PAX Prime 2014: hands-on with Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

It won't be too long now before we're able to play through Monolith's impressive Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, an original adventure in the Lord of the Rings universe where you hunt after various Orc targets, through a system that shows you the chain of command, from the lower level bodyguards to the "top five" overlords that your two characters must bring down to size. Warner Bros. was more than happy to give us a hands-on session with the game, not only showing us how the enemy system works, but also the general combat that players have to look forward to.

The enemy system actually plays a huge part in Shadow of Mordor, as the chain in command is in consistent shift depending on who kills you in the game. For instance, the Orc that gets the job done moves up in promotion, as well as strength and confidence. He may even bump off one of his own allies to make a spot for himself on the board. That could mean big trouble when you face him again down the road, so make sure you're prepared for a fight.

The land of Middle-Earth is wide open for exploration, and there's no shortage of Orcs to go after and missions to complete. Some bring better rewards than others, but throughout the game, you'll be able to access your fighting skills, in a system that works very similarly to Warner Bros.' own Batman: Arkham games.

Like the Dark Knight, your characters are capable of fending off incoming attacks with a counter, then striking back at Orcs with their weapon in hand. The multi-range combat works impressively well here, and you can even shoot at a distance with your bow and arrows, either trying to get their attention from a distance or shooting at incoming foes before they can become a real nuisance.

Another great ability is "turning" Orcs to work in your favor, "branding" them with a special technique that makes them temporary allies. This only works so often, though, so don't go thinking you can turn an entire Orc army in your favor. It's a nice dream, though, isn't it?

The game presents plenty of combat opportunities within the world of Middle-Earth, and the graphics don't look half bad, presenting a dreary yet hopeful land for your characters tor run across, as well as a steady frame rate and lots of detail. The Orcs themselves really steal the show, with each one showing painstaking design. No two Orcs are really the same here, even if they have the general attitude of "hey, we want you dead."

We'll have more in-depth coverage of Shadow of Mordor leading up to its release on September 30th for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. But you should be in a good Orc-slashing mood when it arrives.