So we take the lore of Lord of the Rings, we add a brilliant new storyline, we then drop Batman Arkham combat system into the game and just for good measure, create the Game of the Year edition with all the DLC and goodness and sell for practically pennies to gamers. Yes, please!
We find ourselves once again with a brilliant game created by the Warner Bros. Studio. There’s nothing not to like about this game, relatively straightforward enough to pickup and play, being able to drop in and out whenever you need to. I’m not going to go into the story so much as there are many reviews that already go into it in great depth, and I’d rather you experienced the story for yourself, but I was very impressed with how seamlessly it fitted into Middle Earth lore and the Lord of the Rings series.
As combat has been taken straight from batman, many moves are very similar, with the only difference really being that you swing a sword around and kill orcs rather than just immobilize them with your fists. Many special moves make a return but with plenty of slowed down emphasis on the guts and blood you spill on the floor.
Traversing the world map is a different experience though, in which your character is able to shoot objects that interact with the environment, such as meat to bait wild animals into camps or shooting fires and explosive barrels to quickly take out a group of enemies. You make use of climbing abilities, staying up high in compounds to get the sneak on Uruks and crossing large distances stealthily using zip lines. You can run across the map by foot, making use of the elven sprint when jumping over small obstacles, otherwise you can ride upon caragors that allow you to sprint large distances and shoot arrows whilst travelling.
One of the biggest mechanics in this game is being able to brand animals and enemies alike. By branding enemies, this brings them over to your side from the clutches of the Dark Lord, and use them to your advantage, whether this as support within immediate combat, send death threats among captains and war lords (which makes them more powerful later in combat to go against for an additional challenge and greater rewards), and also to be used to betray their commander that they had been sworn to protect. This helps with being able to lay traps for captains as you slowly take over a large amount of his army and spring a surprise assault against them.
Captains and War chiefs are the tougher enemies in the game. Having a list of weaknesses and strengths that can be uncovered by discovering bits of intel on them, this can then be used to your advantage in your combat to find the best way to quickly finish them, whether this is via open combat, using stealth or using ranged attacks. The captains are spread out across the map, usually within in the main camps, and will quickly show up if you find yourself caught in combat with regular uruks. This allows for more difficult combat scenarios and there are many times when even 3 or 4 might just randomly show up to try to lop your head off. Whilst some enemies may have their own bodyguards that protect them, this can create combat situations that contain sometimes up to something like 40 enemies in total that your blocking, evading and parrying against whilst trying to get a few swings in against their captain to hopefully get in a lucky swing, beheading their leader and causing them all to run off.
If these situations get too out of hand and you find yourself on the wrong end of a sword, all is not lost. You respawn at the closest fast travel, being able to track down and exact revenge on the uruk that killed you. But be warned, this uruk will now be more powerful from your death having now been promoted further up the ranks, and you may find enemies have filled the spots of previous captains that you had removed from the Dark Lords war council.
Missions in the game are pretty good, each containing a side mission that is more often than not easy enough to complete alongside the quest. The game works on an upgrade point system, so by completing as many side missions and removing as many captains as possible rewards you with being able to unlock new combat and world travel maneuvers.
The only complaint I had was that towards the end of the game, the boss battles didn’t really exist and were over within a matter of seconds, too easy to complete compared to much harder scenarios I’d been in throughout the game against simpler bosses. Graphics are beautiful and a good entry for what is now current gen consoles. Some surrounding are a little bare of objects and artefacts, but long distance terrain looks beautiful and characters look amazing. Surprisingly, I was able to run this on Ultra on my GTX 970 with very little issue on 3.5GB VRAM when it was recommended to have 6GB, but I’m not going to question that as it looked great.
The DLC is full of additional skills and skins for your character, additional story campaigns and trials. The skins aren’t a game changer, and not used in cutscenes, so don’t make much difference whereas the skills on the other hand can be equipped from the beginning of the game, making your progress at first easier and saves you having to unlock them later on. The DLC campaigns are really good and again well thought out. The only complain was that any skills unlocked in the main campaign didn’t transfer over, especially into the Hunt DLC. And the trials, are trials, difficult challenges that are to be tackled by only the best of those at the game and with plenty of time to spare to be able to complete in the one sitting.
So overall, brilliant game. Simple as that. It’s as good as the hype made out it to be when it first came out and it’s just a shame I’ve had to wait 2 years to be finally able to play it. There’s something of at least 30 hours of gameplay here if you desire to collect everything and get as many achievements as possible, and for a few bob on G2A, I recommend. Just a pre-warning to anyone with a sensitive stomach, there is much gore, so enjoy!