DGS Games

Why Shadow of Mordor is a Good Choice for Halloween

Lloyd Sabin, All Hallow’s Eve, 2014

How Do I Look at the World?

I am a seasonal kind of guy. I read books that are indirectly connected to what’s going on outside my window. I listen to music to put me in a weather-appropriate mood. And I game the same way…linking what I play to my perceived notion of whatever season I’m in. I’ve written articles about this before, dating back about 10 years when I wrote a review of one of my favorite PC titles ever: Rome Total War – Barbarian Invasion (BI).

I remember starting my first campaign in that game in the fall, which felt so damned perfect it was palpable. The apocalyptic tension of the barbarian hordes slugging it out across a dynamic map of Europe and Asia blew my mind as the leaves on the trees outside my gaming room yellowed and fell to the ground. As a matter of fact it may have been BI that cemented this seasonal thinking in my brain. It may have started with books and music when I was a teenager, but PC games made it an official way of thinking, or some kind of disorder, as an adult. (Ed note: we’re voting for “disorder”).

Fast forward ten years and I’m still posting threads on what games are best to play in October, to get really juiced and jazzed for Halloween. I still listen to Type-O Negative tracks, the Cure and old U2…of course the album October by the Gaelic music gods is on constant rotation for me this time of year, despite the album being over 30 years old. But what to game?

Yes, the Uruks you encounter are pretty fierce...but there are worse things lurking.

Yes, the Uruks you encounter are pretty fierce…but there are worse things lurking.

Looking to Feed the Monster

I started looking for a Halloween game in September when summer faded and the weather began to turn. I visited Steam constantly and perused probably a dozen titles, some of which I had wanted to pick up for a long time and some I had never heard of, and I got suggestions on the best frightfests from my online buddies on the boards. Many of the suggestions looked excellent and I will definitely revisit them again, when seasonally appropriate, but Shadow of Mordor by Monolith (the same studio responsible for the F.E.A.R. franchise, of course) spoke to me. It beckoned.

Why? I am a Lord of the Rings fan, but not a voracious one. I enjoy the movies, I have played some War in Middle Earth games on the Commodore 64 circa 1988, but I have yet to crack open my hardbound copy of the Lord of Rings that I bought years ago. I have not yet watched The Hobbit movies, although I do have a copy of the first one ready to go. So why Shadow of Mordor this Halloween?

It's a big, intimidating sandbox of a game, and looks great.

It’s a big, intimidating sandbox of a game, and looks great.

Wrap Yourself in Velvet Darkness

First and foremost, the world of Mordor that Monolith has created for this game is dark. Humans are enslaved everywhere you look, Uruks and Orcs run the place brutally, and there is a gothic foreboding that permeates the virtual gaming air. It’s perfect! Monolith and their team really nailed it with high production values, good voice acting and a feeling of high quality throughout Shadow of Mordor. It’s also worth mentioning that the game runs smooth like a baby’s tuckus on my 3 year old gaming rig.

The skill tree is robust and allows you to steer your ranger in several different directions if you choose.

The skill tree is robust and allows you to steer your ranger in several different directions if you choose.

Second, it’s no secret that Tolkien’s stories take many, many cues from a virtual carnival of hundreds of different bits of European myth and legend spanning hundreds if not thousands of years, sprinkled with a generous amount of pagan influence. And as a black cherry on top, as the player in Shadow of Mordor, you are guided by a wraith through the missions you take on. And there are a lot to choose from. Shadow of Mordor is, technically, an open-world game, and players can choose to take on any mission they stumble across on the beautiful, fun to use world map. Players will get their asses kicked though, if they take on missions that are far beyond their abilities, so in that way, the game does corral players.

Third, Shadow of Mordor is a fighting game at heart. Sure players must use stealth to avoid getting diced into a million pieces themselves, but central to the game’s fun is being an Uruk-butcher. And these Uruks beg to be butchered. Through the captain system, players will encounter a whole host of characters they will want to take down. Once encountered, captains are placed into a virtual trophy case that allows the player to track the captain’s location, what they are doing, who they are fighting, etc. A great feature of Shadow of Mordor is that captains can take each other on, they jockey for position within their own hierarchy (Sauron’s Army) and appear to act independently of anything the player does. The dark world of Mordor really comes alive with this system – a game could have been made from just hunting the captains alone.

The in-game map is well designed, helpful and fun to use.

The in-game map is well designed, helpful and fun to use.

Darker than the Sum of Its Parts

So, for this autumn you have, at a minimum: gothic darkness, myths, legends, and gory violence. There’s walking dead, a dangerous, dark, beautiful world to explore, a pagan-inspired wraith guide to assist you along the way, and an open world map that gets more open as players explore further.

The captain system is innovative and probably could encompass a game on its own.

The captain system is innovative and probably could encompass a game on its own.

Put all these things together with a truly innovative captain-hunting system and Shadow of Mordor feels almost custom-made to play this time of year. Who knows, there might be game designers out there who think and feel as obsessive/compulsive about the seasons as I do. Perhaps it was no mistake that Shadow of Mordor was released just a week after autumn began, just in time for the scary season. Anyone looking for feelings of gaming dread without going down to an unfinished basement will find a lot to enjoy in Monolith’s Shadow of Mordor.


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One Response to Why Shadow of Mordor is a Good Choice for Halloween

  1. […] in the balloting.  Ultimately Dragon Age: Inquisition could not be denied, and Wasteland 2 and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor finished two and […]

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