After playing through Shadow of War, there’s one conclusion that is pretty clear; if you like Shadow of Mordor you will also like Shadow of War. However, with the controversies around loot boxes and claims that the game is impossible to beat without a grind at the end, perhaps it’ll leave a bitter taste in your mouth, or will it?
Shadow of War continues almost immediately after the first game. If you’ve not played Shadow of Mordor, don’t worry about it because there is a short introduction at the beginning that explains what happened in the previous game. You play as Talion a ranger who has a symbiotic relationship with the wraith, Celebrimbor, one of the elves that forged the ring of power. Celebrimbor decides that in order to defeat Sauron, they need to forge a new ring of power, but they then immediately lose it to Shelob.
Shelob’s female human form was yet another controversial topic amongst the Lord of the Rings fanbase. As a big fan of the franchise, I can see why people would be upset, but the game explains Shelob’s human form quite smoothly. Essentially Shelob is a spider initially, and has the “ability” to transform into a human that looks like Milla Jovovich. Shelob also has the ability to see visions of the future, and for some reason allows Talion to see one, which he then tries to prevent from coming to pass.
If you’re a hardcore fan of Tolkien lore, this game will upset you, because the developers have taken a lot of poetic license with it. My advice is to not think about it too deeply, they’ve done what they can to try and make a game within the Middle-earth universe, and have succeeded in that respect.
The gameplay for most of the game is almost exactly like the previous game. You can move around stealthily and take out orcs silently, or you can go in and fight everyone away Batman-style. The “Nemesis” system is back and has been expanded to show human captains on the map also. This portrays the “war” aspect of the game, where orcs can kill human captains. However, it looks like the developers haven’t addressed the problem of ambushing, or perhaps it isn’t seen as a problem by them.
Frequently, when you are fighting a captain, you will be ambushed by other orc captains, and this can happen several times so you may find yourself fighting 3 or 4 at once, which is near impossible to do. It would have been nice if this could be limited, and was a major issue in the previous game. The captains and warchiefs you do fight though, are very memorable and they have a variety of different introductions so if you do meet them a few times, you won’t get an exact repeat of what they said the last time.