Want This? Play This!: 'Shadow of Mordor' previews 'Shadow of War' in Middle-Earth

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The new adventure set in Middle-Earth, “Shadow of War” will propel players back into the world of J. R. R. Tolkien and what happened between “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

As Talion, a ranger, you are tasked with defeating Sauron and banishing evil from the world. With an elf lord, Celebrimor, whose wraith-like form is bound to Talion, the duo will have to conquer the armies of Mordor before facing the Dark Lord.

The game will be released on Oct. 10 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC. However, if you don’t want to wait that long to get into Toklien’s realm, there is an alternative you can and should play.

“Shadow of Mordor,” the first title in the franchise, was released in 2014 to widespread acclaim. The Nemesis system, introduced in the game, provided players with the option to build an army through combat or willpower. It also created excitement as enemies would remember previous battles or seek revenge for things done to their followers.

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The Nemesis system allows you to see how the army’s hierarchy flows and lets you figure out a strategy for taking out the warchiefs with the least amount of damage to you. The Uruks also fight among themselves, gaining power as they defeat other Uruks in their climb to the top of the ladder.

Later in the game, the Wraith’s Brand ability lets you dominate Uruks and have them follow you, creating your own army. This comes in handy if you can control the bodyguards of a warchief and have them fight for you, rather than against you, when you take on the chief.

The warchiefs act singularly, rather than as copies of one another. They have their own sayings. They remember you if you’ve run off in the middle of a fight. Some even get resurrected by the Dark Forces to try and foil you on another day.

They also seem aware of what’s going on in the overall game. In one instance, I made sure to kill off the bodyguards before challenging a warchief. He actually knew I was responsible for the deaths (and wanted to get revenge, of course).

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This variety helped keep each battle fresh and exciting. Personalities, rather than repeated figures, drove the missions and made the fighting more realistic.

Besides brandings Uruks, you can also gain intel from them about other Uruk leaders. Know your enemy well for they all have different strengths and weaknesses, and a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.

The battle for supremacy of the orc army, learning about the background of Celebrimor, and heading for the final (?) confrontation with those who killed Talion’s family were spread out neatly, yet connected to a common goal.

The fighting style is pretty straight forward. Combinations build toward more powerful moves and kills. Stealth is smooth and very useful.

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Weapons (sword, bow, dagger) can get power ups through discovering runes. These runes are strewn across the fields of Mordor, but more powerful ones can be claimed after killing an Uruk warlord.

There are combat attacks for Talion and different ones for when you are the Wraith. But stealth kills or stealth dominations are just the best – especially for archers perched on a high platform.

The feel and flow of the combo attacks and the look of Talion as he was sneaking around really made me think of Batman in the “Arkham” franchise. The movements are nearly the same and the fluidity of the battles was nearly identical.

As you traverse the lands of Mordor, there are optional missions and collectables to find. Health herbs will keep you fit, and artifacts and Ithildin help Talion increase his power, skills, and levels. Spirit towers are safe havens and also reveal map areas once they are unlocked.

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“Shadow of Mordor” is a great lead-in before diving into “Shadow of War.” It will help players understand the backstory, the driving force behind Talion’s desire for conquest, and get you used to the Nemesis system. If you have seen any of the trailer videos for “Shadow of War,” the system has been upgraded, and there are lots of new features.

But why miss an opportunity to dive into Middle-Earth and get a feel for what’s to come. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an excellent story-based adventure that will be hard to put down. The plotline, characters, battles, and the Nemesis system all let you design the story in your own way.

This could be one of those games where the tales that come out of it will be interesting to share with others. Go create your own Middle-Earth legend, my precious.