Monolith Productions and Warner Bros.' upcoming video game Middle-earth: Shadow of War is hitting stores worldwide October 10, and early reviews are already calling it one of the best games of 2017. Set as a sequel to 2014's groundbreaking Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War continues following the story of ranger Talion, who is still infused with the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor. After Talion forges a new ring of power, Celebrimbor believes the ring can controlled be used be become a powerful king and avoid becoming a Dark Lord. Although less interested in power, Talion agrees with Celebrimbor's cause and agrees to help in the fight against Sauron's growing armies.
While Shadow of Mordor recieved positive reviews winning Game of the Year in 2015, Monolith wanted to continue expanding the games popular Nemesis System which will now follow an role-playing approach opposed to hack and slash. Shadow of War also includes an in-game store from which players can purchase elements to improve their followers like additional abilities and loot chests and will feature a "Social Conquest mode" in multiplayer, which allows players to invade each others fortresses and attempt to conquer them.
Of course the game doesn't have perfect reviews. Among the critics many of them agree that Shadow of War is too big for its own good sacrificing plot for scope, but as of now the game has a positive score of 86 percent on Metacritic with 27 reviews stating that the sequel has succeeded in its goal of being bigger and better than its successor. For more, check out our SPOILER FREE round-up of reviews excerpts (and click the respective links to read the full reviews).
Polygon - Chris Plante and Philip Kollar, respectively
There’s so much to do! But also, there’s so much to do. The line between work and play is a thin one that runs directly through Middle-earth. And so I feel torn. I really had a wonderful time throughout this game that regularly made me feel frustrated or icky or simply exhausted. It’s a truly inspired exercise in design, one that seems OK with numerous flaws so long as they allow for its complex systems to be prioritized above all else.
Shadow of Mordor was unrefined but in a way that was ahead of its time. Playing it felt like glimpsing the future of big action games. Monolith’s attempts to build on that vision in Shadow of War are often successful, particularly where the deeper Nemesis System is concerned. But other pieces of this sequel feel undercooked, getting in the way of what should be a great time. Shadow of War provided plenty of fun in the 30 or 40 hours I’ve spent with it so far, but somehow this future seemed so much brighter in 2014. Score: 7.5/10
Gamespot - Justin Haywald
And that addition sums up several of Shadow of War's additions--things like the storefront and the menus and loot system don't make the game terrible, it just would've been better without them. It tries to be larger than its predecessor, there are more abilities, more weapons, more Orcs, yet it leaves you wanting less. But at its core, it's a fun experience with brilliant moments that provide fascinating insight into some of the untold stories of Middle-earth. I just wish it had known when to stop. Score: 7/10
IGN – Dan Stapleton
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. The way it expands the Nemesis system with far greater variety and fortress sieges makes even better use of the stand-out generated characters, and its battles with memorable uruk captains remain challenging all the way through the campaign and into the clever asynchronous multiplayer beyond. Score: 9/10
COGConnected – Grady Penna
There are so many complex systems and mechanics in place in Shadow of War I could end up talking for hours, but what’s truly impressive about them is how they all work together so seamlessly. Sure, with so much going on it can be a little hard to wrap your head around everything at times, but nothing feels unnecessary. The open world may not be as packed full of tiny details as some other big titles, but because of these intricate systems, it feels just as engrossing nonetheless. Shadow of War improves upon its predecessor in nearly every conceivable way. Score: 94/100
PC Gamer – Andy Kelly
But it all comes back to the orcs. They’re the reason I kept playing, even when I was losing interest in everything else. A motley, gruesome, ill-mannered crew of swines that are a constant joy to fight and befriend. And the increased variety and depth of the nemesis system makes for a much richer experience overall. I just wish the game wasn’t quite so overfed. A lot of developers think sequels need to be bigger and offer more to get people interested, but I’d prefer it if they were just better. Shadow of War is a great action game that feels like it’s yearning to break free from a prison of open world busywork. Score: 73/100
God is a Geek – Chris White
Shadow of War is hands down the best game I’ve played all year, for a multitude of reasons. The combat and movement is excellent, the upgraded Nemesis System is so intricate and superbly devised, the visuals and the score are sublime, and the story can easily rival the masterpiece that is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I became addicted to fighting Orcs, hunting them down, confronting those that betrayed me or killed my Captains. I fell in love with the different regions and their landscapes, and I formed a bond with Talion through his morals and belief in a better world – a better Mordor. Score: 100/100
GameCrate - Nicholas Scibetta
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is one of the best games of 2017 and one of the best open-world action games ever made. The core combat and stealth gameplay that worked so well in Shadow of Mordor has been both expanded and refined, and the powerful procedural generation of the Nemesis System has been kicked into high gear. All of the game's elements work well on their own, but what's most impressive is how naturally it all fits together and then grows in scale without missing a beat. Score: 9.50/10
Based on these reviews, it sounds like Shadow of War is going to be a huge success for Monolith. For those looking for an immersive RPG experience, the game is going to be an enjoyable experience for any Lord of the Rings fan introducing interesting characters, new lands and set in a massive scale world that will allow for endless hours of exploring the fantastical lands of Middle Earth. Although, the game's size may be the problem for some considering critics found the additions of the storefront, menus and loot system distracting from the plot and gameplay.
Shadow of War will be released worldwide for Xbox One, PS4 and PC on October 10, 2017.