Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor on PC (Steam) – The DVDfever Review


Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the latest title from Monolith, a company whose games have a high pedigree when it comes to looking back at their titles since 1997; they have released such titles as Blood 1 & 2, Tron 2.0, NOLF 1 & 2 (No One Lives Forever) and AvP 2. Since they were acquired during 2004 by Warner Bros they have also released a raft of well known and loved titles such as F.E.A.R (First Encounter Assault Recon), Condemned Criminal Origins 1 & 2 and the poor Matrix Online which closed down a few years back.

Monolith developed their own game engine known as Lithtech which was used in numerous earlier titles between 1997 & 1999 by them and evolved versions of their engine have also been used in their later games as new PC technology came to fruition, including Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. On top of engine development and their own games they also did a bit of publishing in the earlier days for smaller and up and coming developers of the time.


Shadow of Mordor sits firmly between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy; it follows the canon created by Peter Jackson’s epic movies and also expands on the Middle Earth lore established in the novels created by Tolkien. The reasoning behind giving this game a Middle Earth title is that it will not confuse the player with more story-telling within the whole Rings saga and opens up the world to new untold stories.

The game tells the story of a Ranger of Gondor named Talion, who is a guard on The Black Gate located in the Mountains of Ash in the north to the Ephel Duath (Mountains of Shadow) in the west. He is living there with his family (wife & son) when the gate is attacked by Uruks (hard core battle hardened Orcs!). After the short opening scene, teaching you the basics of combat, you send your son to find his mother – this opening scene also gives flashbacks to the life Talion had prior to the uprising and, once again, serves teaching about the stealth element in the game. Once you complete the flashback, Talion is forced to watch The Black Hand murder his captured son and wife, as Talion himself is being killed he is saved by Celebrimbor, who is a wraith. The opening scene of the game serves as Talion’s purpose and why he is now seeking vengeance and his journey into Mordor.

Celebrimbor (the character who is a smith in the novels and also the creator of The Rings of Power) possesses Talion as he himself is after vengeance against Sauron. Having the wraith gives Talion extra powers no mortal would normally be able to possess. As an example, during combat you can wraith-stun enemies which can give you a small breather while finishing off an enemy attacking from behind. You also have the ability to capture an enemy during combat or by sneaking up on them with stealth and extracting vital information about the Uruk Captains you will be coming up against. To do this, you see Celebrimbor hold the Orc and it zooms into the mind and you can gain valuable intel about who you are going after. The information given tells you weaknesses and their location on the large sprawling map – this information if used correctly can be invaluable. As an example, it may state that a weakness is to stealth attacks, so once you locate your target in the area you can stalk them and find an opportune time to take them out by either sneaking up on them when they are alone and killing them silently, or even jumping off a structure doing a stealth kill. This then gives you an instant kill with it being a weakness, rather than going one on one with the enemy and a high chance of an alarm sounding and the entire population of Orcs bearing down on you.

Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the game.


As you venture further into the story, new abilities unlock on the skill tree which helps you become more efficient in combat and also increasing your wraith abilities. Alongside these abilities you can also upgrade your weapons, you are equipped with a dagger for stealth attacks, a standard long sword for melee combat and you also have a wraith bow which can be handy for quietly taking out enemy archers sitting up in towers. You will use the same three weapons throughout the entire course of the game; however, killing the enemy captains will grant you a rune for a specific weapon as well as an amount of power points.

The runes can be put into a weapon slot, and to add slots you need to have found various collectibles from around the map which in turn gives you a small amount of currency. Once you have collected enough currency you can then buy and add up to 5 rune slots to each weapon. The runes give you various additional buffs to your standard weapons, something on the lines of gaining focus when doing a flurry attack or recovering health as an example. The power points you get from killing the captains unlock higher tiers on your character skill tree, and the game tells you on the skill tree screen how many points you need to accumulate before the line moves down to the next level of available skills. The skill tree is broken down into two sections with the left side being your ranger skills and right side is your wraith skills. As with most third-person action RPG games, these skills upgrade your attacks and allow you to pull off combos with a larger move set or a new move that will scare the Uruks when you are getting surrounded. Combinations of these skills can make a few enemies flee from the battle in terror!

Alongside the runes there are also legendary weapons missions. Each of your three weapons can get a legendary status by doing the 10 short missions for each one. The sword missions usually involve an arena style combat scenario where you have to kill all enemies without leaving the area allotted on the map; the bow missions, once again, you have to kill a set amount of foes in a specific way and finally you have the dagger missions which involves stealth killing a set amount of enemies. Each of these missions also have additional bonus requirements like drop stealth kill a set amount of enemies out of the quota given for the mission, and completing these bonus missions grants you extra currency to unlock the extra rune slots etc.

Some of the skills unlock during the course of doing the story missions (These unlocks have a gold lock symbol on them) so it is worthwhile actually following the first 5 or so missions to start unlocking various abilities to use whilst playing. The initial missions will also allow you to start riding the Caragor (A large beast like mount which can be handy for getting about quicker if you don’t want to use the fast travel system) and also a tutorial type mission on the Nemesis system and Vendettas.


The Nemesis system sees you seeking vengeance on an enemy that has slain you; the NPC (Non Player Character) will recognise you when he next comes across you. Your nemesis could literally be a low ranking Orc, a standard foot soldier if you will, however, once he has killed you he will be promoted to a Captain. From this point you can then gain intelligence on him which shows his strength, weaknesses and fears, all of which can be exploited and then you will go and hunt him down across the map, he will be stronger than when you first met and could now have a small group of Orcs patrolling with him. If he manages to kill you a second time you could find that he becomes even more powerful and harder to kill and be promoted yet again climbing the ranks of Sauron’s army. I can honestly say it makes revisiting locations on the map a bit more interesting than just going from mission to mission, you feel an urge to go and get vengeance on the Orc that slain you!

The Vendetta system is a great addition to the game and makes your solo adventure through Mordor a little more sociable and fun. A friend of mine on Steam who also owns Shadow of Mordor had been killed by an Uruk (many times looking at the enemy stats!). Latbag Pain-Lover was an Uruk Elite Captain at Level 20, and every time you die to a Captain they level up in power and gain more Orcs for protection. I received a red icon that was not the balance of power icon and under inspection it told me to avenge his death. After starting the mission you hunt round the map area depicted by a large green section and use your wraith vision to find his locale. Once found you then look at the intel on him to exploit his weakness and try and take the Uruk and his cronies out. You also get a bonus modifier here where if you complete the task in less than 5 minutes you are given extra currency to spend on weapon unlocks. This is a great fun way to make the game a little more social and can be a talking point looking at screen shots and chatting about them.

Go to page 3 for more thoughts on the game.


Gameplay is a tried and tested formula that works well and is very popular; it keeps in line with other titles in this genre. The best way to describe Shadow of Mordor is a mix up between the Batman series of games and the Assassin’s Creed series of games. The combat is free-flowing with hit multipliers and combos to take down swarms of enemies, on top of this like I have previously mentioned you unlock extra combat abilities through the Ranger & Wraith skill trees so by the time you reach the second map area Talion is quite powerful and you can mix up your attacks when surrounded.

There are 2 large maps to explore each with six silver towers, these towers are similar to the vantage points in the Assassin’s Creed games and you will climb them and strike the anvil at the top, this will then show you what is available in the area to collect and also any missions that are available. It took me approximately 18 hours to get to the second map on the game as I did go off and find all the collectibles from each area. These collectibles when examined show a glowing blue point on them and you have to rotate and turn the item to find it, once found you are told a bit of a story about the item you have found which adds to the games lore and immersion in Middle Earth.

The stealth system works in the same way as the later Assassin’s Creed games (Assassin’s Creed III & Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), pushing up against an object has Talion edge up against it allowing you to move to a corner and peak out to see what you are up against. You can also climb destroyed structures allowing you to watch patrols and drop stealth kill enemies if they break away from their pack. If you are spotted you can also hide within high grass like areas to evade attackers if you have set an alarm off in a Stronghold. Whilst trying to evade you can also use the environment to your advantage. If you are being chased by numerous Uruks, you will see carcasses hanging in places and fly nests. Shooting at a fly nest causes it to drop and most Orcs will scatter and give up the chase as they have a fear of them when there is a swarm. You can also shoot the hanging carcasses but you do need to be aware that this attracts at least 3 Caragors and they will attack you immediately if you are spotted by them, they will slow your pursuers up though as they attack Orcs also and anything else that may get in their way.


Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor essentially tells two stories: Talion is on his path of vengeance against The Black Hand and his Captains for the slaughter of his family, and you also have the Celebrimbor story arc which see’s you collecting Elven artefacts which restore his memories and you get some nice flashback scenes telling his tale alongside additional wraith abilities. You can see a lot of work has been put into the Middle Earth lore and both settings expand on why you are doing what you are. The Celebrimbor story could have easily just been tacked on to pad the game out but they have fully expanded it so you learn more about the smith that created the Rings of Power. Celebrimbor’s story arc is told through the Gollum missions, he has collected and hidden various Elven artefacts and knows him as The Bright Master, after recovering an item you will then get a flashback and can examine and read about it from the games menu.

Visually, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a beautiful game and the engine scales well across low end systems right up to the Ultra HD visuals (additional free download from Steam if your system can handle them) which requires a graphics card with 6Gb of Video Ram (VRAM). Unfortunately to get a card with that much ram you are looking at a GeForce Titan GPU. Looking on the Steam forums from what I can see most users with around 4Gb VRAM on their cards have been managing to run the game with the Ultra HD texture pack backed with an i7 CPU. With the events of the game taking place between The Hobbit and the Rings Trilogy, Mordor isn’t quite the desolate place you will see in the movies. The initial map is quite grey with Strongholds, mountains and well trodden paths due to it being closer to the Black Gate. However once you reach the second area, it is still plush and green and looks absolutely superb. It has been untouched by the forces or Sauron with plenty greenery. After looking at the different settings in the game ideally to get the best experience visually you will need to be running the game in 1080P (1920×1080) and using the medium preset as a minimum. High does give extra visual fidelity to textures up close and on the ground but whilst the game is moving and you are playing you will not notice much difference between medium and high. The Ultra setting is absolutely fantastic but I could barely pull 20 FPS (Frames Per Second) even with 720P resolution.

The sound on Shadow of Mordor is very similar to the movies: the music is very orchestral and when you are in combat ups the tempo. The Uruks while sitting around their camp fires about talk about “The Ranger” and “Grave Walker” and what they would do if they found you. After setting off alarms in the Strongholds they shout out if they see you clambering away across the roof tops, if you manage to evade them they will start talking about you running off and how you must have now gone. After taking out a few of the Captains and you gaining power smaller groups will run away from you in fear shouting out he’s here to try and get some back up, it all adds to the immersion whilst playing and the evolution of your character. Combat has the usual clangs and bashes of swords during combat whilst Uruks shout get him and taunt you. The collectibles you find scattered round the map after examining them read out to you the story behind them, there is a lot of voice work put into the game. All cut scenes are voiced as are mission dialogues from Gollum and other NPC’s you will encounter on your travels through Mordor.

Dwight Shultz (The A-Team) voices quite a few of the Nemesis Orcs and Hallas, Liam O’Brien voices Gollum (Does a lot of Video Game voice work, Resident Evil 5 being one of them and Gollum sounds similar to Andy Serkis) and Alastair Duncan (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo & Taggart) voices Celebrimbor.

Go to page 4 for the conclusions on this game.



Monolith has truly excelled in creating Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Their new Lithtech engine certainly pushes gaming PCs to their limits but also caters for low-end users. They have created a world that is alive and interesting to be a part of. The game itself is a HUGE masterpiece giving many hours of play, even more if you like collecting items whilst doing the missions. There is just so much to see and do, no stone has been left unturned with the lore added to said collectibles and the flashbacks you will see involving Celebrimbor and the Rings of Power.

Adding the Nemesis system is unique and pushes you as a player to better yourself with tactics and understanding the best way to go up against the Captains and War Chiefs. On top of this you also have hunting missions (hunting various animals around Mordor, starting with small creatures like spiders up to the larger beasts), survivalist missions (collecting various plants and fauna) and also the various other items that will gain you currency and unlock more of the lore of Middle Earth. There are also power struggles between Captains where you can essentially side with one by joining a pitched battle to help another get higher up in the ranks; you may do this to get rid of a troublesome Uruk that has killed you numerous times. There are also slave rescue missions where you can go in swinging your sword to eliminate the enemy or using stealth silently picking off foes to rescue the captives. How you play is entirely up to you.

Once you have finished the main campaign there are also challenges you can take part in that sees you fighting off swarms of Orcs for a place on the online leaderboards.

There is also a Season Pass, reasonably priced at £20 giving you extra story missions involving Celebrimbor and Sauron & hunting missions. Included also are the Trials of War Challenge Series and Guardians of the Flaming Eye War Band mission. This is what is available now on the Season Pass and it does state there is more to come giving you even more value for money and drawing you back into Middle Earth.

The downsides are minimal; I chose the Dark Ranger outfit for Talion when I started, during cut scenes though he has his standard skin which slightly disconnects the cut scenes from the player. I also have to say that the graphics requirements are a bit over the top, most graphics cards on the PC now come with 3Gb VRAM, GeForce Titan cards with 6Gb VRAM pricing starts at £683 firmly putting them out the price range of most users. I am wondering if this has something to do with the unified RAM architecture on the XB1 and PS4 as users with modern 3Gb GPU’s and 16Gb System RAM cannot run the game with the ULTRA HD textures.

However if you have something like a quad core Phenom II, 8 Gb Ram and a Geforce 560Ti you will be able to run the game in 1080P with medium textures and it still looks and plays absolutely superb.

Finally we have a great game set in Middle Earth that is worthwhile playing through and absorbing, I will still be playing this one in months to come and have been singing its praises to friends.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is released on the following formats (all out now except PS3 and Xbox 360, which are out on November 21st):


Important info:

  • Publisher: Monolith
  • Players: 1-multiplayer

VALUE (inc. Season Pass content)


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