Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Goty Edition

Version reviewed: PS4

Recently discounted on all formats, with a stay of execution as the sequel has been delayed, this 2014 open world adventure is worth another look.

The premise of this game is work your way up through Sauron’s army to avenge the death of your (a ranger called Talion) family. It is like someone put the film Gladiator in with a Lord of the Rings box set in a blender. Before emptying the mushed up contents though, the designers Monolith threw Rocksteady’s Arkham series in too. The combat of this game, as well as controls and traversal, are straight out of Gotham City. As mentioned in this month’s pennilessdads podcast, the game has some loose links with the films but the strength of the game is not the iconic setting of Middle Earth.

Heavily borrowed fighting mechanics aside, by far and large the most fun is taking out the various levels of Sauron’s minions. Defeating a war chief leaves room at the top for an underling to take his place. Later in the game, you gain the ability to brainwash key members of the forces of Mordor and build your own army. Bugging out from a fight to quickly heal then return and finish off your foe is extremely satisfying and reminds me of Metal Gear Solid 5 which was released a year later.

It would be easy to recommend this package for Tolkien-ites however this is a game which should be compelling for most audiences. This does not include children however. Strong language as well as violent moments – much more adult than either of Peter Jackson’s trilogies – mean this is one for mature players. 

Despite the open world setting, the variety of gameplay missions (stealth, elf-shot bow challenges, brawl arenas etc etc) keeps you occupied between warchiefs. The main story never outstays its welcome and paced nicely. If you want to sink 40+ hours into it you can or you can simply whizz through the story missions. Again, the lore of Lord of the Rings is present yet – like Arkham – the licence enhances the excellent gameplay rather than becomes the main focus. For £11.99 on PSN recently this is essential! 

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Destined?

I’m going to buy Destiny 2. There are some games that I always want on my HDD ready to jump into. That’s Destiny. I’m going to buy it digitally – at full price. Not many games can demand that decisiveness of purchase. My modest gaming budget for September into October is going to Bungie. Judging by how many hours I spent on the original, it will be a wise investment. 

Last week, the first Destiny 2 gameplay was revealed. This footage wasn’t for me; this trailer would be to get new players in. My mind was made up already. What could they possibly show me? Then I watched it. The familiar sight of the Tower being decimated – loot and all – wipes the slate clean for new guardians to join the fight whilst at the same time drawing a line under Destiny 1 for existing players. The horrowing sight in the linking corridor to the Speaker’s area got me. This trailer was for me. The attention to detail of the robot I’d passed thousands of times (usually to find Xur, not the speaker) still sweeping diligently amid the chaos yanked on the memories of hundreds of hours of play. That’s Destiny. 

Before Destiny, games had hype and noise around them but I remember something being different about it. I had been very passive towards it in the build up. ‘Online’, ‘co-op’ and ‘shooter’ were not in my vocabulary. Although Halo had grabbed my attention briefly it had been more out of curiosity. September 2014 – I remember watching let’s plays of the game pre-release and something hooked me. It looked fun. I’d played Halo because I felt it was part of the rite of passage as an advocate of the medium but Destiny looked fun. I didn’t have any idea what I was watching until after I’d bought the game a few weeks after release. The footage was of a warlock sliding, shooting and – storming the moon. More and more footage was watched before I finally took the plunge. 

At this point in life, my first born was nearly one and although not as penniless as I am now (it really hits you after child number 2 FYI) time to play games was in decline. No longer could I get away with sneaky PS4 sessions whilst she slept on me. Now she could talk and wanted to do stuff. Destiny’s loop of short jump in, jump out missions, familiar strikes and I’ve-only-got-5-minutes-let’s-do-a-patrol fit my new lifestyle perfectly. It was comfort food. How many times did I – along with 2 other random guardians – take down Sepiks Prime? It was familiar, easy to slot into mid game – comfort food. Put any seasoned Destiny player into those original strikes and I guarantee they will know immediately what’s going on and what they need to do. That’s Destiny.

Destiny 1 and all it’s add ons sucked me back in twice again over the last 3 years. No other game has seen me return to it so often. My recent ‘lost weekend’ (read: month) with Zelda: Breath of the Wild reminded me of each time Destiny pulled me back, thrusting a rocket launcher into my hands. It will be interesting to see if Zelda: BotW has the longevity Destiny had. It never bothered me the complaints about the story or my robotic companion. Destiny is the best gun play in any game. Any FPS which doesn’t follow the control scheme or make that satisfying pop of sparks when you make a Fallen headshot seems wrong.

Hiding behind those boxes on Mars. Pegging it through the Dust palace. Bugging out as the last guardian standing. Geeking out over Firefly alumini voice actors. Sitting down when a mission’s complete. Having your phone next to you to figure out exactly how you get the things to make your things better. As Cade 6 told us in that first trailer, that’s all gone now…

I can’t wait to do it all over again. That’s Destiny.