Published on January 1st, 2015 | by Anders1
GOTY 2014 — Anders: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Destiny was set to draw my attention through October, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Halo: The Master Chief Collection would dominate a busy November. I’d dive back into Grand Theft Auto V in December and hopefully scratch the surface of Dragon Age: Inquisition by the end of the year.
But I pleasantly surprised by a sleeper hit: My time with Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor were some of the best hours I’ve spent this year. This third-person action game offered one of the most enjoyable open-world experiences in recent memory.
My initial expectations for Shadow of Mordor were low. Licensed properties have long been marred by mediocrity, and the Lord of the Rings name has been scathed by a few of these less-than-deserving entries. But the most recent murderous romp through the badlands of Tolkien’s universe has rekindled a dormant love for third-person swashbucklers.
Shadow of Mordor borrows from genre giants. The speedy parkour platforming is an improvement on Assassin’s Creed’s mechanics, and the free-flowing combat chops follows piggy-backs on the late, great Batman games.
But hacking and slashing hundreds of uruks would be mind-numbing without Shadow of Mordor’s most excellent “nemesis” system.
The game randomly generates a hierarchy of uruk officers, each with their own appearances, combat abilities and personalities. Players are free to eliminate enemies as they please, and if an uruk is assassinated, a lower-ranking soldier moves up to fill the power void.
This mechanic kept me invested through the 20-hour campaign. Each battle kicks off with a mini-cutscene in which the uruk captains taunt the player and recall details of the last meeting on the battlefield. The uruks’ appearances change based on how the last fight with the player panned out.
This mechanic brought the bleak world of Mordor to life. The story missions eventually became an after thought as I focused on eliminating as many uruk officers as possible.
It’s fair to assume we’ll see versions of the “nemesis” in other third-person action games.
New-gen gamers would be remiss if they missed the uruk-eradicating glory of Shadow of Mordor.
Destiny is half-realized at best, but this shoot-and-loot continues to dominate my time and attention months after its September release. I still log on regularly to grab bounties with buddies and run the weekly strikes.
While Destiny doesn’t clinch my “Game of the Year” selection, it’s impossible to ignore. I’ve spent most of my Fall gaming time leveling my character, guns and gear.
The shooter certainly does a few things right: Destiny’s art direction and gunplay are both sublime. The game’s four main areas are a testament toBungie’s world-building abilities, and nailing headshots on alien foes is immensely satisfying.
But there’s gripes galore, too: Gear drops like drips from a broken faucet, just frequently enough to keep you wide awake at night — I might as well run that daily mission since I’m still online.
The raids, challenging nuggets of endgame content for upper-echelon players, require hours of grinding and farming to access. Many consider raiding one of the best experiences in Destiny, but many players will not progress far enough to access this content.
The greater gaming community has also been captivated by Destiny’s frequent trials and occasional triumphs. November’s AAA flurry of game releases came and went as gamers were busy talking about Destiny’s laundry list of problems and Xur’s weekly offering of exotic gear. Incremental updates continue to dominate the home page of major video game news sites to this day.
I held out a sliver hope that the expansion pack would flesh out Destiny’s barebones offering of endgame content. The paltry set of missions, strikes and a raid barely managed to satiate players’ hunger for more Destiny content.
Still, I continue to log on.