This is one of those games where I play it at the launch date for so long I forget to sleep and curse the fact that I have to go to work in a few hours. Its one of the few games that engage me for much longer than after the initial first five hours I've played it and still continues to chuck something in my direction just as soon as my interest begins to wane or even before it.
The environments are actually pretty good. Granted, you won't see too much variety in landscape till around about the second act, but what you get off the bat is very nice. Makeshift campsites, ruined and crumbling buildings, all for you to scale on at your leisure. The story reflects in the scenery and does a decent enough of a job to speak for itself.
The enemies and combat are definitely where this game shines brightest. The game devs kept talking about the game's central mechanic which was the Nemesis system. Basically, every single enemy you meet will differ from everyone else's experience. What really brings this home is the fact that if you get killed by an orc, they will rise in the ranks, become more powerful and will have their own unique way of speaking to you as well as how they deal with you in combat and how you need to deal with them based upon their unique strengths and weaknesses. This is the core mechanic of the game and it is amazing. In my playthrough, an orc with a horribly messed up face (like he'd been stung by bees) killed me as some random minon. This guy was my bane. Either he killed me or I killed him and about two times he came back because I didn't chop off his head and presumed he was dead. He was annoying and my fights with him were always great. This is something I hope more games get to use because it makes a pretty good game like this turn fantastic. One enemy in particular I remember too well is this random captain I was going to recruit. When I faced him, instead of him saying anything, he just was almost completely silent... save for slightly laughing and breathing like he was going to enjoy what he did next. So I killed him... cause I aint gonna have a guy like THAT in my ranks. Very rarely you'll meet an almost unkillable enemy due to this system. I had trouble with a war chief because he was using a shield I couldn't break and it was insanely difficult to get behind him to get a killing blow and he couldn't be hit by arrows. Normally I would have quit the game and looked at a walkthrough, but instead I just used my brain to think of a cheap, but effective strategy. This is an excellent idea because I never felt like I had to take myself out of the game to fully enjoy it. I used my own wit and intelligence to defeat an almost unkillable enemy... and it was awesome.
The other mechanic introduced is a sort of mind control. Second act rolls around and you get the ability to bend orcs to your will. This ties further into the game's story as you're trying to create and entire army to battle Sauron's forces. Your job is to either kill or mind control all five war chiefs. I decided to build my own army in their ranks. I picked orcs that either looked really cool or had some cool abilities and sicked them on the lesser enemies and finally helping me kill the war chiefs. The quests to make your allies stronger are pretty cool. Sometimes they'll be recruiting soldiers into their ranks, other times they'll be going on beast hunts and sometimes, if I tell them, they'll go out and kill other captains. Captain kills are probably the coolest thing ever. If your captain is stronger than your target, you'll find yourself in a scenario where your captain has already captured them and is going to execute them. Sometimes its a duel if they're close in strength. If they're not close in strength, your captain will send an ambush to whittle down the enemy before showing themselves. Do you know how awesome that is?
This is not a traditional RPG. You won't be collecting loot from enemies (kind of), you won't be able to sell said loot to buy better loot, you don't have any other armors to choose from save a cosmetic one for preordering the game. It doesn't break the game, just makes me question what an RPG is. My brother actually asked this very question and when I explained it to him, he immediately lost interest. Not saying this game needs it, just saying I would have liked it.
I really don't like the way Talion looks. Its just... weird. Long hair, thick triangular jaw paired with a certain lack of a neck and one sleeve is missing from the beginning of the game. Its not a big thing, just don't like the look. The Dark Ranger costume isn't much better looking either. Still gotta have that triangle jaw with tiny eyes. Again, this is a very minor nitpick.
I can understand why most people would say the story is boring or bad. I get it. Its not bad so much as just treading ground in between the bits where we get to behead orcs. It serves its purpose, gives proper motivation to characters and is kind of interesting...? I mean, I've never been a huge Lord of the Rings fan so most of the references and tie backs are back to the original trilogy. Speaking of 'original trilogy', I'm more of a Star Wars guy, so if this game was set in the Star Wars universe (oh god that sounds like the greatest game ever; EA get working on that!) I would have 'got' more of the stuff. So, Lotr fans will probably have a field day with this game.
I reaaaally like this game and I reaaaally want to see this system implemented again. Perhaps not as another Lotr game (because I really don't see how that could work again) but maybe in another franchise. Without the Nemesis system? I'd give this game about an 8.5, making it not amazing but decent enough to where I feel like my time wasn't wasted playing it and my money went somewhere decent. I would really like to see Monolith (the game's developers) get their hands into more games and maybe even more existing series. They talked a lot about being truthful and fair to the stuff that came before they made the game, which is admirable and a good way to tackle nerd culture... stuff. Buy it cause its awesome. Keep it cause its awesome. Play it again... cause its awesome.
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