Middle-Earth Shadow of Mordor – War Against The Black Hand

If I had a dollar for the number of times I was called “man-swine” in this game, I’d be a millionaire.

It’s time to review Shadow of Mordor which I have been playing for the past three months, and it feels longer than that. Now here I am after finishing the main storyline and nearly all of the side quests so it’s time to let it out.

This game takes place obviously before the events of LOTR, but it isn’t really part of Tolkien’s storyline it seems. Our protagonist, Talion is a captain of Gondor at Mordor’s Black Gate until they are attacked by Sauron’s forces led by his three captains the Black Hand, Tower, and Hammer who ritually murder Talion’s family. Talion is almost killed as well, until the elven wraith Celebrimbor possesses him, thus saving him from death.

The ranger and the wraith set out together, the former wishing to avenge his family and the latter wanting to restore his memories having lost most of them due to becoming a wraith. I wish I knew how wraiths were made in Middle-Earth, it could tell me more about things I am still learning in this universe despite being a fan for decades.

The story doesn’t seem like much, but it does have its moments which I will talk about in just a moment but the gameplay is where this game reigns supreme.

It’s open-world and side quests aren’t very exciting because they don’t offer any additional lore, they’re just things like kill x number of orcs without being detected, or free x amount of slaves, etc. but I do them anyway because the rewards are worth the effort. It’s almost like a sandbox game because even if you aren’t doing a quest, there’s endless orcs to kill and their captains to target.

Speaking of which, there’s a strategical side to the hack and slash combat of this game. To weaken Sauron’s army, you can mark orc captains and warchiefs to target (though the latter often requires you to perform certain tasks in order to draw them out), and gain intel by interrogating other orcs to learn the weaknesses of your chosen target. For instance, some are afraid of caragors or hate being betrayed, I try to use this to my advantage to defeat them easily, but after playing for so long I eventually just started killing them without worrying too much about their vulnerabilities.

There are lots of other abilities in this game that I don’t know if I could talk about them all here but my favourites would have to be riding a caragor and branding orcs to follow my orders. I also use my bow more than my sword in this game whenever I can! I was worried about how well I’d do with stealth but I eventually mastered it, that which I’m proud of. However, I only wish I got better at dominating and riding graugs. I only dealt with them if it was part of a quest.

I would also sneak around strongholds to find all the collectables because as soon as orcs spot me, it would be a situation where I’m fighting twenty of them at once while trying to kill the one trying to raise the alarm first, but I enjoyed the funny dialogue of the orcs in this game. If I were to cut back on the profanity in my language, I would replace swear words with the insults orcs use, even if no one knows what they mean!

There are not a lot of characters in this game so that’ll be brief (I hope), Talion is just another warrior who wants to avenge his family and I look at Celebrimbor and he’s like the wraith version of Elrond. I will admit he looks pretty hot in his youth, and as I got to know him, I realized he went through the same tragedy as Talion and tried to rebel against Sauron before the latter turned the tide.

I also really like Ratbag: that one orc who helped me in one part to draw out and kill the Hammer, he was a funny one. In exchange, I helped him rise in the hierarchy by killing the other superiors so that he could be a warchief. I wish I got to see him again after defeating the Hammer. Then Gollum actually appears a few times helping me find some relics that restore some of Celebrimbor’s memory, but he doesn’t serve a huge purpose other than that, it’s just like he’s there because he’s one of the most iconic characters in Tolkien’s universe so yeah.

The rest of them were decent, and I didn’t realize that queen Marwen was under the same curse as Theoden when I first met her.

Finding the relics in this game that revealed more of Celebrimbor’s memories was always exciting. It shows that he’s not just some emotionless wraith and each memory filled in the pieces of the puzzle that revealed his past. I enjoyed seeing those flashbacks.

When I defeated the Hammer, I felt like it gave Talion some closure since he is the one who executed his wife and son right in front of him. Revenge can be satisfying, but it is still bittersweet because you’re like, now what happens next? The boss fight just flew by, it’s not as memorable as say, what I faced in Village though. Although I liked watching that enormous statue crumble, it was like the icing on the cake for revenge against the enemy.

When it was time to face the Tower of Sauron, I assumed this was the point of no return, so I finished all of the outcast rescue missions, and also the sword and bow reforge quests. I still had some dagger ones left but could do without them once it was prevalent that the way to complete them was tedious.

Before facing him, I led my branded warchiefs under my control with their forces against the last orc captain I made my nemesis via death threat. I completely forgot about that actually, but I remember it was a captain I was having trouble killing. It seemed sudden but no matter.

This boss fight took a real stealthy approach where I had to search for the Tower against a time limit and ambush him a few times all while hearing voices of Talion’s lost loved ones and hallucinations the Tower used to stall him. I was expecting the Black Hand but instead, I got this guy.

So, is the Black Hand like Sauron’s second on command who only answers to him? The Dark Lord has lost his physical form, but it appears he has the ability to take possession of bodies of others leading to the final confrontation. It was so quick and just had me executing last-minute reactions in combat, which is used to save myself from death in this game, and it gets harder with each attempt. It’s safe to say the Dark Lord himself is our antagonist, and well, everyone knows him and what he’s like.

I was hoping the game would end with Talion going in peace, but it sounds more like he and Celebrimbor are not done yet, like they’re going to stop what remains of Sauron and his forces dwelling in Mordor. I finally caught a glimpse of Mount Doom and am now free to pursue any other remaining side quests, but the ones I have left aren’t that exciting so yeah I’m just gonna move on.

Fun game, fun gameplay, decent story, could be a little better but it’s in the Tolkien-verse so I’ll be generous.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I don’t know if I’m going to play the DLCs, they seem fun but I’m don’t have a huge interest in them, if I do play them, expect a post from me, if not, then there’ll be another game for me to play up next.


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