Shadow of War is the new sequel to the total knockout game Shadow of Mordor, and just like its predecessor this title has blown me away with its ability to take all elements of an RPG and bring a new twist to the player’s experience.  Shadow of War prides itself on a “Nemesis System” in which there is a hierarchy of “Uruks” you have to fight to complete certain missions and dominate specific areas.  To claim an area of Mordor as your own you have to defeat it’s overlord, which is guarded by it’s warchief(s), which is guarded by its bodyguard(s).  These alliances change with the wind, however in this game you can recruit Uruks to your side and create spies within the Uruk’s alliances.  You feel like a total badass when you play this game as you strategize and hunt Uruks down to play for your side and win region after region.  Plus that feeling when you finally storm the Overlord’s fortress is something straight out of a cinematic movie.  This game really allows the player to choose their own strategy, and helps them to feel smart and determined the entire time.

Gameplay is fairly similar to the previous game, but with some new sweet abilities to gain.  You also have the opportunity to choose a version of each ability, so you can customize your experience completely.  For example when you finish an “Elven Rage” ability where you are invisible for about ten seconds, you can choose to finish it with a blast of fire, ice or poison.  The only issue I had with the skill tree is that I completed it pretty quickly, and I received my chosen customization options well before I finished the game.  Therefore all the skill points I got after that was just me double checking if I picked a good skill branch and maybe choosing a different one.  More abilities or requiring more points to receive each skill would have aided with this, but this is a pretty minor inconvenience in the whole experience.

Image result for shadows of war skill chart

Visuals have certainly been improved in Shadow of War.  Shadow of Mordor was certainly cool to look at, but I remember the environments being fairly repetitive and both worlds you could visit were virtually the same: stone buildings, lots of shrubs to hide in, and mountain terrain.  This game has a group of main areas you can go to, and each one is vastly different.  You play through everything from icy mountain-scapes to lush almost tropical jungle regions.  This variety really aided in giving each area personality and depth, and was a joy to play through (and as an Environment Artist I couldn’t help but look at all the assets longingly, which sometimes led to sneak ambushes by uruk captains!)

The story is slightly improved from Shadow of Mordor, and certainly contains significantly more personality (and no Gollum quests thank god!).  I don’t really play these games for the story-line so much – you certainly aren’t going to have  a “The Last of Us” epiphany.  However the gameplay is as smooth and addicting as I’ve ever seen, so that is what you’ll get most into with this.  The uruks have the best monologues which can be pretty entertaining, especially from an NPC named Bruce whose Australian accent sounds straight outta Finding Nemo.

Overall I would 100% recommend Shadow of War to all players.  You can set your own difficulty settings, so if you are new to hack n’ slash or RPGs there’s still something here for you.  If you are into war/strategy games, you’ll absolutely love this game.  If you are a LOTR buff, there is ten thousand percent something here for you (only thing missing in that respect is the hunk-a-sauraus Aragorn).  I got pretty in depth with this game, and certainly wasted a few Saturdays away on it.   Go buy it now!!!! woot woot.