Shadow of Mordor
If someone is into Lord of the Rings at all or into action games like Batman Arkham Something, this is the right game to get. If someone is into both, this is REALLY the game to get. :P
Its basic gameplay mechanics are taken with minor tweaks from the Arkham games and put to work in an open world like the ones in the… Arkham games. :D But it’s not like this is already the third game of the exact same kind.
Players should be familiar with this MO by now though, some main story missions are offered, surrounded by several side activities and then minor secrets are hidden throughout the world. This might not read as very euphoric at first glance, but everyone who has ever played an Arkham title and really enjoyed its flawless combat system, knows only all too well how much fun this is. Nothing less happens here.
Some of the main story missions feature powerful LotR content like sneaking with Gollum through an ork camp, while he sings something he probably considers to be a total smash hit. It doesn’t get better than this and it’s this stuff that doesn’t make it feel as if the license was wasted here.
All this talk and I haven’t even covered the most revolutionary feature of this game, which, of course, is the Nemesis system. It actually does a lot of things very well. The army of Sauron consists out of captains (more powerful orks), and those themselves are commanded by 5 even more powerful war chiefs (who sometimes use normal captains as bodyguards). The Nemesis system creates all these captains randomly, meaning no game has the identical enemies. Their looks, names, strengths and weaknesses are always custom. As if this wasn’t already cool enough, it also makes these captains fight each other (these struggles can be influenced by the player but also take place if they are ignored) which makes them more powerful if they succeed. If a captain kills the player, this captain will be promoted and so on, shifting/changing the power struggles inside the army. On rare occasions one of the captains might survive a battle against Talion, although he seemed defeated. This hostile will then come back with scars and wounds of the battle, often swearing revenge. This concept resulted in the situation, that the most interesting and memorable foe I faced in the whole game, was such a random character who was entirely made up by this system and who I will never encounter again, even if I would replay Shadow of Mordor. Of course this system has some minor weaknesses too, often the so called motivations of the orks are ridiculous (seriously, they could have come up with better stuff here :D), but for the most part it’s very solid, it’s not some beta gamble, although this is the first game it was used in.
I expect this and similar systems to pop up in many games from now on. In fact I hope this is going to happen. Just imagine an XCOM game with the Nemesis system (although they would surely give it a different name then :D). In fact, Firaxis should start working on a DLC righting this wrong RIGHT NOW. DON’T LEAVE US HANGING!