Having bought Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
on the strength of reviews comparing its gameplay to that of the Batman
series (games which I've all enjoyed and recommend, even Batman: Origins
), I can definitely say that although not on such level of quality, this game does produce enough enjoyable mechanics on its own so as to justify purchase.
You should recognize most of the traditional Batman combat features: hit streaks, counter prompts, vault over an opponent to evade, beatdown attacks and Executions instead of Batman's instant takedowns. What's new is the addition of a bow. You whip your bow out, use Focus to slow the game down, do a headshot and that's an instant kill. So why bother with fighting orcs in the first place? Because midway throughout the game, the focus becomes less about killing orcs than it is about using
orcs to achieve various goals; whether it's replenishing your stock of arrows and Focus, gathering information, sending out Death Threats or even to dominate them.
Instead of the strategic approach to combat developed in the Batman series (disable guns and gunboxes, batarangs to temporarily reduce number of opponents, comedy smokebomb in dense room of foes), Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
, treats enemies as a means to an end, even if that end is to kill more enemies. Strategic fighting comes from hunting the various orc Captains and Warchiefs, who have their own hidden information sheets listing strengths, weaknesses and special attacks to discover. Thinking up a plan of attack is where the funs at, and taking advantage of the orc's weaknesses is a necessary part of getting higher level weapon runes, which are special bonuses for your weapons. This game rewards proper planning, at the cost of treating random encounters as pest-clearing chores.
Sadly, a slew of randomly generated orc chieftans is no substitute for a true end-level boss. The writing is the weakest aspect as you're aimlessly wandering about an open map with a whole bunch of mission icons strewn everywhere. You're Talion; your family is dead, you're somehow undead but looking fleshy, you have an amnesiac ghost elf haunting you and you're wandering around Mordor trying to figure things out and making orcs pay. Meanwhile this game is well-padded with weapon missions, human rescue missions, sigil and artifact collection and even the odd fantasy wildlife hunt with your new found dwarven friend! It's the Assassin's Creed
world map device right down to the guard tower/quick travel unlocks, but with even less story structure.
Not having level structures means you're as likely to get bum-rushed by the same 20 orcs early on as you would later but without any of the tools to help dispose of 'em properly. If the Batman series can be chided for too much hand-holding, what with Batman constantly telling you what and how to do everything, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
undeniably has too little. I didn't learn about interrogations until searching for it on the internet. The grab options, similar story. Which missions to prioritize? Hell, if an encounter was too hard I just did something else.
Sometimes you uncover some neat synergy. Brutalize is a stealth takedown variant in which you deliver five fatal blows upon an unlucky victim instead of one. Five is the magic number that unlocks special moves (at least midgame), so you can shoot a special flaming arrow into a fire for a huge explosion kill. Killed five? Use another special move: crowd stun, combat brand, takedowns on fallen foes... your pick! Talion has access to a lot of end game goodies: chain executions, twenty seconds of invisibility, multiple arrow-based teleport-executions!
Ride a giant troll-like monster and assault an orc fort Godzilla style! Turn high-level orc bodyguards against their master in the middle of combat! Suffer through the early parts and you'll have no end of fun terrorizing orc chieftains!
Just because a game isn't as good as Batman doesn't mean it's bad,
even if it does borrow a ton of mechanics from the Batman series. I bought this on Humble Bundle, maybe got overcharged but no regrets. Play the game, start by doing a bunch of non-essential non-story white missions and if you have any questions about anything, check the internet!
You should be having fun about two to three hours in.