My Very Late and Very Negative Review of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

Okay, late by just three years. That’s fine right? I mean, I can’t be the only one still playing this. Then again, I paid about six euros for this, so everyone else might have already bought this.

First of all, I would like to point out that this is actually listed as Middle-Earth™: Shadow of War™ in my Steam library. That should tell you something about the approach taken when making this game. (This also tells you I’m playing it on a PC.)

As I said in the header, I did not like this game. The protagonist and everyone around him is just generic. They have no discernible personality. They are just there. Playing Talion is just not fun. The only fun characters are actually some of the orcs you interact with. Brûz (an orc you recruit to your cause early on) is one of the few positive things in the game. On the other hand, the fact that you need to listen to the monologues of the orc leaders at random moments right in the middle of a fight, is not very immersive. And there can easily be three of these reveals within one combat encounter.

Neither is the movement or combat. Whatever the system is, it just feels like it so often does not understand what I want from it. Just the fact that I can’t jump in many situations is awkward. I’m quite often left frustrated when it feels like I just don’t have any control over the combat. For some reason, the game sometimes just decides that now I’m going to hit an ally and I can’t seem to do anything about it. In this regard, the game hasn’t really improved since the first game.

However, the worst thing about the game is the design goals behind it. As I was playing it, I noticed that this is becoming repetitive. I’m just finding new orcs to recruit and once I finally had enough of an army to take on the warlord and conquer the first castle, it just gives me three more areas to do the same thing in.

I had to look into this. Why would a game be so badly paced and designed? Ah, it used to have loot boxes. I guess it still does in a way, but I don’t think I can buy them anymore. And of course, when they took those out, did they redesign the game? Obviously not. They may have done some rebalancing, but I doubt that as well.

So, the game is boring by design. This just feels so calculating. They actively made the game worse just so that you would need to spend more money on it than the initial price, which I assume was 60 euros for us Europeans, which is somewhat more then 60 dollars. I guess I can’t complain, because I only spend about one tenth of that. Still, paying less for the game doesn’t make it any less boring.

I don’t mind paying for my entertainment. I get that someone is spending money and time to make this content for me. And in the case of these AAA games, a lot of time and money. I would, however, appreciate it, if my entertainment would actually be entertaining. I can be a mindless drone in other contexts. I don’t need my entertainment to feel like work, just so that the people behind the entertainment can make more money off of me.

These kinds of experiences just make me move more and more towards indie games. Spelunky 2 just game out on PC. While it isn’t that different from the first game, it is still an enjoyable game, where I never feel like my time is being wasted (or worse yet, being wasted on purpose).

Was Shadow of War worth the six or so euros I paid for it? No. Definitely not. (Spelunky 2 has been very much worth the 13 or so euros I paid for it.)

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