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Middle-earth: Shadow of War Full Experience Review

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The Blade of Galadriel Expansion:

This is the first story expansion for Shadow of War and appears to take place after Act III, most likely during Act IV, leading up to the end of the act. I have still not concluded Act IV The Shadow Wars though, so I could be wrong but given the events at the end of the expansion, it makes sense. Because of this, there are potential spoilers here, even if I try to avoid them.

The Blade of Galadriel follows Eltariel, the elven assassin we meet in the base game who wields the Light of Galadriel to fight the Nazgul. While she does act as an ally for Talion, there is some clear tension between them because his existence, banished from death, bound to a wraith, and wearing a Ring of Power (the New Ring) makes him very similar to a Nazgul and susceptible to becoming one. Still, they work together until the end of Act III when significant spoilers happen. The expansion picks up after these spoiler events, with Eltariel returning to her mission to fight the Nazgul but again working with Talion to stop or at least slow the advance of Mordor's army.

Something interesting at first is that at this point in time, both Sauron and the Witch King are weakened, so for a time the leader of the orc armies is unknown. Still the fortresses Talion captured are being attacked and he leaves you to defend that at Cirith Ungol while he goes to defend Seregost. To defend the fortress you will need to recruit new orc captains, but though it is in your power to dominate them, as Talion had during the base game, Eltariel refuses to do so. Instead she must do a recruit mission for those she wants. While I do find dominating orc captains to be a fun mechanic, there is an advantage to this approach and that is these orcs are unique. One is a thrall for Shelob, so he is decorated in spider-like costume, another was an archer for Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, and the third is a somewhat amusing olog architect that cares more for construction than conquest.

 

 

Along with lacking the ability to dominate, there are several other differences between Eltariel and Talion, with perhaps the most stark being the lack of the original elemental damage types, but addition of a new one. Talion was able to wield fire, ice, and poison to great effect against his enemies, but Eltariel cannot access any of these through her abilities, instead using a new element Light. While it does not open up as much combo potential as the others, it is still a very powerful element, especially as you level up and acquire better gear. You can fire out bolts of it, project a beam, lay light traps, and more with the ultimate offensive goal being to blind your enemies. Once blind you can execute them with the bolts, causing them to just dissolve away at a distance, which is pretty handy. The beam is also useful, especially against ghuls, and the light traps are situational, but effective. Perhaps most importantly is that you can use the light to heal.

Eltariel plays very differently from Talion. With Talion I felt comfortable being dropped into a battle because his depth of attacks and combos make it not too difficult to manage enemies, in most cases. Eltariel is more squishy, forcing more strategy, and more retreating to heal. This is actually one of the ways the light traps comes in handy because you can drop one as you run away, then keep running to heal. When an enemy pops the trap you can try to hit it at range to disintegrate it. The other use I found for it was to keep dropping one as I was attacking blinded captains. The trap would pop and leave a bubble of light, continuing the blind effect while I continue to attack.

 

 

There are a limited number of skills and skill upgrades available to Eltariel, but a lot on the gear you can get through missions. There are no gear drops except for gems (of which she has one kind) so all the gear you get comes from missions that involve fighting a legendary orc captain, and typically his gang. You always need to look at their Nemesis traits because in many cases they are immune to practically every attack type but one or two, forcing you to find the optimal strategy to destroy them. The reward will be an item from a gear set and they can have some pretty neat and powerful effects. (Some of the missions are marked with a suggestion to do only after you have the items from another set. I went through and did every mission without such a suggestion, then would just clear out whatever region I was in.) One set allows you to dominate all beasts around you, if you are already on a dominated beast. This means if you dominate a caragor you can just ride by a graug and then it would become dominated as well. A pretty powerful ability when facing a beastmaster.

Each set has some focus to it: beasts; ice; fire; and poison. When you complete a set you are also awarded an item from the Light Bringer set, which enhances your use of light, but the last two items from it, the blades, come from a special mission against an orc captain without a tribe. It is an interesting concept, going against a captain that does not have the attacks or associated weaknesses of any tribe, but I was able to just lock him into being blind using the traps like I mentioned above, so he was not a big threat. (It did help that I killed all of his followers first.)

 

 

Coming back to the story, you are trying to assist Talion in holding his fortresses, recapturing those he loses, and destroying one that you will not be able to retake. These are actually fun missions and I kind of wish similar missions were available in the base game, like infiltrating and assassinating a fortress overlord instead of doing a full scale assault. Anyway, you do learn that the new force leading the orcs is a pair of rogue Nazgul, who it turns out are/were sisters. I am not sure but I do not think there were any Nazgul besides the nine, which these two are not a part of, but they are still an interesting adversary. Partly this is because in a one-on-one fight, Eltariel can be quite effective, but two-against-one requires strategy. You can blind them, but this is temporary and takes time to do, so be careful.

Unfortuntately I am limited in what I can say about the story because it would spoil the base game, but I think I can say this much. Galadriel is a narrator during this expansion, similar to how Celebrimbor is for the base game, chiming in for two-sentence conversations with Eltariel from time to time. While at times she does seem displeased with Eltariel, at the end she does say something I found specifically interesting. Though I do not recall it being made clear why Eltariel specifically was given the task of fight the Nazgul, at the end of the DLC Galadriel tells her she can go to the West finally, which is the ultimate destination for the elves and a clear signal Eltariel has done her job. The thing is the Nazgul are not truly defeated, which we know because they cannot be as long as Sauron exists; they are bound to him. Instead something else happens at the end and my suspicion is this reveals Galadriel has manipulated Eltariel to this point, leading her not to defeat the Nazgul but to play this one, specific role. Eltariel declines to go to the West though and actually goes to the East, occasionally returning to Mordor to fight the dark forces there. She does witness the destruction of Barad-dur and Sauron, and at this time there is some set up that she could be a means of continuing the story after Shadow of War.

 

 

I achieved 100% completion and the game reports it took me 4 hours and 2 minutes to do so. I have not returned to the base game to confirm, but there should be eight unique legendary orcs there, added to my army as a result of playing this expansion. While that four hour mark might not seem like much, it was still fun and I do have a tendency to somehow finish content faster than the average. Still, it was not very long. It could have been longer if I hunted down the normal captains in the world, but I did not feel a need to. If doing so would have an influence on the events of the expansion, I missed when that was communicated to me. I just did the missions, had fun doing so, and probably will leave it there.

Overall, this expansion was fun and does tell an important part of the story, but it does offer a different experience from the base game. Eltariel is not Talion, so you will need to adapt your playstyle a bit, and if you like Eltariel's style, you will likely need to hunt down those other orc captains to get more time with her.

Interesting and enjoyable, but short and is more significant for its story than the mechanics that differentiate it from the base game.

 




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