Middle-earth: Shadow of War Reviews

Monolith's open world action-RPG Middle-earth: Shadow of War is just a few days away from its October 10, 2017 release, and to help you make an informed decision about purchasing the game, a number of reviews are already available. The general reception seems to be on the positive side of things, with a middling review thrown in here or there for good measure. Have a look:

Eurogamer Scoreless:

On balance, then, the core gameplay experience of Shadow of War is a lot of fun and greatly improved over the first, if not without its foibles. The bad news, however, is that it's a system that struggles to shine in quite the same way as it did before, even in spite of its expansions and refinements, thanks to the sheer volume and hyperbole of the story.


This isn't exactly news, of course - fans watching the story trailers were certainly perturbed by the casual forging of a new ring of power, or by turning monstrous spider Shelob into a woman in a flowing dress - but there's a thin line between riffing on a beloved work of fiction and disrespecting that fiction. Shadow of War, I fear, steers closer to the latter than the former.

And so Shadow of War ends up the very epitome of the difficult second album. A lot has been added in order to scale it up for a full blown sequel and much of it has been implemented with style and aplomb. As fun as the core is, however, it is often overshadowed by an onerous and self-indulgent story. What should be the game's crowning feature is instead reduced to an undeserved supporting role, like an exquisitely carved plinth groaning under the weight of a gaudy bronze bust of an elven wraith who's looking very, very serious indeed.

IGN 9/10:

Similar to the way Batman: Arkham City built on the foundation of Arkham Asylum, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is bigger and more ambitious in scope than Shadow of Mordor, with great results. The way it expands the Nemesis system with far greater variety and fortress sieges makes even better use of the stand-out generated characters, and its battles with memorable uruk captains remain challenging all the way through the campaign and into the clever asynchronous multiplayer beyond.

PC Gamer 73/100:

Other new features include a fashionable tiered loot system, which sees you picking up armour, swords, daggers, and other gear from fallen warchiefs and captains. While this did tap into my collecting instinct and I was, at first, eager to see what loot would drop, I soon grew tired of endlessly finding near-identical items with only minor stat upgrades. This is one of many examples in Shadow of War that bigger is not always better, and if you removed it from the game completely it would barely feel any different. And Talion’s clothes and weapons reset back to their default look in cutscenes which is kinda annoying.

But it all comes back to the orcs. They’re the reason I kept playing, even when I was losing interest in everything else. A motley, gruesome, ill-mannered crew of swines that are a constant joy to fight and befriend. And the increased variety and depth of the nemesis system makes for a much richer experience overall. I just wish the game wasn’t quite so overfed. A lot of developers think sequels need to be bigger and offer more to get people interested, but I’d prefer it if they were just better. Shadow of War is a great action game that feels like it’s yearning to break free from a prison of open world busywork.

Polygon 7.5/10:

If you can get past the microtransactions, Shadow Wars seems set to provide a much meatier extended playtime than Shadow of Mordor ever offered. But more than anything, that’s my biggest disappointment with Middle-earth: Shadow of War: Everything about it seems to come with a caveat, some small annoyance or two that you need to dig past to get to the still-very-fun game underneath. The Nemesis System is still a wonder that has yet to be replicated. The movement and combat are thrilling.

CGMagazine 8/10:

Middle-earth: Shadow of War improves upon the first game in every way. An issue a lot of video game sequels have is that they either feel too sameish or too experimental, but I believe this one has struck a solid balance. Instead of throwing away what obviously works, Monolith has improved and evolved each system in scope and depth. I loved getting to know the orcs of Mordor, and I hope that other developers take note of how to do randomly generated NPCs right from Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System.

GamesRadar+ 4.5/5:

But, for the most part, this is big spectacle and richly layered experience. The different regions are beautiful and varied to explore, while Sauron's forces are alway entertaining to meet and beat. If there are moments that don’t quite click or things that fatigue a little it’s because of that scale. There’s almost an Assassin’s Creed 2 feel of map spatter to all the markers for towers, collectables, bits and so on. I’ve not 100%-ed it but you’re easily looking at a triple figure time should you try. This isn’t a game to get in for the weekend, it’s something to buy and cancel plans for the year.

PlayStation Universe 8/10:

The sequel boxes are generally ticked off with Shadow of War, it’s bigger, better, and a touch more ambitious than Shadow of Mordor was, but there are aspects that feel somewhat dated now, and there’s a lack of polish to certain controls that dilutes the fun just a smidgen. The Nemesis system remains the star, and with the addition of sieges and tribes, it’s a star that burns brighter than ever.

WCCFTech 8.9/10:

On the PlayStation 4 Pro, Middle-earth: Shadow of War doesn’t fail to impress. An optional 4K cutscene pack makes Talion look his absolute best on console and details from the various armor designs to Talion’s ghoulish five-o’clock shadow (you’d think The Gravewalker wouldn’t need to shave..). The draw distance on console looks impressive and stays true to the ‘if you see it, you can climb it’ mantra. Shadow of War also features a photo mode (you may need to toggle it on in the Options menu first) with all of the features and filters to turn anyone into a hobbyist war photographer.

Some missteps keep Talion’s adventure from being perfect, but overall these changes are a force for good and worthy of being praised as The Bright Lord’s greatest adventure yet. The changes to the Nemesis system that allow Talion to command his own army of orcish brutes and install his own overlords are a worthy evolution of a system that created something unique that no game before it had tried. Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a bright journey for Talion and Celebrimbor and worth playing if you want to go on a journey to immersive yourself in the land’s distinctive lore.

USGamer 4/5:

The Nemesis System is an illusion, but it's one I still enjoy. I legitimately enjoyed building my own orc army and stomping over someone else's fortress. I went for revenge whenever I died, because I hate their backtalk and sneering faces. I like when orcs reference stuff that's happened in the past. (The Shadow of Mordor issue where certain orcs never truly die is still here, but at least they don't become invincible gods anymore.) I even enjoy the odd supporting cast surrounding the grim and gritty duo of Talion and Celebrimbor.

Despite all that, Shadow of War does stumble into a bit of a grind in the latter part of the game and the Chests system could be tuned much better. As it stands now, it's transparent in wanting you to open your wallet and buy a bit of Gold. Those issues are what keep Shadow of War from being an absolutely amazing game, instead of just a great one.