The lights are on
Warner Bros. has a stellar line-up of games at this year’s big show, and one of the most impressive in the bunch is its new chapter in the saga of Middle-earth. Shadow of Mordor has seemed an interesting project since we first revealed the game on our cover several months ago, but this E3 was the first time I've had the opportunity to sit down and play an extended section of the game. An earlier preview offers an extensive look at the content of that hands-on session, so today we’re taking a different tack – stacking up a wealth of individual moments I encountered during my lengthy play session to see how they add up to a great time. Much of Shadow of Mordor’s appeal comes from its emergent approach to mission design, combat, and exploration, and the following help illustrate how many small situations and features come together to make an impressive gameplay experience.
Galloped on a Caragor: Mordor’s answer to mounts is the lion-like caragor – a massive cat beast that can be ridden across the countryside and into battle. While I charged headlong into a surprised group of orcs, the caragor slashed and bit at foes while I hacked away any enemies that got too close using Talion’s sword.
Ran Across Mordor: In between major encounters, I was happy to get to trek across the countryside of Nurnen, the newest announced area of Mordor. Monolith has gone to great pains to craft an interesting environment to run through, with lots of slopes, cliffs, and hiding places. It’s also exciting to get to visit this most sinister of Tolkien locales.
Met Dozens Of Named Foes: Sauron’s army is made up of individuals, and I saw how distinct the Uruks can be as I confronted one after the next. Their names often offer hints about their nature, and I appreciate how well the game reflects personalities in the look of an individual, or the things they say. Killing a named enemy feels like more of a triumph than if they were anonymous soldiers.
Aided In a Beast Hunt: One of the Uruks I dominated needed to prove himself in order to advance through the ranks, and it went on a beast hunt to show its skill. I stood on a nearby cliifside and sniped at the pack of carragors my ally was hunting, assuring he survived to move up in the hierarchy.
Transformed Into A Wraith: Talion’s dual nature has been a big part of his appeal is since the game was announced. So it was satisfying to finally get to see the transformative qualities of the character. At numerous points throughout my demo, I saw Talion’s face and body shift into a ghostlike form. The wraith looks very elflike, leading to some interesting assumptions about who or what the wraith is within Middle-earth lore.
Shadow Strikes: One of the coolest moves in the game is the shadow strike, which allows Talion to teleport to a high or distant location for an instant attack, which often instantly kills the target. An upgraded form of the attack allowed me to chain these shadow strikes together to kill two or three targets in one flurry of motion.
Slow Motion Archery: Draw back your bow, and the wraith’s influence makes time slow around you. This means Talion can pull off some impressive ranged attacks even while in the midst of a furious melee.
Drained Enemy Souls: Talion’s arrows, called elf shot, are not normal physical shafts. Instead, to gain new ammo, I approach a foe and drain out his essence. The process usually kills the wriggling creature, but provides additional ammo for Talion’s ranged assault.
[Next page: Troll riding!]
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