Am I the Only Person Who Disliked Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor?
Last year, Monolith announced that they were working on a new licensed title that would feature the land of Mordor from The Lord of The Rings universe. As a fan of the movies and books, I was immediately excited over the prospect of being able to play as a character in this universe. I never got the chance to play the LOTR games for Playstation 2, so this would be my first experience in Middle Earth on consoles (Battle for Middle Earth 1 & 2 consumed hours of my life years ago). As news started coming out about the development of the title, comparisons were made to the Assassins Creed and Batman Arkham series', and as a huge fan of the AC franchise, this got me even more excited. I have briefly played the original Arkham game, but the repetitive gameplay had me losing interest, and I never finished it. I picked up Shadow of Mordor hoping my experience would be similar to that of the Assassins Creed series, but it very quickly turned down the same path I took with Arkham Asylum. Don't get me wrong: this is a well-polished game that plays fun and is very deserving of positive reviews, however I struggle to understand why this game received the high scores that it did.
The Lord of the Rings universe is built on epic storylines and character development, and I think I was underwhelmed with SoM because it lacked these features. I give credit to Monolith for quickly throwing players into actual gameplay; I think it took me about 5 minutes from the New Game screen to controlling my player. However, (and maybe I'm the only one who isn't tired of the Peter Jackson style) I was really hoping for a sweeping opening cinematic that presented the background for the story I was about to play. Alternatively, Monolith could've run the tutorial sequences featuring Talion and his wife, but after that I would've liked to see a hashed out cinematic explaining what I was playing. I understand that this wasn't necessary for starting the game, however when I buy a Lord of the Rings game, I expect a similar style. At the conclusion of the tutorial sequence, I was dumped into Mordor without a clue of what I was really doing. Defeat the captains and work through their ranks? Got it. But why? Revenge for killing my family? You have to give me a better narrative than what is given.
Oh well, I didn't buy this game to give up on it after the tutorial scene. I had to push through and hope that the story sorted itself out. Unfortunately, that never happened. I started running through the story missions, and although players were exposed to a larger backstory of Celebrimbor, I still never fully understood the point of the story in this game. Gameplay was fun and the nemesis system was great, and hopefully similar gameplay elements will find their way into future games. Wide-open landscapes with few buildings for cover (with the exception of enemy strongholds) had me feeling very lonely at times, and eventually I had to stop playing. Yes, Mordor is supposed to be an enemy stronghold that isn't friendly to outsiders, but I couldn't get attached to the barren landscape that lacked personality. Gameplay opened up the more you got through the main story missions, but I don't want to feel like I need to play 15 hours before I start having fun.
I want to reiterate my earlier point that Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a game that deserves credit for taking a popular franchise and giving the players some great gameplay and beautiful graphics. However, for me personally, the lack of a huge story really detracted from my experience. I will likely finish the game at some point, but in a holiday season featuring games like Dragon Age and Far Cry 4, I was disappointed with this one.
What did you think? Was there enough of a story to keep you going? Or was the nemesis system so much fun that you couldn't put it down? Let me know in the comments.