Middle-earth Shadow of Mordor is an open-world action adventure game developed by Monolith and published by WB Games. The story fits in somewhere between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, as Sauron begins to amass power behind the Black Gate. Monolith, of course, is no stranger to the Lord of the Rings franchise. They also developed the LotR MOBA Guardians of Middle-earth.

Shadow of Mordor is an open-world done right. Adapting to different and constantly evolving situations is the key to success. With distinctive move sets between melee, ranged and stealth modes, you can easily transition your strategy fluidly giving you a wide range of options to defeat your enemies. That’s important as the world is constantly revolving. I was stealthily moving along some ruins when I notice there was an orc below me with some intel I could squeeze out of him. You collect intel to find out the strengths, weaknesses and locations of captains. I jump down and brutalize the orc next to him and get my information. In the meantime, I was surrounded by a group of about 7 orcs. Then another group passed by, noticed the fight and now I’m fighting 20 orcs. Then a caragor joined in and I’m fighting 20 orcs and a beast. Lastly, a captain (boss) was on patrol and he joined the fight. In a matter of moments, I went from stopping for some intelligence to a full-blown fight for my life. It’s one feature that makes it so great.

While I’m sure you’ve seen comparisons between this and Assassin’s Creed, and those comparisons are not amiss, but there are a couple of real differences where Shadow of Mordor makes improvements on the AC concept. The first is the ability to crouch and stealthily walk around to your heart’s content and it is absolutely essential in the game. The Uruk AI is attuned to hearing your rustling, investigating thoroughly and searching in groups. Stomping around like a bull will only bring a mass of orcs down upon you. The second is how those orcs react once they have you surrounded. They do not take turns in the battle like some bad 50’s western, the orcs will not hesitate to gang up on you and exploit your mistakes in parrying or dodging.

I really cannot stress enough how fluid the combat feels while you’re playing and the responsiveness of when you begin to make that transition from button mashing as you learn the controls to feeling the flow of the battle and recognizing enemies and objects around you as the battle progresses. Perfect example of this was a particularly gruesome battle that saw me on the short end of 40 on 1. The battle was turning against me, but I was able to notice a nearby fire, I shot an arrow in it, exploding the fire and engulfing 10-15 orcs in flames, burning them and giving me enough momentum to shift the tide of battle.

Overall, Middle-earth Shadow of Mordor is an excellent game. As it stands today, it is solidly my number one candidate for Game of the Year. The game is fun, challenging and will provide hours of entertainment through a variety of game play options and strategies. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a game to play on your next-gen system.

Middle-earth Shadow of Mordor Launch Trailer