October 30, 2014
Okay, so... I'm known for holding grudges in a very, very hard way.
This game reminds me of my ex-girlfriend: we had a lot of fun, but looking back on it makes me angry as hell, and I feel stupid for even playing it because the ending? The ending was atrocious.
To be fair - I'm going to tell you the good and the bad about it, even though the bitterness of beating this game has left such a sour taste in my mouth even as I write this.
Let me tell you about Shadows of Mordor.
...but first, let me tell you something. The hype surrounding this game is well deserved with insanely fun combat, sexy graphics, and very, very memorable interactions with characters you have *zero* background info on other than the brief and bloody interactions you have with them.
You play as Talion, a man who Sauron's best [the Black Hand] have personally wronged - they killed his family and you.
However, due to the Black Hand trying to resurrect a long-forgotten Wraith, you are brought back to life, sustained, and immortal due to you being his vessel. You and him are inseparable, and draw strength from eachother on the battlefields of Mordor itself as you hew down the new breed of Orcish armies of Sauron, the Uruks.
Your quest is to lay the Black Hand low via brutal melee combat or more... subversive means.
Like I said, this game has some seriously intense combat; the devs threw tons of enemies at you all at once, and you're given a handful of really, really fun ways to dispose of them.
Do you like bravado? Jumping into ditches full of bitches and slashing away? Maybe sneaking is your style? Slinging arrows into foes from afar?
Literally ALL playstyles have equal representation here, and they're great. The stealth combat in this game is somewhat unique, as you can run while sneaking, and all assasinations are insanely well animated. Granted, there are moments where Talion decides to unleash a loud warcry when slaughtering an Uruk in a mission based solely around sneak, which would frequently make me go: "Oh shit, they heard that. I'm fucking done. My Mordor Goose is cooked!" buuuut nothing would happen.
But let's keep this positive: the aggressive, out-in-the-open style melee combat was... riveting. I hate that word, and I'm using it. "Riveting".
It's very much possible to be slaying Uruk after Uruk, taking your hits, getting all riled up, and just losing track of time. You WANT the waves to never end. You're a bonafide master of blades in this game, and all kills feel intense. The executions, the jumping back and forth between enemies, dealing blows and getting your hit counter up higher and higher in a very Batman: Arkham Asylum way; this game has combat flow in spades. The beginning of the game is slowly paced, and combat has basic enemies that come in droves, which works great as a learning tool for the basics of combat.
There are also other little weird elements to combat that make it entirely worth your while to purchase this game solely to brawl against unrelenting waves of enemies -among them being the Nemesis system.
Shadows of Mordor has a neat little mechanic built into it where you can fight officers in Sauron's army. Sometimes they win, sometimes they interact via civil war struggles among their own ranks, and as a result: they get more powerful, or die and get replaced by a randomly generated new captain. This makes your immortality in this game serve purpose; your deaths become frustrating as each captain insults you, grows more powerful, and keeps. kicking. your. ass. At one point, a friend of mine told me he broke a controller over losing to the same Uruk Captain over ten times. You know a game is fun when you break stuff in frustration, am I right?
But I digress: when enemies grow stronger, you can cultivate more powerful upgrades for your weapons [runes] that appear when they die. So all this frustration has a payoff in the end. Pretty slick.
What's more? The game has points where it forces you to do more story quests because abilities are blocked until you advance the story. Seriously, beating some of the roving mobs of baddies and their captains becomes impossible unless you progress. It's not in a boring, super rail-roady kind of way. It's a nice, even coating of story glaze on your blood-filled melee jelly donuts.
While I'm at it, the characters are memorable: funny, serious, interesting, well designed, what's not to like about them?
This game sounds so good, and the hype behind it made me want to fall in love with it in the worst way. THE WORST WAY. I felt like crying by the end of the game: "WHAT DID YOU DO TO THIS GAME. WHY DID IT HAPPEN LIKE THIS. I'M SO SAD. KILL ME."
To start, this game is ridiculously easy: hop into a group, kill all of them, no sweat.
Over. And over. And over.
Granted, the combat gets better, but it takes *so* long to reach this point that I started getting frustrated for the wrong reasons. It took me about four solid hours of gameplay to work my way up to a difficult captain with a menacing gaggle of gorebags to slaughter. Upon dying for the first time, I actually was thankful that some difficulty was being introduced; soft-baby mode was finally over. Good lord, what a wait.
Additionally, you have the issue where the abilities you learn are far too powerful to just be a gradual hike in power: you don't eventually overcome your enemies with small little mechanics, oh no. It's by leaps and bounds that you progress in power in this game. One minute, you deal decent damage, next minute, you're slamming orcs to the ground with powerful finishers that you become dependent on.
And don't even get me started on late game abilities: the power hike here is so unfair, I started letting Uruk Captains kill eachother to increase power to such high levels that they were as strong as Sauron himself.
Of course, there's the end of the game, which I refuse to talk about. Hit me up on the Clearskyy FB page if you want me to go into depth about this and really break down why it was so bad.
Look, if you don't mind how much of a cocktease the storyline was and just want combat? Get it. For what it's worth, I enjoyed this game an awful lot: we had good times, I smiled menacingly when I hit a 100 hit streak.
...but if story is your big jam, then be warned: it's upsetting. The storyline pacing is downright weird, and you get BF'd in the end for having faith in the writers.
Yo, are you seriously going to go under this review and write your own? Yes, child I am doing exactly that.
I have to say something, this review is good, but there are so many things that I hate about this game that I can't keep quiet.
So I got this game for my birthday for the PS4, the platform I'm sure doesn't matter all that much, this game is looks good regardless of being a console title as opposed to the magnificent beauty that could have been had on my PC. That being said let's jump right into the half assed review I'm going to append here. No, I didn't finish this game and here are a few reasons why. Am I going back? I'll consider it but so far its been nothing but suffering and me yelling at demonphoenix37 over text message about how much this game pisses me off.
So what are your gripes?
Alright, so let's start off with this game is as merciless as NexusSloth states, it was seriously disheartening the way I just straight up died and was openingly mocked within moments of starting the game. The "oh shit, I just fucked up" moment really began as I watched Captains raise in rank and difficulty. This is especially painful since I'm amped at this point in the game, the story has me seriously pissed off and I'm ready to spill that black blood all over Mordor, vengeance needs to be mine. You don't treat a motherfucker like this in a game and expect me to sit back and take it. Now you're going, but clearskyy, it's just a game, chill. Naw bro, you want me immersed in a story, you got me. The thing about the narrative of this game is that it is sparse but it's good. There isn't a whole lot of story save a few cutscenes at the beginning, but you know it was effective enough to motivate me to spend the next 6 hours in front of my TV slaying all in my path.
Or so I thought.
This is where things get tricky. Now I know that NexusSloth said that all styles of gameplay come into this game and are all incredibly effective in their own regard and I have to strongly disagree with that point. I never use the bow. I love long-range weapons, I mean damn, I use nothing but the bow in Skyrim. Nope, I never take it out. It's incredibly ineffective in close range combat and guess what all the Urks use in this game? They use fucking swords. Yeah, I tried to use it in combat but it's nothing more than a cheap way to shave a little of the health bar off a captain, it's hardly getting the job done. The most I use it for is for freeing the beasts in this game to create enough of a distraction so I can run my ass the fuck out of there. Maybe I haven't unlocked enough runes or abilities for it and you would be right. I can't see myself getting enough kills with it to get any runes for it.
The sneaking is almost the most effective way of dispatching your enemies. It is incredibly efficient of clearing out entire packs of Urks without causing too much headache for your MC. The problem now is that your sneak attacks don't do jack shit to a captain so they're mostly just for clearing out the fodder so you can have some space for your slice and dice match with your new captain man crush. Was it completely gratifying to get behind a whole pack of enemies and completely slaughter them one after one right next to each other while the other (extremely not perceptive) enemies continued walking in naivety until it was their turn for my dagger to meet their neck? Yes, it was amazing and I'm pretty sure I laughed pretty hard after I dispatched the last of the group. That being said it's not really that effective against captains. Do I use the dagger kills as a way to murder my captains? Well yeah because it seems to be about one of the few ways to do it, I mean you knock him on his ass as a "knockdown" and that kill is classified as a stealth kill, when I don't really see anything stealthy about openly bashing an enemy a shit ton of times until he falls over. I would have dispatched him with the sword easy enough if I knew how.
Insert the Executions, aka the technique that never works. Now in order to even get this thing ready to go you need like a 30 combo or some shit, maybe less; you have "charge" your sword, which in this case doesn't mean just sit in a corner and polish it for a little while and then go to town. Even taking a page out of book of the Legend of Zelda and hold attack for a second before attacking would work. No, you need to charge it with the uninterrupted blood of your enemies. Which is a load of bullshit given that you're constantly surrounded by a hoard of sword and shield wielding assholes. So let's say you manage to dodge and cut your way to a charged sword, you better fucking get your butt ready to press a combination of buttons! Oh but not any combination of buttons, but two very commonly used buttons that the game has a hard time recognizing as being pushed at the same time. Holy fucking shit, I'm here to tell you I've lost count of how many times I've pressed the combination for an Execution and totally just did a common action, and then got pegged by one of the many enemies just sitting next to me while I try and smash on my controller for dear life. It's bad enough you can only get hit 5 or so times before having to run away and SEARCH FOR FUCKING HERBS. Who thought that was a good idea? Oh instead of keeping potions or herbs on your person, how about you just break from the action of combat and just go on a lovely hike for some plants. That right there makes no goddamn sense. I'm in the middle of battle, maybe I should, oh I don't know, prepare for it and bring some medical material. Naw, I'm sure I'll have plenty of time for flower picking in the heat of battle.
The sword in this game is a piece of shit. Whoever made this game and thought that you would be getting 30 strike combos all the time? The runes I have in my sword are completely useless. There is no way I'm getting any sort of combo when this game just fucking floods you with enemies. Trying to go after any sort of character of any sort of importance is just a way to call the fucking hoard. Any type, of enemy, be it beast, Urk or bugs, they are going to call their little homies and they are going to make your life a living hell. I spend a lot more time in this game running that I care for. It's suffering, I thought I was a warrior or some shit, if this is the case then why does it take so much effort to dispatch one single enemy. Okay I get it, it can't be so easy that I'm killing Urks left and right like any other traditional hack and slash game, but you know, don't make it so that my sword does next to nothing when I have 10-30 enemies on me all looking to murder my ass. That's on top of archers, so now your running around with a bunch of assholes looking to murder your face (oh and they will) to become a stronger enemy that you will spend forever grinding to get to and get stomped yet again. There is difficulty and then there is being a huge waste of fucking time.
I get it, it's a part of the game, they can keep yelling for more and more enemies, but there has to be a limit right? How many of these fuckers do you have to kill before can stop calling more? Apparently there is no Urk shortage in Mordor. I just think it's pants on head retarded how you have to either kill a captain or run away like a little bitch. I find that I die far more often than I care to and that the leveling in this game is so goddamn slow. I managed to kill almost the entire bottom row of captains and most of the second row, got the point where I'm picking off War Chiefs and I'm still on the first row of the Power attributes. What? Is there far more to this game than I'm aware of? I'm operating under the assumption that the War Chiefs are close to top of command, perhaps I'm very wrong about that. Regardless I think it's ridiculous how much of the skill tree is still locked and I'm trying to get to the point where I can finally dispatch these enemies in a timely fashion. The captain power level/reward seems really off. Maybe my expectations are too high, maybe these characters are just really low level and I have no idea what I'm talking about. You'd be right in that regard.
So you die a lot. What is supposed to be your saving grace? Quick Time Events. FUCK. I loathe QTE, it's been a broken system for such a long time and I only know of a few games that truly do it right and Shadows of Mordor is one of the games that seriously fucked it up big time. It never works, what's the deal with the giant cock-tease? So you unlock the stupid, "oh you don't die, and you get a kill out of it" skill. Yep, this also never works. I had it work once and every other time it's just gotten me killed. If you're going to put something like this into the game, make sure it fucking works. The reticle is in the circle, fucking respect that, it's not exactly easy to do that in the first place. Also if you're going to have TKO, don't even bother making me suffer through this sick little QTE mini-game if you're just going to show animation of me dying at the "success" of my QTE. What the fuck is that. It's cruel and unusual, that's what it is.
Alright, so you run and dodge a lot. This is yet another gripe I have about this game. So the dodging and countering is a integral part of this game, it's an important mechanic you're going to be using a lot, maybe you should make it so it works. The detection for these types of things need to be on point and it's off. It's to the point I want to throw my fucking controller. How can you fuck that up of all things to make buggy in your game. The timing for dodges is so off it's gross. I can't even begin to go over how many times my character jumps in the complete wrong direction I'm trying to abscond to and then refuses to counter any of the fucking attacks I'm trying to counter. I play a lot of Assassins Creed, I know how a fucking counter system works, and I'm amazing at it, ALL I do in Assassin's Creed is counter, because the animations are fucking beautiful and gratifying and it's almost a guaranteed kill every time. This game's pathetic excuse for countering is another reason why I almost snapped the disc in half and threw this game out.
There is a very distinct difference between making a difficult game and making a bullshit broken one and this one definitely stands out as the latter.
I can be quite forgiving for bullshit like this, so long as the game itself is a load of fun, but this game just really doesn't strike me as something I enjoy, it's more or less something I just keep subjecting myself to because I keep being told how good this game is. Maybe I'll get there when things finally get unlocked and whatever and I have to keep pouring hours into this time hog grindy piece of shit of a game until I become the Alpha and Omega and start curb stomping everything in my path. Maybe I'll just play a better game, who knows, I'll keep you guys posted.