Content of the article: "LOTR: War in the North vs. Shadow of War"
Once again I entered my LOTR phase, and returned to these two games. One is great. One is awful.
The awful one is Shadow of War. I just couldn't believe this game is so acclaimed – playing it, I felt like I'm on Ambien.
Technically, it's A-ok, beautiful visuals, runs flawlessly. But it's just so terribly bland and generic! No good game starts with shoving tutorials upon you every 3 minutes. Why not dose these new mechanics? Introduce them every hour? No, you take 3 steps – tutorial message for sneaking. 3 steps – for fighting. 3 steps – for bow shooting. 3 steps – for interrogating.
And the core gameplay, oh boy. I gotta admit, I didn't play long, because the game feels like busywork. Interrogate a guy, reveal a new commander, kill the commander, rinse and repeat 200 times. This is excruciatingly boring. And what else is there if not gameplay?
The story feels like a weak fan-fic. With a NEW ring, and an elven ghost, and Shelob is a hot girl, and we have badass female knights now! I don't have anyting against it, but here it's something else. Farewell Eowyn and everything you stood for. Your strugge for woman empowerment meant nothing, I guess they didn't want you to fight because you suck. They have female warriors everywhere! Oh well.
Bonus points for a terribly generic fantasy soundtrack that has nothing to do with the epic and memorable style of LOTR music.
So, Shadow of War is a bland game with zero emotion, made by someone who didn't really feel LOTR.
I dusted off my Xbox 360 and tried War in the North, because I remember it quite fondly.
Oh boy, what a treat! This game is a mess, but a mess made with energy and emotion.
It's basically a third person Diablo, but it feels just right. I didn't remember it having so much blood. The combat is quite sluggish, but if feels brutal and satisfying.
As for the story, here I actually kinda cared, or at least I was engaged. It's cool to see what happened next to the main story, and visit the lands that weren't shown in the movies. Especially since the writing is very Tolkienish, and voice acting is appropriate. No Troy Baker giving his trademark overacted performance. It feels like a power fantasy epic with larger-than-life characters. Perfect! Also, the great eagle is one of the greatest characters introduces outside of the main LOTR stories. And what animation!
Oh, and you have a strong female warrior that suits the setting – an elf. She delivers the message of empowerment while not breaking the established lore. You can do it right when you take a second to think!
I mentioned the game is a mess, and it is. There's a whole lot of annoying invisible walls and empty spaces. The characters are sloooow, the menus a bit cumbersome, and I could use more lore in descriptions. The visuals have aged, but they're very LOTR-ish and I don't care, I like them, apart from some truly ugly faces (Barliman, I'm talking about you). Also, the sound design is perfect, and makes shooting arrows immensely satisfying. The way they whistle through the air… Perfection.
So yeah, that's my LOTR experience. I don't mind if you like Shadow of War, but to me it felt like a sleepy knockoff of the worst Assassin's Creed games.
Now I need to dust off my PS2 and replay TTT and ROTK!
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