Middle-earth: Shadow of War

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Middle-earth: Shadow of War
MiddleEarthShadowOfWar.jpg
Developer(s) Monolith Productions
Publisher(s) Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Director(s) Mike de Plater
Producer(s) Michael Aigner
Programmer(s) Matthew Rice
Artist(s) Phillip Straub
Writer(s) Tony Elias
Composer(s)
Engine Firebird[1]
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Release October 10, 2017
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an action role-playing video game developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It is the sequel to 2014's Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 10, 2017.

Shadow of War continues the previous game's narrative, which is based on J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium and set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Like its predecessor, the game also takes heavy inspiration from director Peter Jackson's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film adaptations. The player continues the story of the ranger Talion and the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor, who shares Talion's body, as they forge a new Ring of Power to amass an army to fight against Sauron. The game builds upon the "Nemesis System" introduced in Shadow of Mordor, allowing Talion to gain followers from several races of Middle-earth, including Uruks and Ologs, and plan out complex strategies using these to complete missions.

Shadow of War had a generally positive reaction from critics, albeit more mixed than its predecessor; praise was aimed towards the gameplay and an improved nemesis system, although story elements and changes made to established characters received some negative reactions, as well as the inclusion of microtransactions and loot boxes. A free-to-play companion game for iOS and Android devices was also released.[2] In July 2018, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment removed all microtransactions from the console/PC versions of Shadow of War.[3]

Gameplay[edit]

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an action role-playing game set in an open world environment and played from a third-person perspective, following from its predecessor. The player controls the game's protagonist Talion, who has several natural athletic and combat abilities as a ranger of Gondor, but also has unique abilities provided by the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor, with whom he shares his body. The player uses their combined abilities to complete various missions, typically aimed to disrupt the armies of Sauron. The game includes main quests that drive the game's narrative, and numerous optional quests that can help the player boost Talion's abilities and Followers via the game's "Nemesis System". In contrast to the previous game, which was more of a hack and slash, the game has an action role-playing approach, creating a more personalized experience for each player.[4] It also features a dynamic weather system as well as day-night cycle which affects the gameplay and enemy behavior.

The Nemesis System expands upon its introduction in Shadow of Mordor to apply to a larger part of the world, including other characters called Followers that have behavior guided by how the player-character has interacted with them. The player is able to transfer their top Nemesis and their most loyal follower from Shadow of Mordor into Shadow of War.[5] It also includes a garrison from which the player can access their Followers that has either been obtained from multiplayer, relocated with a reassignment order or through opening 'War chests' prior to the game's July update, it also contains loot boxes that players have already obtained, players' unused loot boxes that have been obtained prior to the removal of the market still remains. The Garrison also contains training orders that are purchaseable with Mirian, it's in-game currency. "Spoils of War" and "XP" boosts are still available and can be activated but not obtainable as of the July 17th patch, although, players' boosts prior to the update are still available.[6]

The game's multiplayer features a "Social Conquest mode", in which players are able to invade other players' fortresses and attempt to conquer them. This mode has two settings: friendly and ranked. Friendly allows the player to invade someone's fortress, without the risk of losing your army. Ranked, on the other hand, allows the player to invade, but with a risk of losing some of their Orc Followers permanently. [7]

Mobile versions[edit]

The mobile companion versions of Shadow of War are played as a real-time strategy role-playing game from a top-down perspective, where players can recruit characters from not only the console/PC versions of the game itself, but also characters from its 2014 predecessor Shadow of Mordor and even The Lord of the Rings film trilogy to fight Sauron's forces in small-scale, action-packed battles.[8] Like the console/PC versions of the game, players can make use of the Nemesis system to gain extra advantages in battle,[9] as well as make optional in-game purchases.

Plot[edit]

Shadow of War continues the narrative from Shadow of Mordor, following Talion who is still infused with the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor. Talion and Celebrimbor travel to Mt. Doom, where they forge a new Ring of Power free of Sauron's corruption. However, once the Ring is complete, Celebrimbor is abducted and held hostage by Shelob, who asks Talion to hand over the Ring in exchange for Celebrimbor. Talion reluctantly agrees and gives the Ring to Shelob, who claims they have a common enemy in Sauron. She uses the Ring to see into the future and directs Talion to the last Gondorian stronghold in Mordor, Minas Ithil, which is under siege by Sauron's forces due to the city's possession of a valuable Palantir. The Palantir would allow whoever possesses it to see anything they wish, making it a valuable tool for Celebrimbor and a dangerous weapon for Sauron.

Talion travels to Minas Ithil and quickly comes to odds with Celebrimbor. Talion wants to help his fellow Gondorians, while Celebrimbor believes the city is already lost and the retrieval of the Palantir must take priority. Talion reasons that protecting Minas Ithil will also protect the Palantir and he meets up with the city's defenders: General Castamir, his daughter Idril, and his lieutenant Baranor. Together, they sabotage Orcish efforts to break into the city until Castamir betrays them, allowing the Orcs to breach the gates and handing over the Palantir to the Witch King of Angmar in return for sparing Idril. Castamir is killed by the Witch King and Talion is barely able to escape thanks to the help of Eltariel, an Elven assassin working on Galadriel's behalf. The Witch King seizes Minas Ithil, renaming it Minas Morgul. With the Palantir, Sauron realizes that Shelob is holding Celebrimbor's Ring and sends the Nazgûl to attack her. Talion is able to save Shelob, who returns the Ring to him and tells him that the fate of Middle-earth is in his hands.

With the Ring back in his possession, Talion begins to use its power to dominate Orcs and build his army. During this time, he assists Idril and Baranor in rescuing Gondorian survivors, helps Carnan defeat the Balrog Tar Goroth and the necromancer Zog, is betrayed by one of his followers, and hunts the Nazgûl alongside Eltariel. Eventually, Talion builds up enough strength to assault Sauron's fortress directly. During the battle, Talion faces Isildur, now corrupted into a Nazgûl. Talion manages to defeat Isildur, but upon seeing his memories of how he was corrupted by the One Ring, decides to destroy Isildur and release his spirit rather than dominate him. Celebrimbor remarks angrily that Isildur would have been a valuable asset to their cause, leading Talion to realize that Celebrimbor wishes to replace Sauron by dominating him rather than destroying him. Talion refuses to follow Celebrimbor's orders any more, causing the wraith to abandon him and possess Eltariel instead.

Without Celebrimbor or the ring, Talion begins to die, but is visited by Shelob in a vision. Shelob informs him that if Talion had gone on to fight Sauron, they would have succeeded and Celebrimbor would have enslaved Sauron and marched on the rest of Middle-earth. She implores Talion to continue to fight to contain the darkness within Mordor. Deciding to put his fate in his own hands, Talion picks up the Ring of Power Isildur was wearing to preserve his own life. He then uses the power of Isildur's Ring to assault and seize Minas Morgul, defeating the Witch King in the process. Talion then takes possession of the Palantir and observes Celebrimbor and Eltariel making their assault on Sauron. The two manage to gain the upper hand and Celebrimbor attempts to dominate Sauron, only for Sauron to cut off two of Eltariel's fingers, one of which is adorned with the Ring of Power, and merge himself with Celebrimbor. As a result, Sauron and Celebrimbor remain trapped in Sauron's tower in the form of a flaming eye as their spirits continue to battle for dominance. Talion decides to use Minas Morgul as a fortress to keep Sauron's forces contained in Mordor.

Decades later, Talion succumbs to the corruption of Isildur's Ring, and joins Sauron's forces as a Nazgûl, where he goes with the others to hunt Frodo and the One Ring. However, with the destruction of Sauron and the One Ring, Talion dies with the rest of the Nazgûl and his spirit is freed. He is last seen in the afterlife discarding his weapons and armor as he walks off into the west.

Blade of Galadriel[edit]

Following the final battle between Celebrimbor and Sauron, Eltariel recovers Celebrimbor's Ring, and receives orders from Galadriel to continue hunting the remaining Nazgûl, including Talion. Eltariel reluctantly confronts Talion, who manages to convince her that by working together, they can keep Sauron's influence contained within Mordor. However, he informs her that a new warchief is leading a massive army and has attacked many of his fortresses. Talion tasks Eltariel with defending one of his remaining forts while he goes to defend another fort in Seregost. Eltarial manages to recruit several new tribes of orcs to fight for her and she successfully defends her fort from enemy attack, though Seregost falls. A pair of rogue Nazgûl arrive, revealing they are the ones leading the new orc army as they plan to take advantage of Sauron and the Witch-King's weakness to take over Middle-earth. After rendering Seregost uninhabitable with poison gas, Eltariel and Talion pursue the Nazgûl twins to their stronghold, where Eltariel is able to defeat both of them. Despite their defeat, Talion begins to succumb to the temptation of Isildur's Ring, forcing Eltariel to battle him. Though Eltariel is victorious, Talion tells her that he will inevitably be resurrected by Sauron. Afterwards, Eltariel continues to battle the forces of Mordor until she witnesses the destruction of the One Ring. Upon seeing Celebrimbor's spirit freed from Sauron, Eltariel decides to go track him down.

Desolation of Mordor[edit]

After the fall of Minas Ithil, Baranor journeys through Mordor seeking to hire mercenaries to help him seize the fortress of Shindram. On the way, he is attacked by wyrms and rescued by the dwarf Torvin, who helps develop gadgets for Baranor such as a grappling hook and parachute. Baranor continues to the Vanishing Sons mercenary camp, where he discovers they are led by his older brother Jagai, who now goes by the name of Serka. Serka reluctantly agrees to help Baranor take Shindram in return for all of the loot stored inside. However, another mercenary, Zhoja, betrays Serka and hands him over to the orcs. Baranor rescues Serka, who reasserts control over the Vanishing Sons and executes Zhoja. After repelling an orc attack, Baranor and Serka lead their army and seize Shindram. However, rather than hold the fortress, they leave a trap for the orcs sent to retake it. Baranor and Serka then leave to seize more fortresses, deciding that Gorgoroth will be their next target.

Development[edit]

Creative Director Michael de Plater said that the development of Shadow of Mordor was a learning study for Monolith in how to make open world games, and the development team limited themselves in the scope of what they could deliver for that game. With those lessons learned, de Plater said that Monolith was able to take a bolder step forward for Shadow of War, saying "[t]his was our ambition to do the big, blockbuster version of the ideas we’d begun to explore in the first game. It's kind of our Terminator 2 to Terminator."[10]

Monolith wanted to move the game from the more solitary player experience to one that captured the epic battles shown in The Lord of the Rings films. They created battle systems that enable large-scale battles where parts of the battle would be managed by the various Followers that the player has recruited, thus allowing the player to still focus on the violence and brutality of close-quarter combat.[10] Recognizing the violence inherent with the Middle-earth setting, Monolith aimed to include light humorous elements that play off the thirst for violence that the orcs have, so that the game would not "wallow in it, or feel sadistic".[10] The console/PC versions were later confirmed to be rated Mature by the ESRB, like their predecessor,[11] although the mobile versions are less violent and were given the milder Teen rating.[12]

Death of Michael Forgey[edit]

On March 3, 2016, Monolith's Executive Producer, Michael David Forgey, died of cancer. To commemorate the loss of Shadow of War's Executive Producer, Monolith and Warner Bros announced a DLC named "Forthog Orc-Slayer". Originally selling for $5, Warner Brothers promised to donate $3.50 of the proceeds from each sale of the DLC made from any of the majority of the U.S. states[13][14] to the Forgey family through December 31, 2019.[15] Warner Brothers was criticized for attempting to cash in on Michael Forgey's death.[16] Following public backlash, on September 27, 2017, the DLC was made free to all who purchased the game and all proceeds were refunded to those who purchased it beforehand, in favor of Warner Bros making a lump sum donation to the Forgey family.[17]

Release[edit]

Shadow of War was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The Play Anywhere feature extends to Microsoft's premium console, the Xbox One X.[18]

The title was originally scheduled to be released in August 2017, but in June of that year, Warner Bros. Interactive announced that the release would be put off for two months, until October 10, 2017, to make sure the game meets "the highest quality experience" for players.[19] Despite this delay, the mobile companion versions of Shadow of War were released on September 28, 2017, ahead of the console/PC versions.[9]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic(PC) 77/100[20]
(PS4) 80/100[21]
(XONE) 81/100[22]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid7/10[23]
EGM8/10[24]
Game Informer9.5/10[25]
GameSpot7/10[26]
GamesRadar+4.5/5 stars[27]
Giant Bomb3/5 stars[28]
IGN9/10[29]
PC Gamer (US)73/100[30]
Polygon7.5/10[31]
VideoGamer.com8/10[32]

Middle-earth: Shadow of War received "generally favorable" reviews from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[20][21][22]

IGN gave a positive review stating that the game was "bigger and more ambitious in scope than Shadow of Mordor, with great results" especially praising the nemesis system, the battles and the multiplayer.[33] However, GameSpot gave a more critical review, "It tries to be larger than its predecessor, there are more abilities, more weapons, more Orcs, yet it leaves you wanting less." It specifically criticized "the storefront and the menus and loot system" but summed up "at its core, it's a fun experience with brilliant moments".[34]

Another unfavorable review came from The Independent, publishing a review titled "A Disappointing Sequel".[35] Critic Jack Shepherd criticized the uninvolving story, stating that "by the end, you only care about rival Orcs and not the story. A shame considering the Lord of the Rings has, and remains, one of the greatest tales ever told."[35]

Entertainment Weekly ranked the game eighth on their list of the "Best Games of 2017",[36] and GamesRadar+ ranked it 18th on their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017,[37] while EGMNow ranked it 15th on their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017.[38] The game won the award for "Best Action Game" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards,[39] whereas its other nominations were for "Best PC Game" and "Best Xbox One Game".[40][41] It was also nominated for "Best Action Game" and "Best Open World Game" in PC Gamer's 2017 Game of the Year Awards.[42] It won the award for "Best Combat" in Game Informer's 2017 Action Game of the Year Awards.[43]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref.
2017 E3 2017 Best of Show Nominated [44]
Best Console Game Nominated
Best PC Game Nominated
Best Action/Adventure Game Nominated
Gamescom 2017 Best Console Game (Xbox One) Won [45]
2018 21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Role-Playing Game of the Year Nominated [46]
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards Animation, Technical Nominated [47][48]
Art Direction, Fantasy Nominated
Character Design Nominated
Control Design, 3D Nominated
Game, Franchise Role Playing Nominated
Use of Sound, Franchise Nominated
16th Annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards Best Original Song ("Fires of War") Nominated [49]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Minotti, Mike. "Middle-earth: Shadow of War shines the Eye of Sauron on iOS and Android". VentureBeat. Retrieved 28 July 2017. 
  3. ^ Hall, Charlie. "Middle-earth: Shadow of War dumps loot crates, adds gameplay improvements". Polygon. Retrieved 24 July 2018. 
  4. ^ Makuch, Eddie (February 27, 2017). "Middle-earth: Shadow Of War Confirmed, Watch The Epic Announcement Trailer". GameSpot. Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  5. ^ McWhertor, Michael (July 6, 2017). "Shadow of Mordor update lets players export their nemesis to sequel". Polygon. Retrieved July 6, 2017. 
  6. ^ Hall, Charlie. "Middle-earth: Shadow of War dumps loot crates, adds gameplay improvements". Polygon. Retrieved 7 August 2018. 
  7. ^ Young, Rory. "Middle-earth: Shadow of War Online Conquest Mode Revealed". Game Rant. Retrieved 8 August 2018. 
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  9. ^ a b Gordon, Scott Adam. "Middle-Earth: Shadow of War coming to Android September 28". Android Authority. Retrieved 27 September 2017. 
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  11. ^ "Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Gets Rated By The ESRB". JustPushStart. Retrieved 27 September 2017. 
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  13. ^ "Forthog Orc-Slayer DLC Upate". 2017-09-26. Retrieved 2017-09-30. 
  14. ^ Chalk, Andy (2017-09-01). "Shadow of War DLC character will raise funds for family of producer who died of cancer". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2017-10-08. 
  15. ^ Alexandra, Heather. "Shadow Of War Producer Memorialized In DLC". Kotaku. Retrieved 2017-09-15. 
  16. ^ Scullion, Chris (2017-09-07). "Shadow of War's tribute has fine print, and fans deserve to know where their money is going". Polygon. Retrieved 2017-10-08. 
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External links[edit]