Do you smell that? That new site smell? It’s great to be back under VGU; the same site where I started writing about games outside of Blogger.

How was your Thanksgiving? Spend time with family? Get your holiday shopping done? Meanwhile I’ve been playing a number of games with one from the backlog, so here I am discussing a game I loved: Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

Assassin’s Creed. The Batman: Arkham games. Mix in more violent combat, superpowers, and the awesome Nemesis system and you have Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Continuing from where its predecessor in Shadow of Mordor, the sequel tries stuffing even more into this game especially in the Nemesis system.

But before I get into all of that, I want to touch on something that has been grinding my gears since I’ve put around 25-30 hours into this game. You see, when the original game released in 2014, many people considered it Game of the Year. It wasn’t long after, and even some at the time, when people downplayed the game. Some said it only won because it was a super weak year. Maybe it was. But Shadow of Mordor was a hell of a lot of fun, and Shadow of War is more of the same. As someone who has zero interest in the Middle Earth lore, and still doesn’t after these two games, I think it says a lot about the fun and engagement of these two titles.

I first want to discuss the Nemesis system because my god, this is one of my biggest disappointments this generation. Not because it’s bad, but because HOW THE HELL HAS NO OTHER STUDIO TRIED IMPLEMENTING IT?! I do not get it. It’s awesome to see enemies rear their heads again showing battle wounds from previous encounters, acknowledging being defeated or killing you, leveling up based on actions in the world, and more.

Not only that, but Shadow of War takes it further by allowing these enemy captains to be controlled and set up for any territories eventually taken over by the player. This acts as one of the multiplayer elements as other players can try to come in and wreck shop on whatever you have built up. The best way to defend this is to have an ample supply of followers and decking them out with the best perks to keep the enemy at bay. I know there was criticism for microtransactions when the game released, but in my time playing, it never felt like it was pushing me to purchase anything.

The action is still wonderful with plenty of options to attack any given situation. Stealthing around and killing orcs off one by one is the slowest and most methodical way, but it’s easy enough to release beasts from cages (or summon them) or blow up an exploding barrel near a group of enemies too. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the enemy forces in the game, so whittling them away is the smartest move.

I also found the deck to be stacked against me on a number of occasions. Too often would I be in the throes of combat with one enemy captain only to have another ambush me. One captain can be hard enough with no weakness information (or one with no easily exploitable weakness) but two or three is a new level of difficult. Even moreso when one is enraged and the other is flinging spears at you from a distance. Plenty of challenges are possible early and it’s expanded on as enemy variety increases as the game progresses.

I was also impressed with the number of areas in the game. The prior game was mainly one land mass full of rocks and disappointment before changing that up to something more lively. While it does take some time to open up, Shadow of War has several more locations with more variety in the environment, even if the structures within is ultimately the same from territory to territory.

I’m glad I spent time with Shadow of War. It reminded me how much I enjoyed the first game and how badly I want the Nemesis system applied to other series (I’m looking at you Batman or Spider-Man). While I have no problem ignoring the plot, the game more than carries its weight with the action. Hopefully it’s not the last time I step into Mordor so I can experience another step of progression in this series.

That will probably be the last Back(log) to the Front game I write for the year. I have plans to have a summation up for this past year as I originally intended in my mission statement, but December will be a bit busy as we gear up our own Game of the Year content. Until then, it’s time for me to try and get one more 2019 game in after the Black Friday sales and play some Days Gone. I can’t wait.

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