The reviews are in for Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the open-world sequel to Warner Bros’ orc-stabbing series. Like a dagger from a bush, the game seems to have taken critics by surprise, offering a host of improvements over the first game and expanding on its much-lauded Nemesis System, letting players turn territory to their side, bend orcs to their will, and create personal stories of rivalry with the enemies they fight. At the time of writing, Shadow of War is enjoying an 84/100 rating on review aggregate site OpenCritic. Here’s what some of the top critics had to say.
On IGN, Dan Stapleton praised the game’s Nemesis System for generating memorable, personal moments, pointing out that the all-new fortress sieges and the asynchronous multiplayer give the game more staying power. Stapleton also highlights the game’s visual variety, which was something its predecessor was heavily criticised for, though the changes between areas are purely aesthetic. “Similar to the way Batman: Arkham City built on the foundation of Arkham Asylum, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is bigger and more ambitious in scope than Shadow of Mordor, with great results,” he says.Full Review
Matt Miller writes, “Shadow of War fulfills the promise of its predecessor, completing a dark and violent lost tale set within the world of The Lord of the Rings.” The review notes that developer Monolith takes liberties with the source material, but Shadow of War is best enjoyed when you embrace this madness. Miller also says that the enemy AI is underwhelming once you master Talion’s abilities, though skill unlocks, new weapons, and more powerful enemies do a great job of keeping things fresh.Full Review
GamesRadar’s Leon Hurley praises Shadow of War’s sense of progression and player empowerment, noting that the end of the first act feels like a satisfying conclusion on its own. There’s more after that, of course. Much more. Hurley says it might be too big, in fact. He calls it “a world to get lost in”. “The different regions are beautiful and varied to explore, while Sauron's forces are alway entertaining to meet and beat,” he writes. “If there are moments that don’t quite click or things that fatigue a little it’s because of that scale.”Full Review
Speaking of Shadow of War’s loot boxes, GameSpot’s Justin Haywald says the in-game “ storefront feels less predatory and more like a cluelessly unnecessary addition.” He notes that these microtransactions don’t spoil the game, though it would have been much better without them. Elsewhere, Haywald praises the game’s set-pieces and fan-service, saying “it's a fun experience with brilliant moments that provide fascinating insight into some of the untold stories of Middle-earth”. He just feels like it should have been a shorter, less bloated experience.Full Review