Climb­ing mounts, a new nemesis sys­tem, and even a Bal­rog – but shall it pass (muster)?

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Phil Iwa­niuk Pub­lisher Warner Bros De­vel­oper Mono­lith Pro­duc­tions For­mat xbox One ETA 10 Oc­to­ber 2017

Two things re­main sur­pris­ing about 2014’s Shadow Of Mor­dor: that it was down­right bril­liant, and that no one since has suc­cess­fully pil­fered its in­no­va­tive Nemesis sys­tem that came to be its hall­mark – and stand­out fea­ture. That’s great news for this se­quel, of course, hun­gry as we all are to dive back into Orc-top­pling, Sau­ron­both­er­ing crazi­ness. But Mono­lith seems keen to push the game­play in new di­rec­tions this time, too.

Mounts are just one of those ven­tures, and a mas­sive Bal­rog­fight­ing spirit of na­ture called Car­nan is a fine ex­am­ple. De­spite his loom­ing stature in drake form, he’s ag­ile as you like when travers­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, al­most as ac­com­plished a climber as that other fa­mous Drake (brief pause while the pan­tomime boo­ing sim­mers down). This new­found ver­ti­cal­ity for mounts comes in very handy, given that an­other new fea­ture is those great big fortress as­saults. Be­fore em­bark­ing on these, en­emy for­ti­fi­ca­tions must be stud­ied and cap­tains must be se­lected to join you in bat­tle. These cap­tains have dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties; they might give you a dragon in the bat­tle, or pro­vide spi­ders to over­whelm op­pos­ing troops from within their walls, or a troll to knock those walls down, to name but a few. Who­ever you bring along, your choices will have vis­i­ble ef­fects all around you on the bat­tle­field. Rog and roll In our lat­est look at Shadow Of War Talion in­ter­rupts an Orc try­ing to raise a Bal­rog from a huge fiery pit. In­ter­rupt­ing him half­way through, a boss fight be­tween Talion, Car­nan and the Bal­rog kicks off in a multi-stage struc­ture. First Talion dodges en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards while fir­ing ar­rows off into the Bal­rog’s weak spots, while Car­nan adopts the form of a hulk­ing great troll to bat­tle it.

Then it’s time for Talion to climb aboard Car­nan as he takes on a drake’s form, and here you can con­trol Car­nan him­self in the fight, while oc­ca­sion­ally also fir­ing off Talion’s ar­rows. Even­tu­ally the Bal­rog re­alises it’s in a los­ing bat­tle and scarpers, where­upon it can be chased down. Plenty of scraps were had in Shadow Of Mor­dor, many of them memorable, but few as in­fused with Hol­ly­wood blus­ter as this one. It’s a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort on Mono­lith’s part to go big­ger with the game’s ad­ver­saries. The devs want to pit you against the likes of the Nazgul, the Dark Lord him­self (Volde­mort, right?) and oth­ers.

As for that ven­er­a­ble Nemesis sys­tem, it’s wound more tightly into the main nar­ra­tive now. Unique Orcs that you might or­gan­i­cally de­velop ri­val­ries with through the course of the game can now be pulled into the pri­mary plot arc to play a role there. Ev­ery­one’s story will play out at least slightly dif­fer­ently, then. What’s more, the Fortress As­sault mis­sions in your cam­paign place you as leader of sev­eral cap­tains, and those cap­tains can, like your Orc neme­ses, be killed. There’s a brief win­dow in which to get to them and use your Dom­i­nate abil­ity to re­vive them. Fail to do so and his skills and ex­pe­ri­ence are lost while a rookie takes his spot. Heart­break.

Hats off to Mono­lith for push­ing the en­ve­lope fur­ther, when all they re­ally needed to do was turn up with the Nemesis sys­tem again. Which of their new ideas will open-world games fail to adopt genre-wide when Shadow Of War re­leases? We’ll find out this win­ter, but it ap­pears they’re spoiled for choice this time.

“Your choices will have vis­i­ble ef­fects all round you on the bat­tle­field”

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