Why is Shadow of Mordor being considered for the Game of the Year 2014?

Our original Shadow of Mordor Review

With 2014 drawing to a close the internet is rife with discussions amongst the gaming community of what the best game was this year.  Amongst the crowd of outstanding titles is Shadow of Mordor, the often overlooked Lord of the Rings game.  What is it that makes it so special?

Last Christmas people were trying to get hold of the newly released “Next Gen” consoles; the Xbox One and Playstation 4.  Throughout 2014 we’ve been eagerly watching to see which games then made use of the new technology to give players new gaming experiences.

2014 has brought many wonderful titles for us to enjoy, but many of these have been re-released games, such as the Last of Us remastered and the Master Chief Collection are pimped up old games making use of the new hardware’s improved graphical ability.

New games such as Far Cry 4, Sunset Overdrive and Fifa 15 are proving to be incredibly popular with gamers but when you strip them down they don’t offer anything dramatically new.

Monolith Studio’s Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor came out in September of this year and offered us one of the first looks into not just new graphical ability for console games, but a new and complex gameplay mechanic that dramatically changes how we play an already established gameplay formula.

Shadow of Mordor is at first glance an Assassins Creed/Batman Arkham hybrid set in the Lord of the Ring’s Middle Earth.  It plays in a very familiar style to anyone who has played these titles, right down to it’s controls but within the next generation versions it gives us the Nemesis system, a totally new and exciting way to inject fresh life into action-adventure open world games.

But what is the Nemesis system?

Shadow of Mordor sees the player go up against the Orcs of Mordor.  The Nemesis system gives life to the Orcs of Mordor, providing them with a hierarchical system of power that the player affects with their actions.

Whilst you play, the Orcs are also busy doing their own thing around the game world, constantly vying for position to become top dog, otherwise known as Warchief!  At any one time there are five warchiefs.  To reach the position of Warchief an Orc must become distinguished member of it’s society and rise up the ranks.  This is done in a variety of ways, most interesting of which to the player is for the Orc to kill them.

When you are killed in Shadow of Mordor it matters, and not simply in the sense of you losing a life or some of your equipment, but the game is actually a different one as a result of the player’s death.  This is one of the most impressive new mechanics of Shadow of Mordor.

Once you have been killed the Orc that killed you instantly gets promoted, becomes more dangerous and will remember you next time you run into him!

If it was a normal “grunt” that took you down then they are given a title, a voice of their own, and enter the hierarchy of the great and powerful Orc leadership.  If it is already a known Orc then it will gain more experience, become tougher and rise a rank.

This system makes death incredibly meaningful to the player.

Many Orcs form alliances with other Orcs, these can be used to the player’s advantage to disrupt and create interesting power struggles between individuals.

The whole system is a total game changer for the open world action adventure genre.  Once you factor in that Orc can be “branded” and therefore controlled by the player, sent on assassination missions and used to fight against former allies the possibilities of an already incredible system really open up.

Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system creates a game that can be played and player long after completion as the Orc’s within the system all continually keep playing too.  How you then join in with them is up to the player, creating an endless supply of fun and interesting enemies, bosses and challenging encounters for the player to enjoy.

Without the nemesis system I’m sure I would have really enjoyed Shadow of Mordor.  The Nemesis system is entirely what makes Shadow of Mordor a serious contender for Game of the year 2014. It is a truly “next gen” gameplay mechanic.  So much so that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 editions of the game don’t include it.

All being well this is a system we’ll not only see return, bigger and better in Shadow of Mordor 2, but also one that will be taken up by other developers to expand other open world action adventure titles.  This is potentially a genuine “game changer”.

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