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SHADOW of WAR on the PS4 is an historic journey into Tolkien's beloved Middle Earth world where Orcs, Wargs, Trolls, Dragons and more await.   It is the sequel to 2014's Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor  it is also a dynamic, massive, wonderful and actively challenging game.

Go behind enemy lines to forge your army, conquer Fortresses and dominate Mordor from within. Experience how the award winning Nemesis System creates unique personal stories with every enemy and follower, and confront the full power of the Dark Lord Sauron and his Ringwraiths in this epic new story of Middle-earth. In Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™, nothing will be forgotten.

 

I never got to play Shadow of Mordor so I can make no comparison between the two games. The comparison I can make is between Middle-earth SHADOW of WAR and the ASSASSIN's CREED games that I have played. Before I qualify that statement I will just elude that a few days ago I said to a friend that he should try Shadows of War. I enthused that it was similar in many ways to Assassin's Creed, to which he immediately turned up his nose and said "I don't like Assassin's Creed!". Well that threw me for a good moment as I know him to be very keen on action, strategy and adventure games but I managed to sit him in front of the PS4 and told him to at least try it. Two-and-a-half hours later he was still "trying it".

Okay so I like a lot of the games  in this genre but I am also not particularly good at them, which is why I used to play a lot of MMOs as dying is a bit of a pain but you either get resurrected on the spot by a group member or have to corpse run back to your body (agreed that's a pain also) and continue from where you died; you don't have to go back to the beginning of the Chapter and start again, well not in most cases (some Instances require re-entry and thus screen reloading) so the time to go through all the reloading and refreshing is negligible. In the AC games I have played and indeed in Shadow of War dying or should I say returning from dying has been considerably quicker and less painful, but that's not my only or even main comparison.

In both aforementioned games your character can run, leap, cling onto a ledge, swing side to side, haul himself on to roofs and battlements, sneak up and thief-kill, use mystical or magical powers, and do all sorts of things that Erroll Flynn would have loved to have been able to do. Shadow of War gives you an added extra in that your character, Talion - a Ranger of Gondor - is infused with the spirit of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor who when needed can be called upon to share his abilities and skills - hence the advertising artwork that shows the half Human and half Lightning Struck face of Talion. This is like a role-playing game where you play two characters at the same time, only they are both in the same body but not always both visible to others. As you progress so both skillsets increase.  The main aim of the game is to continually do Quests and Missions that will ultimately disrupt Sauron's plans, leaving the way forward for the Fellowship  to fulfil their destinies in the not too distant future.

Talion travels to Mount Doom where with Celebrimbor's help a new Ring of Power is forged. This Ring is like (or may even turn out to be) the One Ring except that it is free from Sauron's will, grasp or corruption. Unfortunately its forging is also not a particularly well kept secret and it isn't long before Talion is forced to make a decision - give the Ring to Shelob in order to save Celebrimbor or to leave the Elf Lord in the web and clutches of the evil Spider Queen and her minions. Seeing as you really need Celebrimbor to play the game it isn't much of an option and soon Shelob is one happy bunny (for "bunny" read freakingly large Spider).

However, Shelob hates Sauron more than she hates people and so she directs you and Celebrimbor to Minas Ithil which is being sieged by Sauron's army as he (Sauron) attempts to gain hold of the Palantir within the fortress's walls. Celebrimbor tells you to grab the Palantir and run as Minas Ithil is going to fall and there is nothing just the two of you can do about it, but being of Gondor you really don't want to run away while the last Gondorian fortress is overrun and destroyed. And this is where the game, Chapter One, actually begins ....

Middle-earth Shadow of War has been developed by Monolith Productions and is published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The screenshots on this page have been taken from the SoW website and the Internet because I am new to the PS4 and as yet have no idea how to take Screenshots with it and even if I could I would then have to be able to transfer them to the PC. I have before taken photos of the TV screen with my camera whilst playing the game but to be perfectly honest I got so lost in the game and the story that I forgot to take any. I have got a fair way into the story now, it is definitely a story, as in a role-play game, more than it is in WoW or other MMOs, and there is also definitely more "role-playing" in it than in any MMO I have played, even those with RP servers. It has lots of action but is less hack and slash and more like fighting when necessary, back-stabbing sneakily when possible, and moving silently through the shadows if possible; why cause a ruckus and warn the guards when you can slip on by without them being any wiser ?

The animation in all scenes, including action and combat, is beautifully choreographed and exquisitely and seamlessly created. It is so easy to slip into the storyline and "become" Talion/Celebrimbor that time can pass so quickly that hours really do feel like minutes (so don't try playing for 60 minutes straight). There are so many other parts of the story I am itching to tell you but I am pretty darn sure you would rather be playing it and not knowing what was around every corner. 

Shadow of War continues with using the Nemesis System that Monolith developed to allow almost endless possibilities for the behaviour of every character you meet or army you face to act in accordance with how you have played the game. Sauron's War Chiefs and Leaders will each have their own personalities, skills, abilities, traits, loves and hates, all of which can change slowly over time, again depending on how the War is going and how your character is acting. This makes it somewhat, at least a little, like acting in a movie where the script is constantly changing and the plot is slightly altering, bringing us back once more to comparing it to a Role-Playing game, with a GM who knows how to read his/her players and reacts accordingly to ensure everyone has a good game.

  

Middle-earth SHADOW of WAR is full of thrills and spills, hopes and disappointments, wins and losses, excitement and frustration; it most certainly is a very good game.

It is available for the PS4 and the ONE ranging from £44.99 to £59.99 to £79.99 depending on which edition you buy; Standard, Silver, or Gold. There are also DLC packs available:

Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™ High Resolution Texture Pack    for  Free
Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™ Starter Bundle                             for  £2.49  
Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™ 4K Cinematic Pack                     for Free
Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™ Expansion Pack                          for  £32.99

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015