Open World Button Mashing Bonanza. But There’s Something Achingly Familiar About This Game & Its Name Is Batman: Arkham City.
That might sound a little bit cryptic for a two line opener. Let me explain. Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, the latest from WB Games in their LOTR franchise of games, is a lush open world experience. It’s beautifully put together, stunningly animated and very dynamic in the way you play it but having said all of that it is instantly familiar to play. In fact, it is so familiar to the other gangbuster gaming franchise that WB Games owns, The Batman Arkham series (it also takes a huge lift out of Assassin’s Creed as well), that you’ll be forgiven for thinking straight away that the studio just redressed the same gaming engine with Middle Earthy goodness. (Well, that’s exactly what they’ve done).
Thats not to say Shadow Of Mordor ain’t fun to play – it surely is – there’s plenty of world to explore and lots of gory fun ways to despatch orcs, Uruk’s and an array of big bads as you journey through Middle Earth. You are Talion, a ranger whose family (including himself) are brutally murdered by some nefarious big bads from Mordor and instead of dying you are cursed between the world of the living and the dead. Joining you is an elf, with whom you fuse your gifts for brawling with his deft archery and stealthy antics to give you wraith skills. It all comes in handy as you hack, slash, bolt and set fire to all and sundry around you.
The RPG elements of levelling up, modifying your weapons, learning new skills and unlocking secrets are all very basic and mirror other game engines (except this one has been LOTR’d). The mission components of the game are loads of fun and are a hugely diverse range of tasks rather than just seek and destroy as you’d expect. Combination attacks are easy to acquire and master for all the button mashing enthusiasts out there and you’ll be slaughtering orcs with gay abandon in no time.
There’s just something that niggles in the back of my mind with this. I feel like it’s a bit of a cheat (for lack of a better word) for WB games. Look, it’s loads of fun and I really do like it but there’s been really no major effort here to deliver a new gaming experience – it’s just a copy of an old game with a brand new dress on. Which makes it really familiar almost instantly and, much like how I felt Batman: Arkham Origins should’ve been a DLC pack for Arkham City for its total lack of inventiveness, ultimately a fun but missed opportunity game.
MIDDLE EARTH: SHADOW OF MORDOR is out now.