2014 Game of the Year 3: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor surprised us with a perfect balance of well-executed mechanics and a revolutionary new boss system, which is sure to inspire other developers for years to come.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is going to change everything.

Iteration can be a slow process in video games, but every year or two we get a jump-start with an idea so revolutionary and perfectly-executed that it creates a roadmap for others to follow. Shadow of Mordor's "Nemesis System" is the heart and soul of this latest journey to Middle-Earth, creating a constantly shifting hierarchy of foes to battle. Navigating the messy world of Uruk politics allows you to create your own player stories in a way that is more engaging and personal than the usual scripted events. The eventual ability to assert your own influence cast a further wrinkle into an already groundbreaking idea. 

Still, Mordor may not have made the cut in our year's favorites if it weren't so refined from top to bottom. It borrows parts from both the Batman: Arkham and Assassin's Creed series, and matches or exceeds them both. Every mechanic from the rhythmic combat to the stealth simply sings. It also, strikingly, sets itself in the familiar tropes of the Lord of the Rings series, but finds a way to tell an original story that feels like it has some weight and impact to the events with which we are already familiar. 

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor began its life chastized as an imitator. Its combat and stealth influences made it appear to be a competent licensed game, but little more. Much to our surprise, it turned out to be more original than met the eye, and no one can fairly call it an imitator anymore. If anything, other games will be looking to imitate it.

More Game of the Year Coverage: 

Editor-In-Chief

From The Chatty

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    January 1, 2015 10:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, 2014 Game of the Year 3: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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      January 1, 2015 10:01 AM

      I really need to play this one.

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        January 1, 2015 10:18 AM

        Yup

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        January 1, 2015 10:23 AM

        Its $30 on steam right now. The couple hours I played were a blast and the later abilities you get look amazing. http://store.steampowered.com/app/241930/

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          January 1, 2015 10:39 AM

          I am planning to pick it up once I've finished FC4, hopefully the PS4 version will be $30 or less by then.

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        January 1, 2015 10:42 AM

        I think the best thing is it is a very solid execution and has a lot of room to expand and improve.

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        January 1, 2015 5:51 PM

        I thought it was really boring:/ I'm totally in the minority though. Combat was so simple. Of course, I'm not a huge fan of open world games. I end up just meandering about doing random shit and get bored pretty quickly.

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          January 5, 2015 12:01 PM

          I hated it. No variety in the locations. Same 6 or 8 quests over and over. Combat seemed more important than story (which to me is just weird in the lotr universe). Nemesis system seemed pointless to me. What I took away from the experience is that I need a break from killing stuff in a game...let me visit a town or something to break the monotony. Anyway, I'm in the minority too I guess.

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      January 1, 2015 11:33 AM

      Phew, for a second I thought that was the Chatty one.

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      January 1, 2015 1:01 PM

      Man, I still think a free to play card game that will remain nameless was robbed...

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      January 5, 2015 6:09 AM

      Started playing it, and didn't put it down until I beat it. Its just that good. The game satisfies on almost all levels. I'm playing the DLC now. What surprised me the most was that the "decisions" I was making in relation to who was becoming War Chiefs mattered in the end game. In stark contrasts to a supposed real RPG like Mass Effect 3 where all my machinations boiled down to a color decision. YIKES!