The Best Game of 2014 – Shadow of Mordor

No matter how many times I ran from A to B, decapitated a few orcs and exploded a few more heads, nothing about Shadow of Mordor ever got old or familiar.

I can attribute this to the fantastic nemesis system, the method the game had of choosing the hierarchy or orc captains and warchiefs that Talion would face, all depending on the outcomes of various battles and, of course, who successfully killed you. The variety this system brought was truly unlike anything seen in gaming before, and kept the experience decidedly fresh, as you never knew who you could potentially face, and what strengths and weaknesses they brought to the table.

The combat itself was a sheer spectacle, being bloody and brutal, and significantly different to the kind of combat we’ve come to familiarize ourselves with in both the Lord of the Ring’s and the Hobbit films. Decapitations and head explosions were rife across any battlefield throughout the game, bringing a new and darker tone to the game, whilst successfully integrating a combat system not all that different to the amazing Batman: Arkham series, which was a welcome addition.

Being a form of media in the Middle Earth canon, Shadow of Mordor was always expected to carry an explosive plot, and given time, this undoubtedly paid off. Without spoiling anything, the story begins as Sauron makes his return to Mordor after the events of The Hobbit, and Talion, the ranger of Gondor and his family are all sacrificed in an attempt to summon the elf Celebrimbor, who unwittingly helped Sauron forge the ring of power. The plot takes a while to get going from here, but once the player encounters the Hammer of Sauron, the first of the Black Hand, the pace significantly quickens, and players will find themselves swept along at breakneck pace.

In short, Shadow of Mordor is the game that fans of The Lord of the Ring’s have always deserved, and it’s decisively different from anything that has come before it. With a fantastic combat system and an even better method of determining your key enemies, Shadow of Mordor is a must play game, and at now only £25 on Amazon.co.uk, its never been a better time to delve into the brutal land of Mordor.

10/10

Dragon Age Inquisition – Review

After 80+ hours of questing, dragon slaying and trying to work out the backstory to the plot, this is a very late review of Dragon Age: Inquisition.

For new players to the franchise, myself included, the task of understanding the world and politics of Inquisition proved a difficult task, especially when thrust in the deep end and made to account for your actions of apparently murdering the Divine (who?!). After much internet research was undertaken the plot and politics made much more sense, and this knowledge pays off in big ways as you progress through the campaign.

The plot of rising up and saving the world from a demon definitely takes a good while getting going, and whilst it’s a spectacular feat of storytelling, it’s the characters that really make this game emotionally hit home. The vast supporting cast of characters aiding the player in their quest really bring the game to life, the highlights being an elven anarchist, a warrior searching for a sense of identity and a dwarf who specialises in poetry.

The combat itself isn’t the hardest to master, you merely have to know what moves to use on which different type of enemy. The character building system is of stand out quality, as it truly lets you take control of all your allies and customise them as best you wish, setting them on various skill trees. So whilst the combat system is perhaps easy, the party system that the game employs makes you think strategically about who will benefit you more for each different combat scenario.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a fantastic game, driven by it’s epic scale of storytelling and vast and fiery supporting cast of characters. Here’s hoping we’ll receive more story driven content from Bioware in the future, as it’s a game a undoubtedly plan on revisiting.

9/10

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Review

This season of Telltale Games’ flagship series was a solid ride, albeit not without key flaws (I’m looking at you, episode 4).

It was a brutal tale from beginning to end, with Omid’s swift death and the loss of Christa, all the way to the inevitable choice of whether or not to put Kenny out of his deranged misery. Whilst the introduction of the new group in episode 1 with fantastic characters like Pete and Luke was nice, all the joys of this series were short lived, particularly when considering Carver’s homicidal gang were never far out of sight.

The choices made in this season were particularly unforgiving, and the player was thrown in the deep end when deciding in the first episode who they should help survive out of Pete and Nick. To match these harsh choices season 2 was far and away a different and more violent game when compared to season 1, particularly when seen through the eyes of Clementine. However the decision by the developers to kill off certain characters no matter the choice of the player has to be critiqued, particularly Luke, who we’d just begun to appreciate as a deep, emotional character.

The various endings of the game (I count 8 all together) definitely leave plenty of open ended questions for the next season, depending on who the player chose to kill, and then subsequently accompany them, out of Kenny and Jane. I get the sense that even if any players let Kenny survive and then chose to stay with him, he is not long for this world in his somewhat deranged state, and Jane should make an interesting companion in the attempt to rebuild Carver’s old town.

Another solid season from The Walking Dead is somewhat marred by the lack of remaining characters once the dust has settled and the somewhat early choices thrust upon the player, although the finale is beautifully and brutally executed, with the players choices having severe and deep consequences for the future.

8/10