Mordor is a forsaken wasteland. Rust brown fields of mud spread out beneath a sky of roiling, murky clouds. The only creatures that willingly inhabit this land are the Uruk, Caragor, Ghuls, and other nasty beings that thrive on death and despair.
Set in the greater world of Middle Earth, Monolith Productions’ Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor doesn’t stray from Sauron’s turf. There is no respite to be found in a side trip to Gondor or any of the more picturesque and peaceful spots in Middle Earth. Despite its bleak setting, Shadow of Mordor paints a highly explorable world with a cast and story which are, if not terribly interesting, at least a whole lot of fun.
Shadows of Mordor tells the story of Talion, one of the famed Rangers of Gondor. Talion is charged with guarding the Black Gate, the boundary between Mordor and Gondor. In the first scenes of the game, the Black Gate is attacked by Sauron’s armies. Failing to stave off the legions of Uruk, Talion and his family are slain by the Black Hand of Sauron.
Strangely Talion wakes up to find he has been possessed by an Elven Wraith who has no recollection of his past life. Talion takes advantage of the new powers the Wraith grants him and seeks revenge for the death of his loved ones. At the same time, he helps the wraith uncover his past, reluctantly led by the curiously pathetic, suspiciously sinister Gollum.
Yes, this is another revenge tale. Video games just can’t seem to get enough of them. However, Shadow of Mordor succeeds in spite of this. The story plays out probably how you would imagine it would, but the exceptional voice acting and snarky quips from Talion and the Uruk keep things entertaining.
Shadow of Mordor is also light on Tolkien lore, so people who aren’t Lord of the Rings fans can still enjoy the experience. For those who lean towards the Sindarin speaking side of the scale, there’s something there for you as well.
The artifact system is the first time I’ve actually cared about collectibles. The maps in Shadows of Mordor are full of little artifacts for you to uncover with your wraith vision. Each object you find comes with a memory of the past. Finding the memory treats you to a brief audio clip of events surrounding the object. They often tie into other events in Tolkien’s work. These little tidbits really help to open up Mordor and show how this wasted land fits into the fabric of Middle Earth.