Last week’s article in my slowly dying feature covered the first few games I played tied in with The Lord of the Rings, and this week’s “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” will cover the last two games I played related to this amazing fantasy series. Let’s get to it!
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (PS2)
One thing that should be mentioned right at the start about this game is that it’s blasphemous to its source material, blatantly blasphemous. Running alongside The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and by extension the two games based off the movies that I discussed last week, The Third Age places you in the role of a second fellowship (which does not even deserve capitalization) that is formed to follow the original Fellowship of the Ring tasked with destroying the One Ring. It begins with Berethor, a soldier from Gondor, being attacked by the Nazgul and then saved by the female Elven warrior Idrial. The two of them eventually meet other warriors along the way, namely a Ranger, a Dwarf, a female villager of Rohan, and a Rohan soldier as they basically pick up the scraps left behind by Gandalf and his Fellowship.
This is where the aforementioned blasphemy comes into play. Berethor and his fellowship end up taking part in many of the iconic battles that made the movies so great, such as Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog in Moria, the Battle for Helm’s Deep, and the clash of armies in the Pelennor Fields just outside of Minas Tirith. There are even some other important battles unique to the game that, while fun, still weren’t canonically possible, such as a fight against Grima Wormtongue and his Uruk-hai servants in Rohan and, believe it or not, the final boss battle against the Eye of Sauron itself atop the tower of Baradur. Anyone who has seen the movies will know that this fellowship could never have taken part in any of these battles…talk about taking liberties. Still, this game was pretty fun and I was able to mostly overlook its blasphemous tendencies.
The combat is of a turn-based nature similar the Final Fantasy games, which I admit took me some time to get used to. Each member of the second fellowship has their own unique skills and abilities. For example, Berethor has strong sword attacks and is able to provide stat boosts for his allies, Idrial has somewhat weaker sword attacks but can also use magic spells to heal her allies and use water attacks against enemies, and Elegost the Ranger has access to a number of bow and arrow attacks that can weaken enemies with status ailments and hit distant enemies that cannot be affected by close-range attacks. The RPG elements were very solid and worked well, though the story was rather “meh”. There was also an “evil campaign” which lets you play as Orcs against the more benevolent beings of Middle-earth, which I never got around to playing, though I’m kind of wishing I did.
Also, though I am shamed to admit this, I never beat the main game either. I was unable to defeat the Eye of Sauron at the end of the game due to his outrageously cheap attacks that would obliterate my whole party in the blink of an eye. Since I no longer own this game either, I actually rather regret not beating it, but at the time I was just too frustrated with Sauron’s cheapness and didn’t get back to it. I feel if I played the game now I might actually have the patience to play the game correctly by grinding and so on so I could defeat my enemies. However, even now I’m sure I would find this title to be alright, but nothing exceptional. The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age gets a score of 70%.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)
When I first saw links to trailers for this game on Youtube, I had no interest in it. I figured it would be yet another simple hack and slash title set in the universe of The Lord of the Rings, and those were a dime a dozen. When I actually took a look at the trailer out of sheer boredom, I pulled a complete 180 and promised myself I would get the game, a decision I’m glad I made. I love Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. As many others have astutely pointed out about this games’ structure, it’s basically an Orc-killing simulator, but it’s an Orc-killing simulator that is simply DAMN fun and satisfying. While this game is more closely tied to the movies based off The Lord of the Rings, it takes place during a largely unexplored period of time in the established mythos, namely during the sixty year period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I’ll get the weakest part of this game out of the way first, which is its story. Not that it’s bad, it’s just there is a very limited and straightforward narrative that does very little to grasp the player’s attention. Aside from the opening scene where main character Talion and his family are executed by Sauron’s top three henchmen, which was grisly and tragic, the rest is pretty tame stuff by comparison and there’s very little interaction with characters that are actually important to the plot.
But enough about all that, let’s get to the gameplay. The main character, the Ranger named Talion, who has been revived and empowered through a union with the Elven Wraith Celebrimbor, goes about fighting his way through Sauron’s rising Orc army in order to slay the Black Captains who took his family from him. The plethora of different ways Talion can screw with the Orcs that infest the land of Mordor is a thing of beauty, especially after he acquires the ability to brand Orcs and place them under his control. Want to kill a specific target by taking control of his underlings and having them attack their former master? Go for it. Want to ride on a twenty foot tall Graug and use its overwhelming strength and sharp teeth to slaughter droves of Orcs? Have fun. Want to sneak your way through an Orc stronghold so you can find the Orc in charge and kill/dominate him? No one’s stopping you. There is true freedom to experiment, and the manner in which you accomplish the majority of missions in this game is left entirely up to you.
Even in many of the main missions where you are required to kill, and not brand, a target Orc, you can do so in many different ways, depending on the Orc’s weaknesses/vulnerabilities. You can assassinate him from a distance with your bow, you can brand the target’s bodyguards and join them in the slaughter, you can set loose a Caragor as a distraction and kill the target yourself while his allies are distracted, etc. The most fun you’ll have is when dealing with Orcs through the never ending side-missions known as “power struggles”. Orc captains and their minions fight amongst each other all the time through duels and ambushes, and they even hold feasts and forceful recruitments in order to gain more minions, among other things. Talion can crash all these parties and cause all kinds of havoc, whether it’s ensuring one Orc captain dies while the other one survives (which would be beneficial if he’s one of Talion’s branded minions), or he could just kill everyone so his enemies don’t gain any power. And I haven’t even mentioned how Orc captains and warchiefs you kill can end up surviving their wounds and coming back when you least expect it to try to exact their revenge.
The two story DLCs, Lord of the Hunt and The Bright Lord, add some extra fun to the proceedings. Lord of the Hunt plays pretty much just like the main game and only adds newer versions of Caragors and Graugs with additional abilities, as well as other Orc captains who can also ride on these creatures. The Bright Lord takes place over 3,000 years earlier during the height of Sauron’s power. You play as Celebrimbor back when he was still among the living and is trying to destroy Sauron once and for all. With the One Ring in his possession, which grants him basically the same powers that he would impart on Talion as the Wraith, Celebrimbor seeks to brand Sauron’s Orc army and use them to overthrow their former master. The main difference with this DLC was the complete removal of the power struggle side-missions of the main game and Lord of the Hunt, but in exchange we get tougher Orc enemies to deal with and a much more appropriately intense and challenging final boss battle which really must be experienced. In case it wasn’t already obvious at this point, this game is awesome. Despite the underwhelming narrative, the supremely fun gameplay that gives you lots of freedom to screw with Orcs any way you choose skyrockets this game to greatness. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor gets a score of 95%.
That is the end of my discussion of the games I’ve played based on The Lord of the Rings. Hope you enjoyed it, and perhaps a few of you out there who haven’t played these games yet have been convinced to try them out. At least try out the last game I spoke about, it really is worth it. I hope we get a sequel someday, one with a better story and final boss, which would pretty much make it absolutely perfect. Join me next week for Part 21 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” where I will discuss one of my all-time favorite series of games: Devil May Cry. Take a look at these articles on our site in the interim:
Several of us here at Gaming Respawn have once again combined our powers to bring you another group article, with this one revolving around our favorite multiplayer games. Check it out right here.
Kane and yours truly team up again in what will be our (possibly) monthly feature known as “The K/D Ratio”. In our second joint feature article we discuss our opinions on the advent of VR gaming, so take a look at it by moseying on over here.
Are you one of those individuals who doesn’t believe video games are a form of art? If so, then Michael’s latest “Fitzgerald Scale” might convince you to reconsider that opinion, assuming you aren’t scared away by his hostility towards non-believers. If you dare, take a look at his article here.
Curious about whether Street Fighter V is a success or is tantamount to a Shoryuken in the face? Then find out by checking out Ian’s review of the game right over here.