Shadow of War – First Impressions

Finally had a chance to put some time in and there are some high level thoughts before I put in a meaty post.

  • This remains a mash between the Batman series and Assassin’s Creed.
  • Before you even control Talion, you’ve constructed and lost a new ring of power.  To Shelob.  Lore is taken behind the shed.
  • Is it ok to not like any of the characters?  I don’t quite understand Talion’s motivations given that, ya know, he’s immortal and all.  He makes incredibly poor decisions.
  • Shelob is neat.  Doesn’t at all match with the books, she plays heavily against type and lore, but as a foil, it works.
  • As a side thought, if this had nothing to do with LOTR, it would be a much better game.  It’s like trope-city.
  • The world is built more on vertical zones rather than the sprawl of the previous version.
  • Moving around the world is a bit bumpy at first, until you get the double jump.  That’s after the 2nd main mission if I recall.  In fact, I recommend completing all the main missions on the first map before playing the sandbox portion.  You don’t get stronger, simply have more mobility.
  • The game really doesn’t have any training wheels.  You are fighting captains within 5 minutes.
  • Further lack of training wheels, the sub-systems in the game get complicated quickly and with little intro
  • The time to kill (TTK) is rather high considering the amount of tools at hand to start.
  • The Ubisoft problem of throwing tons of icons on the map is very present.  On the first map, within 5 minutes, you are overloaded with stuff and very little idea what it means.
  • It appears that the same engine is being used, as it is not a graphical upgrade.  There’s more on screen mind you.
  • There is much more focus on the bow here, at least in combat.  Many captains have some serious tweaks defensively and offensively that mean you should stay at range.
  • Enemy archers are a massive pain.  They are hard to spot, and the vertical aspects of the zones make it hard to reach them.  Like mosquitoes that break your combo streak (and prevent use of special skills).
  • Fire.  It’s like dropping a nuke on the field.  And it’s all over the place.
  • There is a fluidity to combat and movement at the start here, that only showed up near the end in the previous game.  It is very nice.
  • That said, there are dozens of buttons presses and situational attacks that can complicate your play.  You can certainly button mash with attack/retaliate, but you’ll never take down a captain that way.  The skill floor for progress is high.
  • The side quests and gear upgrade mini-missions work well.  Really well actually.
  • The main missions are less fun, as they break from the open world at various points.
  • You collect elf words to make poems, to unlock doors, to access legendary gear.  Seriously.
  • The first skill you should acquire is the “auto loot” one, at the end of the Wraith tree.  I do not understand why this is not a default skill.  I also do not understand what it has to do with Wraith powers.
  • Captains appear with randomized stats.  That means there are very easy ones, and very hard ones.  I had one kill me in 1 hit due to the way he enraged and attacked, plus no ability to counter.  Intel seems more important than in the previous game, in order to avoid those situations.

If you play this as a game, then it’s a solid experience and easy to lose yourself in the sandbox.  If you play this as a LOTR story, woo are you in for disappointment.

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