A few months back, I played Shadow of Mordor on the PS4 Pro and fell in love with the game. I liked it so much that I pre-ordered the sequel, Shadow of War immediately after finishing the first one. Having finished both the games in a rather short time span of time, I think I do not have the nostalgia lens when comparing both the games. Having said that, I found the Shadow of Mordor to be a much better game than the sequel. I might receive a lot of flak for my opinion, but as a casual gamer here’s why I fell in love with the first game more.
Reasons why Shadow of Mordor feels like a better game than Shadow of War:
Okay, even the most die-hard fans of Shadow of War can agree that Shadow of Mordor had much deeper characters that actually made you care about them. Not just the side characters, but even Talion seemed to have a much better personality in the first game.
Shadow of War on the other hand has paper thin characters that are forgettable at best. Yes, it’s got a lot more side-characters than Shadow of Mordor, but they usually come and leave, not making you once care about them. You spend most of the time saving people who don’t even show up in the later half of the game, often wondering if it was worth saving them. Even some of the returning characters like Shelob and Eltariel do not make you feel emotionally connected at any point. Torvin and Lithariel did a much better role at being supporting characters, even to the extent of being memorable.
Talion on the other hand feels like has gone through a major trauma stripping him of human emotions (yes, he’s dead but those risen from the dead can be cheerful too). Okay, so he wasn’t a very warm character in the first game to begin with, but he has been stripped of the little emotions that he showed in Shadow of Mordor. Here’s a brute that only cares about killing orcs, which by the way, happen to be much more likeable than him.
Closer to the lore
Both these games take too much freedom in moving away from the source material (and some of it is understandable). But Shadow of War takes it to a whole new level. Now, Shadow of Mordor wasn’t a 100 percent true to Tolkien’s work, but then it did not make the story too hard to digest. It was still acceptable for most of Tolkien fans.
Shadow of War takes the lore for a ride and makes a mess of Tolkien’s world. If you haven’t already played the game, be warned there are gonna be a couple of spoilers ahead.
Isildur and Helm Hammerhand being Nazguls? Okay, that’s a bit too much for even a casual LOTR fan. Celebrimbor’s soul merging with Sauron’s? Too much of a stretch, eh? Don’t even get me started about the new ring.
This one has no excuse really, except maybe that the developers wanted to use the available GPU power to increase the maximum draw distance. This really depends on your personal preference, but I would prefer to see nicer looking characters over seeing distant mountains. Talion’s face and hair are much worse and the textures look funny too, especially on castle walls. To prove my point, here’s something below that I found on the internet. I’ll let you be the judge.
Not just that, but the animations are bad for a game released in 2017 too. Talion’s armor changes to default when jumping into cutscenes (they might fix it in a patch I guess). The fight sequences feel shoddy at times too. No sir, that’s not how a game should be in the current generation.
More enjoyable gameplay
Okay, Shadow of War has a more refined Nemesis system, but leave that out and I enjoyed playing the first game more. Shadow of War makes you do the same things over and over again to the point that it gets boring real soon. Act 2 is a major pain if you’re not too much into capturing castles (I was fine with capturing 2, 3 maybe, but 4? Hell no). I left the game in between Act 4 because doing the same things after the first 5 times takes its toll on the enjoyability of the game. I’d have liked a shorter and better stitched campaign over a long and repetitive one.
Also, the Shadow of Mordor felt more enjoyable. The game’s story had a deeper purpose, more engaging battles, and much better antagonists. Even the side quests were much more fun.
Should you buy Shadow of War then?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no game critic, not is Shadow of War a bad game in any respect. It’s just that when comparing the two games, Shadow of Mordor feels like a richer and more satisfying experience. I might pick it up in a few months again. But Shadow of War? I’ve given it away already. It’s still worth playing, especially for Tolkien fans and the fans of the first game, but pretty much anybody else can give it a pass and you won’t be missing out on much.