, just for the sake of 100% completion. Considering that I am someone who likes 100% completion you understand how dull these missions must be for me to not do them into order to get that 100%. 


The final battle involves bringing your War Chiefs with you to attack the Black Hand and it was fun watching my boys slaughter their enemies, unfortunately the boss that Talion fights is almost a cut scene which was disappointing.


I like that the story fits in between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings which is all good. There are relics to find, as well as hunting challenges to do. The sandbox is not the biggest I have ever seen but it is as big as it needs to be with the wraith powers you unlock allowing you to get around using beasts or fast travel points. The game is getting a Thumbs Up because I was still playing it hours after telling myself I would stop but some of the stuff that wasn’t ripped from AC did grate on my nerves.



8/10 – Giving the seemingly mindless Orcs personalities and a rich society far more complicated than we ever saw in the films was a great achievement. The game feels organic and the AI of the Captains or War Chiefs you encounter is very impressive. Sadly there were some lazy mechanics that did bug me. I have the Game of the Year Edition which has DLC so undoubtably I’ll play that and give you my thoughts on it too.


TAC Reviews...Shadow of Mordor: Lord of the Hunt DLC

Date Posted: 16/09/19


As you are aware I purchased [The] Game of the Year Edition of Shadow of Mordor and it included all of the DLCs too. However, this particular one was originally released in September 2014. We are once again playing as Talion as he reunites with Torvin, the Dwarf Master Hunter, as a new group of Warchiefs seek to take command of Mordor's monstrous beasts in order to give their Master Sauron a more deadly addition to his army.



Now despite what I said in my review I did go back to the main game and finish the rescue missions in order to unlock all of Talion's upgrades and abilities. I needn't have bothered though as I had already completed Lord of the Hunt by the time I did that but I wanted to 100% the game so just ploughed through them till completion. As that had no bearing on the DLC I don't know why I brought it up to be honest.

Anyway, I assumed this DLC took place after the events of Shadow of Mordor as it features new Beast Master Warchiefs and Talion is sporting longer hair and a beard. However, after a quick look at the Shadow of Mordor Wiki it turns out that this actually takes place during the events of the main game, somewhere after the killing of the Legendary Graug and the Tower of Sauron mission but prior to the Black Hand's death.

Basically this new group of Warchiefs have driven the creatures from the wilds of Mordor back to the Sea of Núrnen in order to command them.

Talion and Torvin have to join forces to take on these monstrous beasts as well as the Warchiefs that control them...

Basically this mechanics of this game are the same as the Hunt missions in the main storyline, Talion can command the monsters roaming Mordor and uses them in various quests. He can hop onto a Caragath (similar to a Caragor but more dangerous) and ride them into battle against his foes. Or jump onto a Wrenched Graug that can vomit toxic puke onto their enemies, or launch a projectile attack.

As before the Warchiefs have their captains and Talion can engage them in combat, weaken them before Branding them to turn them to his side. I spent most of my time with the DLC doing this because it is easier to take on a Warchief if their bodyguards are secretly under your thrall.

You then do the Warchief’s mission, fulfil certain criteria to draw them out, then kill them. Once this is done your sleeper agents may rise to the ranks of a Warchief themselves...and that is pretty much it.

You don't have a final showdown with a greater enemy in which your Warchiefs stand beside you, you kill the Warchiefs, and you're done. Recruiting the Captains and Bodyguards to your side just makes that final battle easier but each Warchief is on some kind of beast that you invariably take control of, or kill, taking the Chief on yourself. I don't really know if things would have been much harder if I hadn't Branded all of their Bodyguards prior to the battle.

Talion is able to gain some new abilities, such as taking over Ghûls and Ghûl Hordes, turning them to his side in combat but I found it a bit fiddly as you need to press Square + Triangle together which could be interrupted if you got hit. It was a bit more of a ball ache than just executing everything that looked at you funny, unfortunately taking over Ghûls is necessary to defeat a Warchief so you have to do it.

I'd assumed this DLC takes place after the main game but as I said above it is during the game which leads to numerous questions regarding the continuity. Talion having long hair and a beard, Five Warchiefs and numerous Captains which are different to the Five Warchiefs and numerous Captains from the main story, in this Talion can control Ghûls, but he can't in the main it goes on.

This is one of those DLCs in which I am not sure what the point of it really is. Yes there are some new monsters but they are variations on ones we've already seen, we gain some more information on Torvin with various journal entries scattered around the world, and that it really it.

Was it really necessary to put this DLC out there when it doesn't really add anything??

Also it was only after I almost got my ass handed to me by a couple of Captains that I realised that whilst my unlocked abilities from Shadow of Mordor had crossed into this game, none of the Runes I had or had unlocked carried over. Therefore my massively powerful sword, poison resistance ability, Bow skills and so on had all been removed which left me a tad unprepared. I also don't really understand why character upgrades crossed over but Runes didn't.

Oh yes, one feature I forgot to mention in my review of Shadow of Mordor was that there is a mechanic in which you can Avenge others in the game. Basically every so often a mission will appear on your map which informs you that a certain Uruk has killed someone on your Friends list and you can go kill them in revenge. It was a nice little edition and whilst it could be picking names at random from your Friends list it makes the world a bit more immersive to go and kill the Uruks that have taken down your Friends.

As far as Lord of the Hunt is concerned it is not the worst DLC I have ever played...Infamous Cole's Legacy still holds that title...yet there wasn't much point to it. I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't fun to play around in Mordor some more, once again slowly Branding Captains and Bodyguards to turn them against their Masters was still enjoyable. Sadly the DLC just seems to exist to get money from fans of Shadow of Mordor, if you haven't played it then you're not missing much, but if you did pay for it then I would imagine there was some disappointment.

I got it free with the Game of the Year Edition I had and considering I didn't know the continuity until after I finished it, I thought it was a decent little extra story. Now I know the continuity it doesn't really make sense which is a bit annoying. Still, it was free to me so I'll give it a Thumbs Up



5/10 – This DLC generally is an average experience, it is not especially bad, but nor is it a must-have for fans of the game. It gives the player a bit more lore about the land of Mordor, and more of an insight into the Dwarf Torvin. If I had paid for it, I would have probably felt a bit cheated out of my money so basically play it if you are a mega-fan but if you ignore it then you’re not missing much.


TAC Reviews...Shadow of Mordor: The Bright Lord

Date Posted: 21/09/19


The second DLC released in 2014 serves as a prequel to the events of The Hobbit, Shadow of Mordor and the events of Lord of the Rings. It sees Celebrimbor, the elf that forged the One Ring, turning against Sauron and Branding the Uruks of Mordor to create an army to fight the Dark Lord



Now dear Reader, join me on a little journey if you will...allow me to set the scene...


A prequel that serves to fill in some of the gaps between the forging of the One Ring and the Dark Lord’s attempted conquest of Middle Earth. Celebrimbor, a powerful elf with the One Ring on his finger uses the weapon of his former Master to wage war turning legions of Uruks into his slaves. Now picture that the Uruk Captains and their Warchief Masters are higher levels than they were in either Shadow of Mordor or Lord of the Hunt. Now I want you to imagine how infuriating it is to have half the health bar you had in the main game, to have half of the wraith-ability, and enemies that can basically wreck your shit, until you control them and suddenly they become as durable as a microbe being crushed under the tread of a bulldozer.


I started playing the game late on Saturday night and by 3am I was very, very angry...I would even go so far as to say I was struggling to push myself through the game.


But why was it so bad??


I’ll tell you.


First off we’re back doing the Branding Captains and Warchiefs thing, which is basically the core of a Shadow of Mordor game or DLC but I am growing a little bored of it. I brand rather than kill Uruks and it started to become like ticking them off a checklist, brand Sargon the Arse-Sniffer and move on to hunting Ulerk the Graug Molester or whatever. Engage them in combat, weaken them, and Brand them...simples.


However, because I was playing with half of my previous heath bar with very few Runes to help I kept having my health bar reduced from full to a knat’s bollocks worth in a second. The Last Stand thing from the main game also seemed to have a massively reduced timescale on it so by the time I’d moved the analogue stick into the circle I was already trying to peel my crushed up face from the heel of an Uruk. I’d engage Captains in a one-on-one fight but got overwhelmed so often because my Elf-guy is piss weak and all of the skills I had unlocked in the other games were gone.


My sword, Dagger and Bow only had three, three and two Rune slots free respectfully so I couldn’t even make them more than fractionally better. Similarly with Lord of the Hunt, none of my Runes, unlocks or skills transferred from the main game to this DLC.


Celebrimbor also has a bow like Talion but when using his, time doesn’t slow down, which meant that when I was trying to use the bow to shadow strike an enemy or target something that needed to be exploded. I rarely got a shot off before the Uruks that were invariable chasing me were slicing my arse into luncheon meat.


Your elf cannot be upgraded so what you start with is what you have, no improving health, armour, weapons or any of the cool stuff I liked from the main game.


Celebrimbor is capable of mass branding Uruks once his combo is high enough, unfortunately this leads to massive cluster-fucks in which you are surrounded by Uruks, some trying to help you, others trying to kill you. Plus Celebrimbor doesn’t seem to grasp that attacking the Uruks that he has brainwashed is not a very good idea, so he will merrily slash his sword at the nearest Uruk regardless of whether they are under his thrall. I kept getting overwhelmed because I’d be buried in a mass of battling Orcs when a button prompt to counter or an incoming attack and because I couldn’t even see my elf-guy, I’d invariably take another hit to my health then up running around trying to find a plant to heal up again


This time around you are trying to take over areas of Mordor by building Towers, and I ran into two missions that left me seething with rage...


The first involved Branding 15 Orcs to create an “Army”...[...think an Army would have more than 15 Orcs in it but whatever...]...I managed to brand the constantly respawning enemies and a message flashed up telling me that I needed to keep my army at 10 or more Orcs for two minutes. Now, this should have been a relatively easy prospect, unfortunately the moment that you Brand an Orc they instantly forget how to fight, defend and are easier to kill than a sickly mayfly. So the big mother-fuckers that could paint the walls with me were easily killed when the nearest Orc coughed vaguely in their direction. To add to my troubles during the mission my Orcs dropped to less than 10, but within a second or two, they were back to over 10...but as I’d dropped below 10, the timer reset back to 2 minutes...


This happened over and over again, I had 20 Orcs at one point but somehow an attacking group of five enemies managed to kill most of them in a few seconds, and once my numbers were back up, the timer started again.


Why the chuffing hell did the timer RESTART??????



Why couldn’t it have stopped until my Orc levels were back up and resume from where it had left off??


This left me seething with rage because I couldn’t brand the enemies fast enough, plus the problem of Celebrimbor targeting friendlies didn’t get less annoying. He exploded the head of one of the Captains that was trying to help me, because...I imagine programming him to not target Branded allies is hard and the developers couldn’t be bothered to do it.


I later learned that you could brand groups of Orcs together once your Combo reached a certain point but the animation kept getting interrupted by some nearby trouble maker, resetting my combo and forcing me to start again.


It reminded me of the Riddler mission from the Arkham Knight DLC in which Catwoman breaks into Riddler’s hideout to rob him whilst he is still in custody, and is confronted by an army of robots. I maintain that I only got through that mission through frantic button mashing rather than any skill on my part and this mission was the same. I was only through persistence and constant button mashing that I was able to finally do it.


The second ball-gratingly annoying mission involves infiltrating a stronghold and somehow getting 50 Orcs to kill one another in 4 minutes. I summoned my 5 followers (that is how many you can summoned in one go) who were swiftly killed and managed to kill 10 Orcs before the timer expired. I again managed to eventually do it using the mass brand thing, but the only reason I realised that was thing was because a Trophy on the trophy list told me it could be done. A prompt eventually popped up on screen telling me how to do it but only AFTER I had already figured out how to do it on my own.


It is not often that I don’t like a game to the point where I don’t want to carry on with it, but The Bright Lord was dangerously close to being abandoned. I haven’t yet returned to Hitman which I reviewed a year or so (?) ago but more so because I found that one a bit boring. This game made me angry, things were poorly explained and enemies had been made tougher whilst my protagonist had been made considerably weaker.


He does have the One Ring but needs to charge it up and it lasts for just long enough to be somewhat useful before it craps out, right at the moment when you need it most. You can undertake missions to increase its use time but again these can only be done about two hours after it would have been useful.


It seemed that all the most annoying mechanics that a game can throw at a player were put the forefront for this DLC. Enemies are tougher, but you are weaker. Missions are harder and now have very unforgiving timers. Conga-lines of Orcs chase after you whilst you try to use your bow to attack archers that relentlessly pick away at your health from half a mile away. You have to defend War Machines which are set on fire by enemies and you are given no means to put the fire out. Timers are either too short or too long. So it goes on...


This was more endurance test than game. It left me so angry and not frustrated but determined to push on, I was so close to throwing down my controller and leaving the DLC to rot in a forgotten part of my Hard drive never to be played, and hopefully thought about again. However, I pushed through for you my loyal reader, and I hope you appreciate my efforts.


The final boss against Sauron was initially easy as I went to town on him using the One Ring whilst my Branded Warchiefs battled the Orcs surrounding the Dark Lord like flies. Of course that was until you take off the first of his health bars, and he removes your influence from the Warchiefs so you have to dodge Sauron, and somehow kill the five powerful Warchiefs, all whilst yet more random Orcs swarm you. Mercifully the fight has a checkpoint after Sauron is beaten the first time, otherwise I don’t honestly know if I’d have bothered to keep doing it until the Dark Lord was defeated (well, for about a second before getting the One Ring back)


As you can probably tell I did not care for this instalment, perhaps I am a bit Mordor-ed out at the moment as I basically played Shadow of Mordor, Lord of the Hunt, and The Bright Lord pretty much back-to-back. But I don’t think that is it, because I wasn’t bored, I was angry. The game was frustrating and I almost gave up because I don’t want to be fighting the game mechanics more than the enemies within it.


If Celebrimbor hadn’t targeted his own followers, if timers were fairer, if you had maximum health and time slowed down when using the bow then this might have been decent. Unfortunately, it was not, it was bad, really, really bad. I honestly hated this game and whilst it wasn’t as bad as Infamous Cole’s Legacy it was a terrible DLC that I want to forget as soon as possible.


I might play some of the other DLCs in time, which aren’t story modes they are just about making armies of Uruks loyal to you, which could be fun I guess. I am also open to the possibility of playing the main game’s sequel Middle Earth: Shadow of War especially considering that all the micro-transaction stuff has been removed. But I think I need a break from this franchise for a bit as The Bright Lord has left a bad taste in my mouth.


The game is getting a Thumbs Down because it pissed me off, it wasn’t fun, it just annoyed me and any game that I force myself to play is not going to get a recommendation.



2/10 – I plan to play Dark Souls Remastered at some point which is designed to be very difficult so perhaps in time I may grow an appreciation for difficult games. However, in this case I felt like it was the poor mechanics of the game which for me made this almost unplayable


TAC Reviews...Middle Earth: Shadow of War

Date Posted: 25/11/19


Right so despite declaring that I was a little Mordor-ed out after playing Shadow of Mordor, Lord of the Hunt and the Bright Lord, I never-the-less decided that as Shadow of War was on sale on the PS Network I might as well get it. I have started Red Dead Redemption 2 and am continuing to add to my fleet of cars and fortune on GTA Online, but I have also been working my way through Shadow of War, the 2017 sequel to 2014’s Shadow of Mordor. The player once again takes the role of Talion, a man being kept alive by an elf wrath that co-inhabits his body, as they attempt to take down the Dark Lord Sauron.


Shadow of War Boxart


Now unusually for me the version of the game I purchased was the Standard Edition, so no extra gear or weapons available or DLC. It was a bit of a novel experience because I cannot remember the last time I bought a Standard Edition of a game, usually favouring the Game of the Year, or Deluxe Editions because they generally include all of the DLC plus extra stuff to help get through the campaign. But not this time, this time I was diving into the game with only the sword on my back and no additional content to plough through once the main game is completed.


The story picks up with Talion and Celebrimbor travelling to Mount Doom to forge a New Ring, one that is free of Sauron’s corruption. Unfortunately almost immediately Shelob abducts Celebrimbor and only agrees to return him to Talion in exchange for the Ring. In the films and books (although I haven’t read those) Shelob was a giant spider, and whilst that seems to be her true form in the game, she is also capable of taking on the appearance of a sexy lady, and may have been Sauron’s lover at some time.


Shelob wants to help take down Sauron, and Talion reluctantly works with her to destroy the Dark Lord. Talion and Celebrimbor clash when Talion wants to help his fellow Gondorians, whilst the elf lord wants the Ring back. The Witch King eventually moves on the city Talion is in and conquers it forcing Talion to flee, he returns to Shelob who surrenders the Ring to him and tells him that the fate of Middle Earth is in his hands.


Talion and Celebrimbor then travel to various locations within Mordor, turning captains to their side, and destroying Warchiefs as they work up the chain of command until they can take on a territory’s overlord claiming a fortress and the land it controls as their own.


Now I haven’t finished the game yet, so at time of writing I am still working on building up my armies, and have captured the four currently available fortresses in the game. I don’t know exactly where the story is going to go at this point, but considering that Mordor is under Sauron’s control by the time we get to Lord of the Rings I think it is fairly safe to say Talion and Celebrimbor do not manage to defeat him.


The Nemesis system in the first game has been developed massively here, now there used to be micro-transactions in the game which allowed you to get loot boxes and unlock better stuff plus buy Orcs. Still by the time I jumped on the Shadow of War bandwagon, it is 2019 and all of those elements had been removed with players earning loot boxes through Online Vendetta missions, which I will talk about in a bit.


By the time I finished The Bright Lord DLC I was pretty tired of seemingly endlessly fighting and brainwashing Uruks. Your control over them was limited and basically once you’d conquered them there wasn’t much more you could do with them. Shadow of War is not exactly more of the same. Previously Talion was able to brainwash anyone he wanted once he got their health down low enough, but this time around there is a levelling system and Talion is only able to brainwash Uruks that are his level or lower. Anyone that is a higher level can be killed, or shamed to reduce their level down, at which time Talion might be able to Brand them.


Talion earns XP to level up, now at time of writing I thought that I had reached the highest level of 40. I’d seen a review of the game and it seemed that this was as high as the Uruk level could get. But then I encountered a level 42 Uruk, and was ambushed by a Level 50. I have googled the game and it was suggested that Talion can get up to a level 80, which presumably means the Uruks can too. I have played the game for around 20 hours by now and if I’ve only just reached Level 40 then it is going to take at least that kind of time again to max Talion out completely.


There are also different sub-skills that can be unlocked throughout Talion’s progression allowing you to level up the things you want, tailoring the game for your own play style. I preferred the old method though because I have basically unlocked everything that I want to use so skill points just sit there forgotten until I use them for the sake of using them.  


This levelling system might be left over from the previous micro-transactions because presumably higher value items could be purchased to give you an edge in the game. But what it has basically done is make the game about higher numbers. As you level up and kill Uruks you are awareded higher value gear and weaponry. Naturally you equip the best stuff and the rest ends forgotten in your inventory. When I pick up a new item I check its numbers and if it is higher than my current selection I equip it and forget it if it is not. As a result the armour Talion is wearing and the sword he is wielding aren’t ones that I have forged or upgraded, they are simply the ones with the best stats. Now whilst it is true that you can bring lesser quality gear up to your current level, there is very little point in doing so because the higher level stuff often grants you bonuses when it is equipped which the lesser stuff doesn’t.


To be honest I am not sure if I like this system because as I said it becomes about numbers, you aren’t levelling up your character, you get a higher number which somehow makes you stronger. If you unlocked resources to improve your armour or something then fine, but everything in the game is based around which player has the larger number.


One of the things that I definitely liked was the updated Nemesis system which was both good and bad. The Orcs seem more alive than they did in Shadow of Mordor with ones sometimes ambushing you, forcing you to fight them or flee. Ones that you had brainwashed may not stay brainwashed, finding the will to turn against you, and whilst you can rebrand some of them, others develop an iron will which means you have to kill them. The Uruks in this game are not just sitting around waiting for you to track them down, many of them have followers, or grunts of their own that will fight to defend them. They pop up at the worst times to ambush you, and whilst having Intel on them was useful in the previous game, it is practically essential here in order to know the chicks in their armour if you want a chance at defeating them. Plus the tougher the fight was for you, the more valuable that Uruk or Olog maybe if you can bring them into your ranks.


Like I said gaining Intel from lesser grunts on the Captains, Warchiefs and the Overlord is vital as trying to take them on without additional information is very difficult. Turning Captains into your spies to lure their Warchief into an ambush gives you an additional weapon to use in your conquest of Mordor. Enemy Uruks will counter your attacks and often adapt to your techniques if you try to do the same tactic over and over again forcing you to think on your feet as a battle wears on.


The land of Mordor feels more alive with spiders, caragors, graugs and other creatures roaming the mountains and caves. Random animal encounters can wreck you pretty quickly if you are not being careful, with graugs seemingly intent on targeting you even if you lead them into a crowd of Orcs. Different baits can be dropped to lure creatures into Orc camps to help you weaken a captain or stronghold before you take them on yourself. Killing Captains can also result in a stronghold being unable to raise an alarm so unlike the previous game you can do something about the places where alarms will be raised if you are spotted, which, if you recall was an issue I had with the last game.


The Nemesis System also allows you to play Online Vendetta missions, in which you travel into another player’s game to kill an Uruk that has killed them. You keep all of your equipment and it is fun to avenge your fallen comrades. You can also brand the Uruks you encounter, adding them to an online garrison. From your garrison you can deploy Uruks into different Fortresses and promote them to Warchiefs. All of these elements go together to create the feeling that you are commander of a vast army of unique individuals that can be assigned and reassigned to different roles as you see fit.


When doing the online missions you are rewarded with Loot Boxes, but I just enjoyed playing them, it was cool to take on an Uruk that had killed another player and paint the walls with them. It was probably an ego thing to kill an Orc that had killed another player. As of yet I haven’t tried attacking another player’s fortress which is also something the online system lets you do.


Unfortunately some of the mechanics seem rather broken.


The online garrison is a great idea and works well in theory. Unfortunately I kept running into problems when the game just wouldn’t load my garrison, I’d wait and wait, but my Uruk army wouldn’t appear. It was frustrating because I had taken the time and effort to Brand these Captains during the Online Missions rather than killing them but couldn’t easily access them again. Organising your Uruks like General moving pawns around a board was enjoyable, even if it basically returned to deploying Uruks with higher numbers, replacing ones with lower numbers


Now on that point, one of the mechanics that was definitely broken were the Fighting Pits.


So, you are able to enter your Uruks into a fight against random Orcs or other player’s Orcs to help level them up, sadly it did not seem to matter who had the better Uruk because pretty much every single time my Uruk lost. One of my opponents was terrified of caragors so I selected a Captain who rode a Caragor into battle to fight him. The other Uruk easily knocked my guy off his caragor and killed him. My guy was a higher level and rode a caragor that should have terrified the other Uruk so he couldn’t fight and would be easy prey, yet it did not work like that. I’d send guys who were 10 levels higher than their opponents into the Pit and they would end up dead. I thought that we might control the Uruks or Ologs but you can’t, instead you just sit there and watch as the same Orc that gave you so much trouble when you fought him get bitch slapped by an opponent that shouldn’t have been able to give him so much as a paper-cut. Pretty much every time I sent a fighter into the pit, they did not come back, and as a result I quickly learned not to bother sending them in as they’d only end up dead


The Uruk missions have also be changed since the first game, jump time ahead and a mission would have been resolved. In Shadow of War you have to jump ahead three times before missions will resolve themselves, now this may be an outdated notion, but I like to play a game and don’t want to sit there skipping time over and over again just so my Uruks can level up by a few ranks.


I haven’t played the game for a day or two because I almost wanted to rage quit...which hasn’t happened to me in a game for a while.


Now let me set the scene for you. So I was running around an area of Mordor I hadn’t been in since much earlier in the game, Talion is at Level 40, and I was happily Branding Uruks that were all around level 20 odd. Then out of nowhere I was ambushed by this massive mother-fucking Olog (basically something the size of a troll) who was level 50! Ten levels higher than me. Thus far I had only encountered Uruks and Ologs around 5 levels higher but this guy was built like a tank and seemed immune to just about all of my attacks. I managed to best him and as I was standing over him, poised to kill him, he suddenly rose like a phoenix because he had a perk called Death Defying, and got all his health back. I was on death’s door and he killed me. Then snapped my sword. Now, taking this personally I tracked down an Orc with some Intel and learned about this guy, who’d been promoted a further 5 levels for killing me, bizarrely he was about 30 levels higher than the Warchief he was serving, which doesn’t make much sense, but anyway. I also decided to send a Death Threat which increased his level yet higher but also meant that when I killed him I would get better loot. Celebrimbor also informed me that although he had broken my sword, it could be re-forged and become more powerful if I defeated the guy who’d broken it. This Olog, I’m going to call him Frank, accepted my challenge and met me in combat whilst surrounded by about 20 odd other Uruks of various skills including ones with shields, ones that throw spears and just fighters. I had learned that Frank would become stunned by the sight of a Graug, and if an opponent is stunned then none of their immunities work making them easier to kill. Now, I had unlocked the ability to summon a Graug so I cleverly figured that I would meet Frank in battle, summoned a Graug and whilst he was stunned, beat the shit out of him and ultimately kill him. Things didn’t get off to a great start when I summoned my Graug and it immediately disappeared, literally it appeared beside me and then was gone. I engaged Frank and as the battle continued, I think I accidently hit one of his supporters which meant they all piled in as well. I was therefore not only fighting Frank, but also dodging spears being thrown, guys with shields trying to stab me and others that blocked my attacks. I managed to kill all of them until once more it was just Frank and me, my health was low whilst his wasn’t and I spotted a bait that could be used to lure a Graug. I fired at it and a Graug lumbered up, then instantly started attacking the tiny form of Talion and not the massive form of Frank. Once again I dodged and ducked around the Graug as Frank stood stunned, I was chipping away at his health, he was down to but a mosquito’s bollock’s worth of health, and I dived in to land the final blow, when the Graug smashed into me, a do-or-die quick time event popped up which in my panic at losing the fight and having to start again I failed which enabled the Graug to pound me into mush...I respawned and was informed that Frank had levelled up yet again because he had been the victorious in our battle but as the animation which showed he levelled up played out, his corpse lay on the floor before the fortress. It seems that the Graug’s final blow not only killed me but also killed Frank, unfortunately because I had died too I did not get my sword back nor any of the bonuses I would have gotten for killing Frank personally.


I don’t mind a challenge in a game but the whole thing with Frank left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth because it was totally unfair. What was a level 50 Olog doing in an area where the highest level commander was barely in their 20s, why did my graug instantly disappear the moment I summoned it, why did Frank’s entourage attack me, and why the donkey bollocking hell do Graug’s target Talion before defending themselves against the Ologs and Uruks that are actually attacking them???


I don’t like it when a game is being unfair and this was Shadow of War being unfair.


But it made me wonder something; does the game want you to die??


I hate being killed in computer games because to me it is an unskilled player that gets themselves killed. Being overwhelmed by zombies in Resident Evil 2, or the Haunted in Evil Within, or being caught by the alien in Alien Isolation all happen when you are not being careful and/or mindful of your surroundings.


A game is supposed to teach you how to play within its world to avoid death, you learn the mechanics, and yet I think in Shadow of War you are supposed to get killed. Perhaps even allow Orcs or Ologs to kill you, potentially breaking your sword in the process. Just so you can go after them, kill them and re-forge your sword making it stronger than it was before plus getting better loot.


But I don’t like it when a game stacks things against me to kill me unfairly which is what the encounter with Frank seemed like.


There were several other times when the game felt like it was tying my hands and forcing me to do things its way regardless of the mechanics that had already been established in Shadow of Mordor. We didn’t need a Ring to Brand Uruks in the previous game, so why do we suddenly need one now?? Why did none of the upgrades or runes transition with Talion from that game to this?? I like a bit of context and the game offered me now reason for these questions. It was basically just saying: you’ll play it the way we want or we’ll summon a big fuck-off Olog to fight you along with twenty of his mates.


Plus, whilst I am questioning the context, why was Shelob a sexy lady that was capable of forming plans and seemed to be plotting from the shadows when in Lord of the Rings she was a massive spider that couldn’t kill two hobbits that had wandered into her cave because they were shining what amounts to a torch in her eyes??


She might have stood more of a chance of actually devouring Frodo and Sam if she’d approached them in her sexy lady form rather than her screeching giant spider-form.


I am very sand-box happy as you know and had to force myself to do the story missions initially in the first city because you cannot Brand Uruks until you have gotten the Ring back from Shelob. Shadow of Mordor ended with you having an army of Uruks at your command but we needed to piss about for a bit before returning to that point in this game. Once I could Brand Uruks I immediately raced out into the sandbox map to do that, and it is what I have been doing since. Running around fighting, branding, doing online vendettas and conquering fortresses. Yet I wonder if the unfair dick move that was spawning Frank was the game forcing me to do things it’s way.


Despite how much I have been complaining about the game I do enjoy it, I think the previous one was more streamlined with its level progression, but it was rather samey and repetitive whereas Shadow of War doesn’t feel like that. The Uruks and Ologs are all unique with the organic nature of their behaviour keeping you on your toes.


However, as I haven’t finished it I wonder if the ending will be anything other than predictable...


Look, it has been established in The Bright Lord and during key missions against the Ring-Wraiths in this game that the Dark Lord and those who serve him can undo Celebrimbor’s brainwashing, returning an Uruk or Olog’s free will. Therefore isn’t the plan to build an army of brainwashed Uruks the same as story of the man building his house upon the sand?? If you don’t know that story the gist is that a man builds his house upon the sand as it is easier to dig the foundations whilst another man builds his house upon the rock which is much more difficult. But when the rain comes down the house on the rock stays firm because it has a solid foundation whereas the house on the sand collapses. My point is that if other Orcs wanted to join you as a way of furthering their own power like Ratbag did in the original then that could be more interesting. Uruks turning against you when they have achieved a greater level of power would also make more sense than the odd one just suddenly deciding to turn against you or somehow breaking through their brainwashing. There are moments in the game when you can cut Ologs free of restraints and they will fight with you, so why do none of them offer to serve you willingly?? You sometimes encounter Orcs on their knees as other prepare to thrown them off bridges or ledges, why can’t you save them and recruit them into your growing army?? It could be up to you to then kill a Captain to insert your new follower into the ranks of the captains. If an Uruk or Olog has joined you willingly then the Dark Lord or his Ring-Wraiths would be unable to remove your control because they are not under your control, they are behaving on their own.


All in all there was a lot to enjoy about the game and as the micro-transactions have been removed I didn’t have to worry about running into pay walls. When I finish the game if there is anything to add to this critique then I will do it as an Update. Despite all of my complaints I keep returning to the game and want to see it through to the end so it must be doing something right. Shadow of War gets a Thumbs Up for everything it does right and whilst there are problems with it, I am going to see it through to the end.



8.5/10 – Shadow of War is paradoxically better and worse than its predecessor. The different Uruks and Ologs are all fun, imaginative with their own strengths and weaknesses, but the levelling system seemed to be there for the purposes of micro-transactions which are now defunct. I did miss the more streamlined skill unlocks and a large percentage of this game seems to be more about who has a higher number than who is the better fighter which is a shame. Still it is fun avenging other players and micromanaging your own Uruk army.


TAC Reviews...Shadow of War...Update...

Date Posted: 18/01/20


This week I was intending to watch the new Hellboy movie and give it what I suspect will be a good hard fisting. I am probably going to go and see Rise of the Skywalker next week so that will likely be my review. However, I am not going to talk about Hellboy and the question of whether it deserves that hatred it has received will have to wait, because I want to talk about a game I have already reviewed.


As you will have no doubt worked out I am still trying to finish Shadow of War. My review of the game may have been a little premature because things have really started to lose steam in the final act, and when I say lose steam I mean really pissing me off!!!

By the way...



My predictions about what would happen in the game proved to be somewhat inaccurate as the Dark Lord doesn't turn all our followers against you as I was expecting. Instead Celebrimbor abandons Talion to join with Eltariel, the elf-warrior lady, who was working to destroy the Ring-Wraiths taking the New Ring with him. Without either Celebrimbor or the New Ring Talion begins to die. But having just defeated a Ring-Wraith himself he takes the Wraith's Ring and slips it onto his finger. This keeps him alive but also turns him into something else, a man with the ability to resurrect fallen enemies as his servants to bring back his fallen captains. Meanwhile Celebrimbor and Eltariel fight Sauron but she has the New Ring cut from her finger and the Bright Lord is absorbed (I think) by the Dark Lord.

This leaves Talion as the only one that can keep the Dark Lord from conquering the whole of Middle-Earth by keeping him fighting within Mordor.

Now, at this point I have completed basically 100% of the main missions, side quests and with the acceptation of the Bright Lord challenges which only unlock xp or skill points, neither of which I really need anymore, I have done everything.

Except the Fortress missions...which are doing my head in...

During the main quest you must capture Fortresses controlled by an Overlord, and depending on how you play, can chose to go after his Warchiefs first, killing or brainwashing them, which reduces the Fortress’ overall defensive capabilities making them easier to Capture. You are also given the chance of having your Orcs prove their worth to the Overlord at which time they become his body guards. This makes the final confrontation with that Overlord easier because some of the Orcs in the room are working with you and will fight on your side.

To Capture a Fortress you equip various Orcs to lead assault forces, these can then be given additional units to help in the coming battle. Once you have breached the walls or gate, you then head to a Capture Point. You stand in the area for a few seconds fighting off any attacking enemies before planting a flag, then running to the next one to...oh I haven't said this for a while...rinse, lather, repeat...until all Capture Points have been, well, captured. Talion enters the Overlord's chamber to fight him. If you have taken the time to set your Orcs as bodyguards they will be present and when the fight begins they join in. If you haven't, it is you Vs the Overload, and a group of various Orcs and Ologs. Once the Overload is dead, the Fortress is yours. A new Overlord can be assigned with new Warchiefs and captains under them.

But capturing a fort is only half the battle, once you have captured one, you must then defend it.

To Defend a Fortress you review the attacking force, and your assigned Warchiefs can be given additional tools to help them fight, things like support from Caragor Riders, or stronger walls, and so on. The enemy will attack in several waves and you must defeat all of the waves at which point the battle is over and the fortress is safe.

Trouble is, neither the attacking nor the defending is as simple as it sounds...

Let me explain, I said in my main review of the game that the Orcs have different levels now, which was linked to the micro transactions that used to be in the game. The higher the number on something the easier it is to quantify what it is worth. The missions to capture the Fortresses happened quite early in the game, and me being me, I set about capturing them all. At the time the highest level Orcs I had under my thrall were all around Level 20. Unfortunately, at this point in the game, the attacking Orcs are all at least Level 50 or higher so my guys have virtually no chance of fighting them off.

I have my Garrison but it is just as problematic getting the damn thing to load up as it was before so I either sit and wait, and wait, and wait, before an error message pops up saying it cannot be loaded, or I just give up trying. Therefore, I can't swap out weaker Orcs for more powerful ones which means I have no choice but to use what I have.

Well, that is not strictly true because I could banish the lower Orcs from the Army. Then I could to go round fighting and Branding the new Replacement Captains which will take hours to do. To make things worse for this strategy these days the Captains are not easy to beat because they are always a similar Level to Talion.

The game was crying out for some Assassins Creed Brotherhood style of mission in which Orc Captains can be sent off alone or in groups to complete missions, this would give you the opportunity to level them up, because as it is there is almost no way to do that. If you manage to get them through a Fight Pit they gain a few levels, even if they have bested someone much higher level than them (which didn't happen often but did occasionally). It would take, ages to get a level 20 Orc up to a Level 50 using the mechanics currently in the game

In addition the combat is still a massive cluster fuck just as it was in The Bright Lord, which didn't bother me too much in the main campaign, however, in the Defend Fortress missions being able to tell what the hell you are doing is vital. If the enemy is attacking a Capture Point and one of your Orcs is wounded they start to bleed out, Talion can heal them but this takes a second or two in which he must stand there like a knob with his hand out. If he gets attacked the process is interrupted so your Orc will still be dying, and you’ve taken a huge amount of damage. The problem is that there is no way to lock onto the specific Orc that you want. In the heat of battle I might have managed to get a couple of Orc Captains that are attacking down to the point where I can turn them to my side, but Talion locks onto a random Orc fighter, or he focuses on one that needs to be healed, and generally more of the former than the latter. As a result I am getting attacked from all sides and am fighting with the game itself because I am trying to lock onto a specific target but the game won't let me. Bear in mind that the attacking Orcs might be around Level 50 so fighting them alone is hard enough but when they are backed up by a second or third Level 50, plus various archers, grunts, and others backing them up you’re facing a massive uphill struggle. Under those conditions your chances of targeting the enemy or ally you want is damn near impossible. It is infuriating trying to get through the chaos, if I have managed to have Broken an enemy captain I want to quickly recruit them, order them to stay and fight, and then move to the next. I don't want to be trying to brainwash a lowly grunt when I am trying to heal a Captain that is bleeding out or recruit one of the attacking Captains.

There is a bonus that can be unlocked which can resurrect fallen Captains but to get it you have to work through the Pit Fighting missions which were straight-up broken when I attempted them before.

The Defend Fortress missions have become a gruelling chore. I have upgraded all of my Fortress' defences and promoted Orcs to Warchiefs to equip them with additional bonuses but it is all for naught if Talion dies because if this happens, the Fortress instantly falls.


Just to be clear, it doesn't matter if you are on the first wave or the last, it is irrelevant if the enemy that killed you was moments away from being pounded into mulch by one of your Followers. The game does not care if all of your Followers are still alive and kicking or if the Capture Points still need to be taken by the enemy.

Talion Dead = Instant Failure

There is no mini-game in which your remaining Orcs fight the battle on alone or you take control of one of them. A Nemesis mission doesn’t play out in which the fight continued without you, if Talion dies then the Fortress is lost and you must recapture it...which isn’t just annoying it is infuriating...


Seriously, who amongst the developers thought that this was a good idea???


I was playing the game today and thought I had missed something very obvious with the Defend Fortress mission. Your Warchiefs can be assigned bodyguards and these guards will be with them as they all fight together to save a Fortress. Things were going well, the attacking waves were being defeated but a few of my guys had been injured and I was rushing over to help when I was hit by a bunch of enemies who took my health down to nothing. I think it may have been the final attacking Warchief attacked, I pressed the wrong button during the quick time even and Talion the two-three hours of work I put in today to capture the Fortress, recruiting new Warchiefs, assigning them Bodyguards. I even managed to get an Orc through the broken Fight Pit mechanics was a giant waste of time and as the animation showing Talion being killed played out I was literally doing this...



When Talion dies, the Fortress immediately falls to a new Overlord, who promotes Warchiefs, and you have to spend hours drawing them out, Brand or kill them, before doing another Capture mission. As I described above the Capture Missions are no walk in the park, and you must go through all the Capture Points before having what is increasingly being a long, gruelling, joyless battle with the Overload, and reclaiming the Fortress as your own.


This then triggers another Defend Fort mission when if something goes wrong and Talion dies've guessed it...the Fortress Falls and you must recapture it. Hours and Hours of dull, repetitive game play, down the toilet because you made a mistake or got overwhelmed and there is precisely jack-shit you can do about it.

Today’s failure wasn’t a one off either...

I spent hours the other day getting stuck in a cycle of success then failure which started when a random Orc managed to get in a lucky shot (which I swear I defended despite what the quick time event said) during a Defend mission and Talion was killed. The Orc that killed him, a random dude with a crossbow, was then promoted to Overlord. I branded his Warchiefs and attacked, managing to capture the Fort itself easily. But the confrontation with the Overlord was a joyless, gruelling, infuriating fight because he seemed to be immune to most of my methods of attack, and quickly adapted to the ones he wasn't. He had archers that were firing at me constantly with Orc and Olog bodyguards that kept respawning after I killed them. I was picking away at his health for easily 20 minutes whilst dodging his entourage, then finally managed to kill him and immediately the Defend Fort mission popped up.

I looked at the attacking Forces numbers and made sure to equip as high levels to combat them as I could, which resulting in my defending force having slightly higher numbers than the attacking group. The battle began and the enemy forces were able to get passed my reinforced walls and gates. The aforementioned cluster fuck happened at one of the Capture Points and in the medley of trying to Brand enemy Captains, Heal my Followers, whilst avoiding getting stabbed by the minions buzzing around, Talion once again fell...the Fortress was lost and now I have to Capture it yet again.


I just cannot fathom who thought that this was going to be a good game mechanic, that players would actually like it. Especially considering how much the game fucks you over when you are trying to lock onto specific Orcs or you are in the cluster fuck of combat being attacked constantly from all sides and watching your health bar drop before you can even think about running off to try and draw some health from a random Orc.

This is the Final part of the game, I have literally done EVERYTHING else so I can't get away from these missions for a bit to return to something more fun. The Online Vendetta modes are fun, but what is the point of doing them if the Orcs I capture cannot be deployed in my own game world due to the inability of the Garisson menu to load??

The truth is that this final part of the game has resulted in all of the good feelings I had steadily dribbling away, I just want to get these fucking things done and dusted, so I can move on to other games.


I started writing this Update on Friday 17th Jan 2020 and wrote the following...“I refuse to just give up, because it is not in my nature. If it was I would have abandoned Earth years ago and risked the Grand Seniority's security forces coming after me for deserting my post. I won't quit but they are just a ball-ache, they are a chore, and they have long ago stopped being fun”


That was before I wasted yet more hours on this pissing game today, despite all of my efforts, despite all my preparations, and despite having a Defending Force that was over a Hundred points higher than the Attacking one I still lost the fight because four enemies got in lucky hits and Talion was killed before I could do anything about I am done. I am not joking, I deleted the game from my hard drive because I don’t want to look at it, I don’t want to think about it, and I certainly don’t want to play it. I refuse to waste more of my time doing these fucking Fortress missions, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again until I eventually manage to complete them. I watched the “True” ending on YouTube and it wasn’t that good so it is not worth the additional hours I would have to put in to finish these mother-fucking missions.

The mechanics of the game prevent me from playing it the way I want to. The inability to efficiently level up your branded Orcs to higher levels makes them virtually useless as the campaign continues. You might as well banish them from your army and start from scratch as the newer captains that replace them will be more valuable to you. But then what was the point of allowing players to Brand Orcs so early in the game when they are all but useless a few hours later???

Obvious answer to encourage people to pay for better ones.

Removing micro-transitions from the game hasn't fixed the problems that having them in the first place have created.

I think this is the first time that an Update has actually resulted in my opinion changing, but Shadow of War has managed to do that. It demonstrated that I reviewed it too soon because I am still not finished, and I am never going to finish it. I thought I would have to push myself through the Capture/Defend missions because of my own stubbornness and my desire to not let the game beat me instead of because I want to do them. But that has changed today, the game is wasting my time, it is pissing me about, and if there is one thing that I utterly despise is my time being wasted unnecessarily

Fundamentally the Defend Fortress missions are some of the worst examples of game design that I have ever come across. The auto-save screws you over time and again when you’re doing these missions. I even tried closing my application down in the hopes that would prevent me losing one of these missions, but it did not work. If you die, you lose the time you spent preparing to take the Fortress in the first place, the time you invested in assigning Warchiefs, bodyguards and so on.

If I had reviewed the game today instead of 25/11/19 then I would have rated it no more than a 4/10 and honestly would have given it a Thumbs Down, because as much as it does right, it does so much more wrong. The micro-transactions are coded into the game's DNA making everything about numbers, but those numbers only seem to matter when they belong to the enemy. The Pit-Fighting mini-game should have let you control your Orcs, if Talion falls during a Defend mission, you should play as one of his Followers or just allow the battle to play out as it would do for any Nemesis mission.

In my first ever...I am actually changing my rating from 8.5/10 to a 4/10, and my Thumb has twisted from Up to Down.

Just to make it official...



4/10 - My advice is stick with the first game because that was great fun to play, the Defend the Fortress missions have killed this game stone dead for me, and I cannot stress enough how badly designed Act Three becomes. It is shame that the first two acts were so utterly fucked over by whichever moron it was at Monolith that designed these Fortress missions.


TAC Reviews...Shadow of War...Final Update...

Date Posted: 26/01/20


Okay, just for the record I deleted Shadow of War off my console because I actually rage-quit after failing to defend one of my Fortresses yet again.


However, despite my assurances that I would never return to the game I am infuriatingly stubborn, and it is not in my nature to quit. As a result I reinstalled the game and I ploughed through it until I mercifully completed it. I have no idea if the back-and-forth capture, loss and recapture of Fortresses was supposed to be that way as Talion was effectively keeping the forces of Sauron in a state of civil war within Mordor until he eventually succumbed to the Wrath’s Ring, which...spoiler alert...he does in the true ending.


If it was then it was a shit mechanic.


Anyway, Shadow of War has been completed and I am now done with the moment the DLC doesn’t appeal to me, so whilst my Thumb position and Score haven’t changed from my above Update. I just thought I’d say that I did complete the game and those Fortress missions can go do one.


Get social with us.

Print | Sitemap
© Chris Sharman