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Middle-earth: Shadow of War Full Experience Review

Price: $59.99 - $99.99


Released back in 2014, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a game I personally enjoyed quite a bit, so when its sequel, Middle-earth: Shadow of War was announced, I was definitely interested. Unfortunately at the time it released I was unable to review it. Since then I purchased a copy for my own enjoyment but then had an idea and thought it was worth a try. I reached out to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, the series' publisher, and was successful in getting a review key for the Expansion Pass, allowing me to write this, Full-Experience review. The bulk of the playtime I have put in is from before the release of the second story expansion, The Desolation of Mordor, on May 8, and naturally also before the significant changes previously announced as coming on July 17, including the removal of the premium currency, market, and changes to the Shadow Wars part of the campaign.

Both Shadow of War and its predecessor are based on the stories told in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, but do constitute original stories within the universe of Middle-earth. You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor that had been placed at the Black Gate with the duty of watching the forces of Mordor, because while the Dark Lord Sauron is not active, his war machine is not one that easily sleeps. This proves very true as one day three of Sauron's lieutenants arrive at your outpost and kill everyone, including your wife, your son, and you as part of a ritual to summon the wraith of Celebrimbor. Celebrimbor was once the greatest elven smith of his age, but it was Sauron (in a form resembling that of an elf) that taught him and other smiths how to forge Rings of Power. Sauron corrupted these rings, so that when he forged the One Ring and wore it, he could control the others and corrupt their wearers. Celebrimbor, however, forged the three greatest Rings of Power, those given to the elves (though one was eventually passed on to Gandolf) separately, so they were free from corruption, but could still be subjugated by The One, for it was that powerful.

In both the actual lore of Tolkien and in the game world, Celebrimbor, upon learning of Sauron's deception after The One was finished, challenged him, but in very different ways. Within the lore he was captured and tortured by Sauron to reveal the locations of the Rings of Power until his death, though he never revealed where the Rings of the Elves were, which undoubtedly saved Middle-earth. In the game, Celebrimbor was captured by Sauron and actually worked with him to finish The One, so he could claim it and then wield it against Sauron, amassing a great army. The One knows its true master, and eventually failed Celebrimbor to return to Sauron. Sauron then killed Celebrimbor, but bound him to Middle-earth as a wraith. Even as a wraith, Celebrimbor is still very powerful, which is why Sauron's lieutenants wanted to summon him, so he could be used to create a new avatar for Sauron to inhabit, letting him begin again his conquest of Middle-earth. The end of Shadow of Mordor shows Talion and Celebrimbor stopping Sauron and then deciding to forge the New Ring, a 'perfect' ring that can challenge The One and potentially be wielded to finally defeat Sauron. This is the story Shadow of War tells.

Both games are action-RPGs with open world environments, and feature the Nemesis system. This system gives the orcs special characteristics, impacting the threat they can pose to you. For example, some can be immune to certain attack types while for others they will be instantly fatal. Shadow of War has a more advanced version of it, allowing orc and the Olog-hai war troll captains you encounter to even adapt to your attacks.

Shadow of War has an M rating from the ESRB for Intense Violence and Blood and Gore, neither of which should be surprising. Decapitating enemies is hardly uncommon and the olog have the occasional behavior of decapitating enemies by ripping the head from the body. The media I have captured very definitely capture this, so if such content is not appropriate for you, neither will be this review.

I think it is time to see if this is a war we want to wage.


  1. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - Introduction
  2. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - Graphics
  3. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - Story
  4. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - Gameplay
  5. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - Conclusion (Base Game Only)
  6. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - The Blade of Galadriel Expansion
  7. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - The Desolation of Mordor Expansion
  8. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - Additional Gameplay Screenshots
  9. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review - Conclusion (Full Experience)
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