The scale of battle in Shadow of War is both staggering and unpredictable in the best possible way
I already know what my game of the year is going to be, and I haven’t played the full release yet. As silly as it sounds, and as bold a statement as it may be, I just know. From one hour spent playing, I am completely enamored, and seldom video games leave me crying out for more, especially without even knowing what the overall release is going to be like. This game is Shadow of War, and it is immense. There’s only one way I can really tell you why I adored it so much, and that’s by detailing my first experiences trying to liberate one of the enemy fortresses. As Talion, and with my own ragtag army of Orcs and Uruks by my side, I charged the gates and played one of the single most amazing moments in video games I’ve ever had.
The two towers that stood either side of the entrance gate had Graugs chained up – rabid, and in their rage, they threw a shower of boulders and fire upon us. Many of my soldiers were getting destroyed, and with the mass of flames surging from the gaps in the gate, we were struggling to penetrate their defences. To the left of the entrance, amidst the panic, I found a way up the walls, and as I reached the top I managed to see the real terror that awaited us if we ever managed to get inside.
There were so many Orcs, Uruks, and Olog-Hais I couldn’t count them all. Warchiefs stood amongst their armies, fierce and vulgar, chanting as they awaited our onslaught. I managed to take out some of the archers from above, jumping down beyond the wall and towards the gates. From the inside, I could see where those flames were coming from. There was a Drake breathing fire from behind the entrance gate; he was the beast turning so many of my army to ashes.
The dragon was being kept in a cage; maybe even Sauron’s army couldn’t contain his power, and maybe that was my way to tearing the gate down. Surrounding the Drake stood Orog-Hai Captains and countless Uruks – possible fodder, I thought. I had an idea, but I wasn’t sure it was going to pay off. I lifted my bow, and fired an arrow straight into the cage’s lock, breaking it and freeing the majestic beast within. The cage then broke into pieces as the Drake awoke, burning the surrounding soldiers and destroying the entrance gate; I had found a way in for my army, and boy did they attack.
Swords clanged against shields, fists flew and broke jaws, arrows struck flesh, and blood fell like waterfalls. There was destruction everywhere, and it was a rush. I made my way to the ground – to the heart of the battle. At one point I was taking on about ten enemies, made up mostly of the Warchief’s Captains. Insults and threats filled the air as they all tried to kill me. Not only that, but armoured Caragors were called into take me down. I was overpowered and close to death. One of the Captains raised his axe as I fell to my knees ready to accept my fate, and he swung. Milliseconds before the steel met my neck; one of my own Captains took him out, sacrificing himself for me. I had survived thanks to him, and he had risked his life for me – this game was insane.
I climbed up a nearby building within the fortress to try and regain some health. As I watched the chaos ensue below, I used my shadow strike to focus on one of the Captains and bring him to me, as opposed to going to him. We fought on the rooftop alone, away from the battle, and fought for a while, neither one breaking the other’s defence. He started to learn my attack patterns, trying to outsmart me, and eventually, he grew wise. I was taking more and more damage, and the Grim Reaper was once again knocking at my door.
This all happened within the space of about 30 minutes. Obviously, there was a lot of other stuff that happened in my time with the preview, but you’ll get to see more of it in the video. Fundamentally though, Shadow of War has taken everything that made the original so good and made it infinitely better. Combat is much more intricate, and you have a lot more moves at your disposal; you can do much more when harnessing the power of Celebrimbor, such as jumping off a building and hovering in mid air so you can fire off an arrow or two. Movement is a lot faster, and you can climb up buildings or double jump in mid air to get you to where you need to be that little bit faster.
The game feels grander in every sense of the word and the scale of battle is staggering. All of the enemy types and what can actually occur during these battles is both unpredictable and mind-blowing. Elsewhere in the preview I fought an armoured Balrog, got more of an idea of who Shelob is and how she plays a role in the game, and saw a much bigger Middle Earth to explore. If the entire game is at least 10% of what happened in my time with the preview, then it’ll be worth it. I just want to see more, to fight more, and explore more. This game has excited me more than anything else I’ve seen this year.