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Middle-earth: Shadow of War Full Experience Review

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Desolation of Mordor Expansion:

The second and last story expansion is The Desolation of Mordor and has you playing as Baranor, a normal human, which imposes certain limitations on him. For one, he cannot resurrect because he lacks a wraith or Ring of Power to do so. If you die while playing The Desolation of Mordor, he dies and "his story is over." I put it in quotes because that is what the game says, but it is not like this is a one-life for the whole DLC situation. If you die, or successfully complete the campaign, all of the items you have found and collected will be passed on. Your progress will be reset, allowing you to replay the campaign as you wish, trying for a higher score or just amassing more items. Yes, you will receive a score at the end, based on how quickly you completed the campaign, how much experience you gained, the outposts you captured, and naturally a multiplier based on your difficulty. Basically we have a roguelike DLC here.

The story of The Desolation of Mordor is that Baranor, seeking a new home for the Gondorian refugees of Minas Ithil has travelled East to Lithlad, a desert region of Mordor. Besides the orcs and olog we have already met from the base game, there are also wyrms to deal with and right off the bat you need to run for it as they are coming for you and your men.

And then the wyrms eat you. Luckily, despite their teeth, wyrms do not chew their food and you are rescued by Torvin. For someone who has played Shadow of Mordor, seeing Torvin, the dwarf hunter, again is a nice treat and he continues to be amusing. For someone who has not played the previous game, he might as well be nameless. I find his introduction and use throughout the DLC to be that lacking.

After Torvin rescues you, he gives you a couple items, one being a shield/crossbow/grappling hook and the other being a kite. That might make it sound like the kite is not impressive, but it is actually a parachute, allowing Baranor to glide good distances, especially if you catch an updraft from cracks in the ground. By the way, you can stealth attack from the kite, which is very awesome as that means you can glide over an area and just come down like death on an unsuspecting target.

 

 

The other device Torvin gives you is actually a Numenorean artifact, and can become very powerful by finding other artifacts throughout Lithlad. Torvin has conveniently provided you with detailed sketches of the areas, and there do tend to be enough clues in them to figure out where the artifacts are. Once found you need to return to Torvin, who will tinker with them and add them to the device as permanent upgrades.

This is actually a nice change from the base game as all upgrades, both these and the skill upgrades, are permanent and always active. Of course some of them are just increasing your ammo capacity or similar, but others do impact your abilities.

After leaving Torvin you head for the mercenary camp, where you are surprised to learn its leader is Baranor's brother! While you will still need to pay to recruit the mercenaries, he is willing to give you a family discount.

 

 

At this point the DLC opens up to let you do more or less what you want; run the handful of campaign missions or start capturing outposts. It is always nice to go after outposts, as this also means you are killing captains and getting whatever item they drop. You capture them by killing all of the captains guarding them and capturing a point within them. The first outpost I did without a mercenary bodyguard to help me, but I still managed to capture the point, and when I did mercenaries arrived, so finishing off the captain became much easier.

Once an outpost is captured you will want to assign a hired mercenary to it, which may require you hire a new mercenary. Killing some enemies will award you with the money to do this. There are two reasons you want to place mercenaries at the outposts: one is that as long as a mercenary is there, the orcs cannot retake them; and the other is having a mercenary assigned there grants some bonus. There are three tiers of mercenary, just as there are three tiers of orcs, normal, epic, and legendary, and the higher tier the better the bonus, like making mercenaries immune to fire or poison damage, or even making them heal when hit by such damage.

 

 

While it might seem expensive to hire the mercenaries at first, the money is easy enough to collect and you eventually unlock a skill to reduce the cost 20%, and it has three stacking upgrades to pull it down another 10% each, for a total of 50% off. I was able to hire every mercenary I could before ending the campaign, placing the legendary mercenaries at each outpost.

Actually playing as Baranor I found to be quite different from playing Talion or Eltariel. Partly this is because he lacks the wraith or ring abilities, but also because of how the crossbow functions. You can have it fire normal steel bolts or you can attack with fire or poison bolts. There are also three matching kinds of bombs you can fire with it, and this collection of projectiles can be a powerful tool to utilize, assuming you have the ammo. Enemies will drop ammo fairly often, but not always the right ammo. The ability to grapple out of a fight so you can return, dropping in from the kite is also a lot of fun and an effective way to manage battles.

 

 

By the way, Baranor relies on medkits to heal, which can be applied instantly through the ammo menu. You will want to watch your health and supply of kits, but with enough mercenaries around you to take some of the hits and grappling away, you should be okay. Also I got an item that let me heal whenever I was gliding.

I should really mention the items because they operate in a very different way than they do for the other characters. You never get new gear, but you do find augments you can permanently apply to the gear. The lowest level augments can be stacked multiple times, and so are the way to see the damage you do increase. The epic and legendary augments are 'unique' and so cannot be stacked, but they also are not so unique that you will not get duplicates. You can just sell them for more money to spend on mercenaries.

While most of these augments are net positives, like one that produces a fire explosion when you use the Cyclone ability (swinging the grappling hook chain around you), some are gambits, giving a significant bonus but at some cost. One of the legendaries I got would significantly increase stealth damage, but would also cut my health in half, so I never applied it. Not all legendaries are gambits like this, and most augments I found I immediately applied.

 

 

Something I was kind of hoping for was for Idril to be present, as she and Baranor were clearly close according to the base game, but sadly all she got was a mention. Baranor seeks to capture the fortress in the area and muses that once he has it, he can bring the Gondorian refugees there, including Idril.

Altogether, I liked The Desolation of Mordor, and I think I liked it better than The Blade of Galadriel. The way Baranor plays just felt more interesting and rewarding, though I think I have to grant Eltariel's was the better story. There are some amusing moments in The Desolation of Mordor, like when Torvin comments on his potatoes, but there feels like there is less resolution and revelation here. Baranor is still very fun to play as though.

 

 

Something else nice about The Desolation of Mordor is that Lithlad is a new location and quite distinct from the regions in the base game. It is a desert with ruins and structures carved into cliffs; a very different look from the scorched Gorgoroth, frozen Seregost, green Nurnen, and cursed Minas Morgul. You are able to visit Lithlad as Talion as well, but this is outside of the expansion; it is just another region you can go to in the base game’s map.

According to the score screen at the end, my first run took me just 3 hours and 10 minutes, and I did everything. I captured every outpost, killed every warchief, found every artifact. Now it is designed to be replayed, with your collected items carrying over, so that is something that can increase the time played, but one run does not need to be very long.

 




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