Charge right back into Middle-Earth with Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the sequel to Shadow of Mordor that we’ve all been waiting for. With the official announcement declaring that it will be released in August, Shadow of War promises a new take on Middle-Earth, this time focusing on building a personalized army and recruiting various races as allies. The story line begins right after Shadow of Mordor and again follows Talion and Celebrimbor as they yield a new Ring of Power and continue their quest to defeat the dark forces of Sauron.
Monolith Productions unleashed a gameplay video in March which reveals that they've brought back a new and improved Nemesis system, making more than a few tweaks and changes. Their innovative Nemesis system was a huge hit in Shadow of Mordor. It created a unique story focused on action and memory, forging personal attachments with enemies who remembered your previous encounters, making them tougher to battle after each encounter. In Shadow of War, the new Nemesis system has been vastly extended across the entire game.
While there are still some reservations about the game, such as whether or not it will follow in Shadow of Mordor’s footsteps and be a bit too repetitive, there's some hope that Monolith has exacted everything we disliked about Shadow of Mordor and created a polished and solid sequel.
15 The Nemesis System is Back in Full Blast
The Nemesis system has been renewed and updated by Monolith. This is a big deal because the Nemesis system 2.0 has been made to produce an entirely unique experience for each play-through of Shadow of War. The gameplay video depicts the various ways your decisions and actions will have direct consequences on your environment and the characters around you.
The gameplay will focus a lot on building allies, each one having their own story of rivalry, betrayal, loyalty, or friendship depending on how you treat them. This allows for many play-throughs, as each game will be very different depending on your decisions. These choice-related consequences will allow you to fully dive into the game and personalize your own story.
14 Go One-on-one With Sauron Himself
Monolith has hinted that we will finally get a chance to fight Sauron himself in the next game, as well as his Nazgul followers. A lot of gamers complained that Shadow of Mordor seemed to lack that level of competition. While we did get a chance to go against Sauron’s right hand man, The Black Hand of Sauron and sure, he did kill Talion’s wife and son causing Talion’s entire quest for vengeance, but that's not the same thing. This is Sauron, the main antagonist in the entire The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series and forger of the One Ring. It will be an epic experience to finally get a chance to battle him head on.
13 More to Explore
A main issue in Shadow of Mordor was the limited open world. Mordor felt almost claustrophobic as you traveled through its bleak environment. This time there will be more to explore. So far, we know that the beginning of the game is set in Gondor, Mordor’s neighbour to the west. Gondor is the largest and most powerful kingdom of men and will therefore be a region we were never able to explore in Shadow of Mordor. It is where you will first start your journey to recruit allies and build an army to face Sauron and his many minions.
There will be various new regions to explore, with differing ecosystems and environments. If you’re a hardcore Tolkien fan, you won’t be disappointed, as these regions will be based on source material from the books or by early illustrations done by John Howe, Ted Nasmith, or Alan Lee. However, Monolith’s Director of Art, Philip Straub, stated during the Game Developers Conference that this left a lot of room for interpretation about how these areas might look. Each region’s environment will depend entirely on the personality of the individual who is running that area’s fortress, which brings us to our next point.
12 Fortresses are a Thing
As well as being open world, Shadow of War is focusing on unique fortresses that you can take over and control. Each area will have it’s own fortress and distinct enemies, and conquering fortresses will be a main component of the game. Every fortress you take over will provide you with new followers, resources, and loot.
After the successful attack and defeat of the fortress’ overlord, the fortress will belong to you. You will get to choose which one of your allies will control which fortress, creating localized strongholds where you can train your forces. The ally you promote to lead each fortress will consequently effect the fortress’ environment and surrounding areas, as well as the fortress’s overall ability to cope against inevitable counter-attacks, giving a strategy-like feel to the game.
11 Overlords are Your Worst Nightmare
Overlords act as the bosses of each fortress. Thus each fortress you wish to take over will have an overlord, several of their lieutenants, and their army. Each overlord you face will be unique to your gameplay; their region and chamber will be customized to their own combat styles and act as their personal combat chamber.
In a gameplay video, we were introduced to Ur-Hakon the Dragon. He had several lieutenants that you must beat, including Thrak Storm-Bringer and Tugog the Flame of War. Once you defeat all the followers, you can finally face the main overlord in their combat chamber. Ur-Hakon the Dragon focuses on the manipulation of fire throughout battle and thus his chamber is ridden with fire obstacles.
10 More Customization as You Get a Chance to Mold Your Own Unique Army
Shadow of War focuses on domination by the creation of your own personal army. While you were mostly alone in Shadow of Mordor, you now stand together with an army you’ve recruited along your journey against the dark forces of Sauron. After passing through the Black Gate and getting into Mordor, you have a choice of what region you would like to take on first. You can also choose, for the most part, what order you’d like to do your main and side missions. This gives you a lot more room to move around in the game and influence the story. So, while Shadow of Mordor was more of a linear journey, Shadow of War doesn't seem like it'll be the same.
9 Allies are in Abundance
In order to create your own army, you will need to recruit allies to aid you in battle. Forging relationships and alliances with followers will be a huge part of Shadow of War. You will be able to build friendships and even rivalries, depending on your interactions and how you deploy your allies throughout the game. These multifaceted allies can appreciate you for saving and sparing them, or hate you for turning against them. An example of this is Thrak Storm-Bringer, who exclaims in the gameplay video that he used to be one of your allies, but has since changed allegiance and become an agent of Sauron.
Your allies can also form unique relationships among themselves. They can be rivals or blood brothers, feeling a strong bond to one another. Each ally will have a set of characteristics outlining their strengths and weaknesses which will allow you to choose the best individual to act as leader of a fortress or who to send on separate missions. Your allies can also be injured or killed, such as Az-Laar the Demolisher who has quickly become a fan favourite.
8 More RPG Elements
There will be more RPG elements in Shadow of War, which will include loot and other resources. This loot will include new weapons and armour you can win after defeating certain enemies or by having your allies pillage the surrounding area. You will also be able to equip those items instantly. These items will have individual attributes and perks, such as increasing your health or giving you increases in different areas of play. Experience and money will also allow you to upgrade your skills, making Shadow of War really feel like an immersive RPG experience and making each gamer's experience feel unique.
With your network of allies, you will be able to deploy them on different missions, including assassinations and infiltrations. You have the choice to deploy different loyal allies into the forces of different overlords as spies. Once inside, these allies can aid you in your takeover through a variety of means. These include sabotaging defences, which allows you an inside edge or by having your back during combat if an enemy gets a bit too close for comfort. This is shown off in the gameplay video when your trusted ally, Mozu Deadeye, has your back and takes out Thrak Storm-Bringer once and for all.
6 A New Ring of Power
Shadow of War brings with it a lot of new stuff, such as a new Ring of Power. Perhaps not a great idea since, if we know anything about The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, it’s that rings tend to drive individuals to horrendous lengths in their lust for greed. But, for some, reason Talion and Celebrimbor thought they would chance it again.
This new Ring of Power is pretty similar to the ring in Shadow of Mordor. Once again, it allows Talion to control the minds of his enemies. Though this time there is less of a need for controlling minds and forcing them to do your bidding, and more of a need for recruiting individuals and earning their loyalty. However, the ring still plays a big role. As well as allowing you to dominate the minds of your enemies, Monolith has shown us in the gameplay video that it is entirely possible to “possess” beasts, such as Drakes, and use them during direct assaults.
5 New Races
At least one new race as been confirmed for the next Middle-Earth game, with the possibility for even more that we haven't seen yet. Olog-hai have been introduced as very large, but extremely cunning and intelligent trolls who will tower over orcs. Humans will also be appearing and will probably be the first group to recruit into your army. Otherwise you can expect to see the same creatures you saw in Shadow of Mordor, including Uruk-hai, Graug, Caragors, and other types of troll and goblin-like beings. As more layers are revealed about the game, it's possible there will be other races included as well.
4 Connection With the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Shadow of War will be set within the 60 year gap between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Monolith’s Vice President of Creative, Michael de Plater told IGN that they wanted to directly connect the game to Lord of the Rings. “If you go fire up and play or read the Lord of the Rings after [Shadow of War], you'll have this really seamless continuity from where our story finishes.”
This puts a lot of context into the game, but also makes it seem somewhat bleak and pointless. We already know that ultimately Talion will fail to beat Sauron and his evil forces. Possibly, Talion slows down Sauron enough for the Fellowship to swoop in and finish him off. But it does seem to suck out any motivation for playing the game and hoping for some inspiring and epic ending. Though in this case, it’s clear to see that Monolith is telling us to focus more on the journey itself than the ending.
3 New Abilities and Powers During Battle
Each enemy or ally will have their own set of abilities and preferred battle attacks. Some will possess animal and calvary abilities, allowing them to call on and manipulate wildlife, others will posses fire-based abilities and attacks, while others still will posses necromantic powers, allowing them to call on the dead. In the gameplay video, Thrak Storm-Bringer possesses a special ability which allows him to curse Talion. While cursed, you cannot use any powers associated with your ring and will be temporarily tormented by the voice of Sauron.
2 Various Editions of the Game are Available
There are several editions of the game available for pre-order. These include the Standard Edition, Silver Edition, Gold Edition, and limited Mithril Special Edition. The Silver Edition will include two tribe nemesis expansions and a silver war chest. The Gold Edition will compromise of two tribe nemesis expansions, two story expansions, as well as a gold war chest. The Mithril Special Edition will contain two tribe nemesis expansions, two story expansions, a 12-inch statue of a Balrog fighting a Carnan Drake, a cloth map of Mordor, the game soundtrack, a replica of the Ring of Power magnet, stickers, a collection of exclusive lithographs, and several other bonuses.
1 Gameplay and Combat Style
Though we haven’t seen much of the gameplay, the small sneak peak that we saw in Monolith’s gameplay video shows a similar melee and ranged combat style to Shadow of Mordor. It also shows signs of following the same stealth/parkour method of attack, allowing you to sneak up behind enemies before going in for the kill. Celebrimbor’s powers will play a huge role, allowing you to go into wraith mode and go in for multiple kills before detection. It will continue to be a third-person open world, but it will now have more of a strategic feel as you are able to plan your next move and build up your army.