Shadow of Mordor: Gems of the Steam Summer Sale

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By Kevin Casper

The Steam Summer Sale is going on for just one more week and I’m still spotlighting a game everyday! Today’s talk is about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Actually, I’m going to mostly be talking about the enemies.

Shadow of Mordor is a beautiful, mostly open-world, action-adventure game primarily focused on killing orcs. There is some cool story for the Middle-earth fans, decent fantasy for casual interests, but the game hits bullseyes on, well, being a game. The mechanics feel great, the action is exhilarating, and there is enough freedom for your objectives to make you feel in control. What makes Shadow of Mordor truly stand out is its enemies, or more specifically, the orc captains.

Shadow of Mordor runs something called a Nemesis system that teaches, changes, and evolves some of the enemies to work against you. These named, voiced, and unique captains have different stats and effect about them that are dynamic with the game, your actions, and your conflicts with them. In the game, the captains have a hierarchy in the enemy’s army. Each one may report to another, has rivalry with a different one, and/or an alliance with a third. As the player, you can disrupt this hierarchy by killing those in conflict or higher on the report structure to influence where each captain sits in leadership… or don’t, and they’ll take care of it themselves by killing each other or the blind luck of a captain meeting a grisly end to a wild swing of a troll.

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As you slay your way through the forces of evil for your own goals, your actions will catch the attention of the orc armies and their captains. Your handiwork will become legend amongst the enemy’s ranks to the point where some of these captains will lead bands specifically to hunt you down and take you out, personally command forts to personally ensure you can’t clear them out, or take advantage of the havoc you’re causing so they can rise to power and become a Warchief. In short, these orc captains will get in your way, whether you want them to or not.

There are a few ways to fight in Shadow of Mordor. You can sneak around and stealthily pick off legions of grunts and their captains, go full ham in a frontal assault, or coerce some wild animals and captain rivals to do the dirty work for you. One method won’t keep working, though. The orc captains have sets of traits or abilities on them, some might be invulnerable to stealth or ranged kills, others might have a crippling fear of fire, and others can have a combination of those or other abilities. Each captain will fight differently, react differently, and usually have to be killed differently. You’ll need to adjust your playstyle to be able to continue taking them on.

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This need for adjustment is where the Nemesis system really stands out in the gaming world. You can fight these captains multiple times. You might run if they’re too much for you or they might flee if you take advantage of a fearful weakness. Other times, they will kill you, and your death and rebirth is a canon mechanic in the game’s universe. Regardless of how you come across them, when you clash with these captains, they will learn about fighting you. If you use a certain pattern of attacks, their patterns will try to counter. If you are fighting them again at a later time, you might find that some of their abilities or traits are adjusted to better deal with you. If you get into enough conflict with a captain, you might find yourself dealing with a true nemesis for a good amount of time in the game. It can be just as frustrating is it is fulfilling.

So, yes, there’s a story. Yes there is a ton of Middle-earth lore. Yes you have some scripted events and boss encounters. For me, though, Shadow of Mordor is all about dealing with the Nemesis system and engaging in some of the most intent conflict and manipulation ever seen in this genre. Shadow of Mordor is currently on sale for $12.49 USD for its complete Game of the Year edition. Go get it, man-swine!

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