Can I Platinum this?: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The aim of this is to take a (hopefully humorous) look at games from the perspective of trophy hunting, which is my current and sustained gaming mode. People play games for all kinds of reasons, and I definitely still play games on other platforms for a variety of reasons besides collecting trophies or achievements, but I have noticed a general perception that trophy hunting is a dirty secret people have, that they detract from the gaming experience by converting the play experience into a numerical value, that they do not or they somehow make a game less fun. My personal opinion is that I don’t give a flip what you flippin’ think, other people are allowed to have fun too you tired-ass motherflippers. This is not supposed to be a trophy guide, not supposed to be a review, not supposed to be entertaining. Wait, no, it is supposed to be entertaining. Come bathe in the waters of my cathartic endeavours, children (not weird).

CAN I PLATINUM THIS: Flip yeah you can.

INITIAL SELECTION: I got this game for free and felt obliged to play it even though I only just flippin’ bought WItcher 3: Wild Hunt, but since the guy just straight-up handed it to me, I felt super guilty whenever I wasn’t devoting my waking hours to forming a potentially-discussable opinion about it. I had considered purchasing the thing before, and I do like LOTR since I am a New Zealand citizen and that is a requirement. This game was buried by the huge releases of 2014 though and I missed it at the time. I am happy that I got a chance to brag about getting this game for free.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: We play as Talion, who is basically Aragorn, or any other video game protagonist you have ever played because he is a scruffy white male in his 30s. I honestly kept forgetting his name because his story is largely inconsequential, and only occasionally in the cutscenes or dialogue I realised that someone was talking about me, the guy I was playing as. He gets deaded in the introduction of the game, an ominous start, and gets possessed by a dude that looks like one of the folks who stabbed Frodo in the first film, plus is a ghost casually hanging out in Mordor, but actually is an alright fella. You have to run around avenging your own murder, which is what Coulson should’ve been doing in Age of Ultron. Also, your family was murdered, too. I would be more sad about that if it wasn’t a tired plot device. And like many sex dreams that I have, Gollum is there, mostly just watching.

GAMEPLAY REVIEW: This has been said many times before, but this game is very much a combination of Assassin Creed III’s movement system (not the best, but passable), Arkham City’s fighting system (still kinda fun), with an interesting Uruk hierarchy system reminiscent of a less-subtle House of Cards. Open world/sandbox games are the dog’s bollocks, but this one really felt empty to me. It suffered from the same problems as Assassin Creed III, in that the location featured a landscape of like one building if you’re lucky, so I hope you like not-climbing things. It was very refreshing when you really started to engage with the so-called ‘nemesis system,’ where you couldlearn info about boss orcs to exploit weaknesses or build up some poor uruk’s social standing. The game usually told you to do this by refusing to give you any missions until you messed with it some more, which is kind of a jerk thing to do if you think about it. The most fun I had was when I was stealthily taking out folks in fortresses, which definitely felt more Batman than Connor, sans Batman’s cool glide abilities, grapple gun, and his legions of sweaty nerds with anger management issues. They should have figured out a way to include gliding and grappling more, or just released a Batman DLC skin. Which leads me to…

BEST PARTS: Like most parents, this game is quite withholding. It gives you all of the really cool stuff a little late, but you still have time to clean up with the abilities if you are mopping up trophies, which is nice. All of the ‘shadow strike’ abilities are amazing and eventually I was using it as a kind of orc-taxi, targeting an orc in the distance to save the legwork/thumbwork of running. These abilities made stealth more fun too, in lieu of actual grapple abilities, because you could teleport up high to elude the more ‘pro-disembowelment’ uruks.

The brand/dominate abilities are also very entertaining. I like to be economic with my killing because I am a lazy, ugly slob, so having folks under my control running around on the field while I stand there like a limp land-fish is very satisfying. Especially when I realised that there is a dominate-in-combat combo, so if things are getting hairy I could just possess a bunch of dudes on-the-go, have them fight the bad men for me, and subsequently I would often find that I was becoming a handsome shish kebab less and less.

One last thing: when you unlock info about the captain/boss orcs, they often give you little personality captions like a psyche test. Stuff like, “Is feeling proud of himself for killing Talion” or “Likes to pick on smaller orcs” is a nice little incidental addition. Who is Talion, again? Oh right, I am Talion. That flippin’ prick killed me.

WORST PARTS: This game is a lot of flippin’ messing around. That is mostly a good thing for a video game, but a few times I was getting swamped by (infinitely spawning?) guards and I remember thinking, “Why the flip am I doing this business again?” In parts it felt a little grind-y, especially when going for the ‘Rise and Fall’ and ‘Stinking Rebels’ trophies. Also, as previously mentioned, the parkour is reminiscent of Assassin Creed III’s, which had the worst movement system since the first Assassin’s Creed. The most frustrating moments of the game were definitely related to the clunky ‘Am I in combat? Am I free-running?’ moments that the game constantly throws at you, which makes it rough when taking down a Warchief or dealing with one of the more testing trophies.

BIGGEST SURPRIZE: All of the boss uruk’s have names and a ‘personality,’ which gave a little character to an otherwise pretty mindless beat-em-up. Sometimes when you kill an uruk captain it gives you a Skyrim-style close-up of their dying words, and one of them said I was a monster for slaughtering so many orcs and something like that he was happy to die because he did his part to honour their loss, or whatever. It actually gave me a surprising emotional reaction, as up to this point the mindless slaughter of living things was mostly explained away by ‘the mother-daughter death-combo.’ Gave me big I am Legend feels.

COLLECTABLES?: Yeah, but there is a shockingly small number of them and they are all labelled on the map. Ridiculous. Almost criminally easy to collect.

WOULD I BUY THE DLC OF THIS GAME?: I’d consider it. It was relatively short and I am already hankering for more things to do, or some kind of sequel.

FIRST TROPHY: Legend of Shadow (BRONZE) 2015/06/10 9:27PM

PLATINUM: Master of Shadow 2015/06/21 7:31PM

MOST DIFFICULT TROPHY: Rise and Fall (Bronze) 2015/06/21 12:20PM

Trophy description: “After an Uruk kills you to become Captain, help him become a Warchief, then kill him.” Although I classed this as the most difficult, it was probably just more time-consuming. Pretty much all of the guides online basically explained the solution as, “Hey, figure it out for yourself!” This ended up being a lot of trial and error, with a few potential Warchiefs dying because of random guff going down. Some orc once challenged a ‘contender’ I had groomed to a fight and, since I was raising him to be a pushover so he would be easy to beat when I had to fight him, he was then completely trounced. I was also getting this trophy post-story and I had possessed a bunch of captains, who were annoyingly getting promoted above my selected captain. My solution was to just murder everyone, even my sadly docile possessed brethren, and leave enough gaps so that even his fat, incompetent ass couldn’t help but fit through. I now better understand the corporate ladder.

HAPPY ACCIDENT TROPHY: A Mighty Doom (Bronze) 2015/06/21 7:31PM

How can this be a flippin’ bronze trophy? This was the last trophy I needed to get and it had all of the hallmarks of being a soulcrusher. A number of guides online had said that this one could be gotten easily on PC with save-file abuses, which you cannot exploit on console. The highest level orc in the ‘nemesis system’ is 20, and they drop equippable runes related to level, but you get bonuses if you meet certain conditions. Specifically: +2 if target is a Warchief, +1 for knowing weaknesses by interrogating a captain rather than some random orc about them, +1 for exploiting a hate or fear that they have by using it in battle with them, +1 for killing an orc that has killed you before. You need basically all of these conditions to get the ‘level 25’ rune required for the trophy.

I had groomed an orc for about an hour or two, got him promoted and ready for battle, only to discover that the rune-drops are still randomized and I didn’t get a level 25 rune, despite meeting all of those conditions. I was a little upset.

All five Warchief positions were now filled, by mind-controlled uruks no less, so I dejectedly began to prepare for another orc to be groomed for the sacrifice, because I had assumed that the orc-in- question could not be mind-controlled because zero guides had mentioned that when I looked online. I picked a guy, casually met the conditions of the rune because I was partly bored and partly furious in the games’ indiscriminate will, and the trophy popped thus! I could have cried. That saved me a good hour, at least, of grinding. The Lord walked with me in that moment.

ONLINE TROPHY HIGHLIGHT: No online trophies for you, Gretchen Wieners.

TROPHY COLLECTION PRO-TIP: In most sandbox games I leave the story missions until the very last possible thing so-help-me-God, but it really super duper doesn’t matter in this game at all. You may as well follow the playbook and get all of the big stuff first, because the combat trophies are much easier to get when you are the Terminator and not some lowly baby-boy John Connor (No known relation to the protagonist of Assassin Creed III).

FINAL THOUGHT: Pretty fun game. The last game I platinumed was GTA V, and this was considerably easier to do (20 campaign missions in this compared with GTA V’s 69? Yes, please). The game length-to-completion felt satisfying and not too padded. The developers could definitely go in a Force Unleashed direction with this series and do LOTR parallel stories which would work well. Would definitely recommend for folks who want to chill in a single-player world with Whats-his-name not-Aragorn fella. Thanks a lot, dude who gave me this game for free (One. Last. Brag.).

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