Final Score: Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Is Middle-earth: Shadow of War the one game to rule them all? Shacknews revisits its review, along with some of the top critic reviews, to find the answer.


It's time to start trolling orcs again, as Warner Bros. and Monolith Productions release Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Is this sequel as much of an epic dive through the Tolkien world as the original? Or does it crumble under the gaze of the Eye of Sauron? We've gathered up the top reviews from around the internet to see what they've had to say about this Shadow of Mordor sequel to see if this is the one game to rule them all. And the consensus appears to be that it's a solid romp through Middle-earth, even if it has a few lore elements that will make Tolkien die-hards' heads spin.

Shacknews 9/10: "If Shadow of War is guilty of anything, it’s giving you too much to do. The world is seemingly bursting with content and side objectives. In cities, you can over take towers, much like the Assassin’s Creed games. Upon taking a tower you’ll reveal hidden points of interest within the city, such as collectibles, a “memories of Shelob” mini game, and side missions featuring the fall and demise of Celebrimbor. The game gives so much to keep you occupied and, with the great combat, you'll never get tire of working through it. It’s a perfect example of a studio taking an already solid game and improving it on every front.

"I highly recommend Middle-earth: Shadow of War. It’s a fantastic game with a near flawless execution.The journey is enjoyable and the characters you help and hinder throughout the game make it an memorable experience. If you’re looking for a high quality, AAA single-player game, look no further than Shadow of War."

Game Informer 9.5/10: "Shadow of War is a playground of intense and emergent action scenes shaped by your choices and triumphs. Across a vast territory of five open-world regions, hundreds of missions unfold, many appearing in direct response to your previous actions, and pitting you against individual named enemies that remember you between encounters. Whether in the opening minutes of stealth or the frenzied melees that inevitably follow, combat is rich and rewarding, offering dozens of ways to bring down the denizens of Mordor. The overriding sensation is that of a sandbox of super-powered predation and exploration in a world where you are the prime mover, and on a scale that dramatically outstrips its predecessor.

"Developer Monolith exhibits a thorough understanding and deep love of Tolkien's grand fantasy world and its themes, and I appreciate the constant ways the game nods to its source material. But Shadow of War's storyline launches in its own over-the-top direction; Middle-earth fans who can leave their reverence at the door will find a rewarding tale drenched in the darker elements of the fiction. Dramatic reinventions of characters like Shelob and the nature of the Nazgûl feel strange at first, but viewed independently of Tolkien canon, the logical leaps are no more outlandish than other fantasy stories."

GameSpot 7/10: "Most of your time in Mordor is spent killing Orcs. Building off the first game, Shadow of War has a free-flowing combat system that lets you dominate creatures one-on-one but still stay in control when surrounded by a dozen or more adversaries. That momentum slows when too many things are happening on-screen at once, though. When an enemy captain is ready to be coerced over to your side an icon above his head turns green. Incoming attacks can be countered following a flashing prompt, and you have a slew of different abilities to take out legions of enemies. But the chaos of battle can make targeting opponents frustrating.

"That's a shame because Shadow of War's most memorable moments revolve around its large-scale Siege battles, where you take over Orc-controlled fortresses using your own loyal followers. With an army of Orcs at your back, both pressing the offensive on a castle and protecting it are equally exciting, and the final entrance into the main hall of a fortress for the final fight feels as reverent and grand as walking into a towering cathedral in real life."

USGamer 4/5 : "These are fun moments. The Nemesis System is an illusion, but it's one I still enjoy. I legitimately enjoyed building my own orc army and stomping over someone else's fortress. I went for revenge whenever I died, because I hate their backtalk and sneering faces. I like when orcs reference stuff that's happened in the past. (The Shadow of Mordor issue where certain orcs never truly die is still here, but at least they don't become invincible gods anymore.) I even enjoy the odd supporting cast surrounding the grim and gritty duo of Talion and Celebrimbor.

"Despite all that, Shadow of War does stumble into a bit of a grind in the latter part of the game and the Chests system could be tuned much better. As it stands now, it's transparent in wanting you to open your wallet and buy a bit of Gold. Those issues are what keep Shadow of War from being an absolutely amazing game, instead of just a great one."

Easy Allies 3.5/5: "Despite the various settings, most of the activities are based on the same thing: capturing or killing orcs. There are a lot of personalities to square off against, but the practice can get old, especially for those that already built up an army in Shadow of Mordor. Dominating each Captain and Warchief before taking a fortress is enjoyable, but characters and dialogue can start to repeat. With a thin plot set in a universe that’s already covered so much ground, there isn’t much to get invested in - even with an unusual epilogue that invites the player to keep looting and defending. The rules change a bit at this point, but you might not feel the need to keep scraping for a few extra bits of strange lore.

"Many of the best moments in Shadow of War come from elements returning from the first game, along with a few squabbles between Celebrimbor and Talion that begin to give them some identity. Otherwise, orcs always take center stage. The combat isn’t terribly difficult, but it’s a lot of fun to rip enemies apart. The story isn’t very satisfying, but it’s amusing to assemble a cast of murderous Captains. Shadow of War is a successful update to a smart formula, but it lacks enough depth and diversity to keep us enthralled."

What's been your experience with Middle-earth: Shadow of War? Do you agree with the critics or have a differing opinion? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments. And if you need a hand, be sure to check out our walkthrough and guide.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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