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Shadow of Mordor Review - Xbox One
by: Alan Wasserman - 10/20/14
Shadow of Mordor was nominated and won a ton of awards at E3 this year. After playing it for 12+ hours I can tell you that every one of those accolades is deserved. The game was created by Warner Bros.; the same house that brought the Batman Arkham games to life, from the get go you can feel the influence of those games in Mordor’s free flow combat system. The ability to chain attacks together with finishers and takedowns should feel very familiar to veterans of the Batman game. The leveling system is pretty robust; you can level up your character and each of the weapons he uses. While the amount of weapons you can use is limited to a long sword, a bow, and a broken sword .Talion uses as a dagger for executions and silent takedowns, the range of what you can do with them is pretty impressive.
The hero of the story, Talion, is a half wraith/half human anti-hero. After watching his family gets ritually slaughtered at the hands of an Agent of Mordor, Talion is “reborn” as death has rejected him. During this process he is linked to a wraith who shares a similar path and story to his own. Together they launch their plan for revenge so they both can rest at peace and join their families in the afterlife. The interactions between Talion and the wraith are pretty entertaining. The wraith is a central historic figure in the Tolkien universe and plays sort of the moral center of the story, while Talion plays the brute who likes to use force of will and arms to get his way. The creators of the game have taken pieces and parts from Tolkien’s less popular works (like Unfinished Tales, the Silmarillion, etc) and included them in the game to make it accurate and deep without messing with the core story from Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.
The unique thing about the game is the Nemesis system. Each area of Mordor (there are 2 in the game) has five War Chief Uruks who are super powerful. Each War Chief has 1-2 body guards made up of the lower level Uruk and Orc captains. There are fifteen Orc Captains. When you start out you don’t know who any of the captains or war chiefs are. You have to interrogate lower level orcs or find Intel to uncover who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, what or who they are afraid of or what enrages them. The captains hang out in areas called strongholds and sometimes while you are on your way to a mission point or to get a collectible you stumble upon 1 or 2 (I’ve had as many as 3) captains in one area and a huge fight ensues. I literally have been so swarmed by orcs and Uruks that the whole screen is full of them and button mashing ensues to get Talion jumping back and forth chaining together attack to clear out the fodder to take down the Captain.
When you kill a captain you are granted a rune that you can attach to one of your three weapons that enhances it in certain ways. It can increase the amount of damage you do while mounted, or give you chance to regain life on an execution etc. The strength of the rune depends on how he was defeated. Taking advantages of his weaknesses and fears will grant you a higher level rune. Captains are not immediately replaced, but once you are defeated the Nemesis system then goes into action. The Uruk that killed you gets promoted to Captain, then about ½ of the open captain slots are filled by other unknown Uruks or those captains who were present at your defeat are majorly promoted to elite captains.
The purpose of the Nemesis system is that my game should be slightly different than anyone else’s. The Orcs that defeat me in combat will not be the same as the ones that get you. As mentioned each of the captains have a specific weakness, one that I love to exploit is that some of them can be killed with a single headshot. The bow in the game fires pretty far and its awesome and hilarious to shoot a captain from 200ft or more away, follow the arrow as it kills them and the watching all the orcs in the area run away like cockroaches with the light turned on.
For completionists the game has a ton of collectibles and things do to do outside of the main story line. You can roam the lands of Mordor and find hidden artifacts that provide backstory to the world and the characters you encounter throughout the game. Furthermore there are elven inscriptions called Ithildin, collecting each one completes a doorway similar to the one seen in Lord of Rings that leads to Moria. Each area, flora, fauna, and person you discover unlocks more lore about the world of Lord of the Rings giving it a robust and deep backstory that you can explore at your leisure.
The games achievements are pretty straightforward. Some are related to story missions, others to collecting items or completing side quests. They pop with fair regularity so you’re each session you feel like you are moving toward full completion.
I rate games based on how much I enjoy them and how challenging they are. But I also take into account how eager I am to dive back into the game after I have been away. This game has me completely engrossed and each time I turn off the counsel to go to bed I think about when I’ll get to turn it back on again.I give this game 9.5 out of 10.
Now Loading interviews Lead Designer Drew Nolosco about the upcoming Magic: Duels, the successor to Duels of the Planeswalkers and some of the features of the game.
Dying Light Review - PS4
by: Luke Horn - 02/05/15
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action Zombie Survival Game
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, and PC
There is a moment in-between the dying light of day and the approach of night that reveals the fear in the soul of man. Dying Light’s intriguing contrast of the day and night cycle brings about this idea. During the day you jump from balconies and rooftops trying to avoid the hordes of zombies while you scavenge and complete missions. You think to yourself, “this isn’t so scary”. However, when the light of day sets and you enter the night cycle super zombies known as Volatiles emerge. They immediately begin howling and instantly you know they carry your death. You have two options – run for safety or hide. Fear sets in.
Dying Light starts with an adrenaline filled first-scene and quickly becomes a slow burn. The opening scene has Kyle Crane, a secret government operative, jumping from a plane into the city of Harran – a fictional city set in ancient Turkey. His mission is to infiltrate the Tower and find a secret file which contains critical data about the zombie virus. He is immediately bitten and then saved by Jade Aldemir –the sexy heroine. She takes him to the tower where the prologue starts. The beginning of the game has moments of boredom as you begin to understand the mechanics which heavily revolve around parkour. I urge you to push through! As you pass the prologue and begin to bite into the game, you quickly realize the intrigue it possesses.
The weapons system is one of the most likeable and friendly parts of the game. As you collect weapons, you are introduced to an easy system of modifications and upgrades. As a gamer I found it refreshing that I didn’t get slowed down by a weapons creation system that you have to spend hours on. The cooperative mode was fluid and entertaining. Who doesn’t like bashing in zombie brains with their friends? It made me feel like I was starring in Shaun of the Dead with my besties. And the “Be the Zombie” mode was exhilarating as you can invade another gamer’s world as a Night Hunter zombie and try to kill them.
There are a few issues with the game. The mechanics of the parkour system are at times frustrating, the map can be confusing, the climbing of ridiculously tall obstacles can create gamer stress and the distance you have to cover can be annoying as there are no instant travel points.
So the question is to buy Dying Light or not to buy Dying Light? Yes it harkens to Dead Island and has smatterings of gameplay that remind you of Far Cry and Fallout. It has shortcomings and lacks deep characters. But shouldn’t gaming also be about entertaining gameplay and connecting with your friends? For me it is a must buy. I give it an 8.0. A review code for PS4 was provided for this report.