Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Perils Of A Licensed Game

I asked for Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor. What I wound up receiving was Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Well, if I really wanted Shadow, I would have plunked down the money for it myself already. That's on me.

So instead of sneaking about, stabbing Orc war chiefs in the back and terrorizing their ranks*, I was playing as part of a Human/Dwarf/Elf trio, trying to stop some wannabe wizard king named Agandaur from causing a lot of trouble. Which involves chasing him all of the place, thwarting his various schemes. Like trying to conquer a dwarf stronghold, or convince a dragon to throw in with Sauron. I was surprised the game doesn't make you fight the dragon, but maybe I was too accustomed to wiping them out with ease in Skyrim. In this case, the game has you make a counteroffer, which will require you to ultimately kill Agandaur. Which we were gonna do anyway, so sure, kill him and give the dragon his house.

The game gives you the option of playing as any of the three allies: Eradan's a human Ranger, and the one I stuck with. Farin's a dwarf Champion, and Andriel's an Elf Lore-master. You can switch between them if you want at certain checkpoints, but I was satisfied with the ranger. Combat is fine, the game doesn't have it set-up where your character gets tired if you have your bow drawn for too long, which is OK with me. This isn't really a game where you spend a lot of time waiting for that perfect shot. Usually by the time you see enemies, they're already rushing you en masse, so it's time to fire any and every arrow you've got, then cut them to pieces when they get too close for that.

The game feels very old. It isn't a new game by any stretch, but I'm also replaying Resident Evil 4 on my Gamecube right now, and this game feels older than that one does. Granting I play a lot of games which boil down to "enter a specific area, kill enemies until the game stops sending them, go to next area, repeat". Those games usually offer some sort of distinguishing stylistic quirk to make them stand out. That didn't seem to be the case here. You kill, you pick up some better gear, kill some more, level up, maybe make yourself better at a certain skill, kill some more, boss fight. Extremely straightforward.

Shouldn't have expected more from a licensed game, and sometimes I do just want to hack and slash a bunch of enemies, and it does suffer because I was expecting a different game. Still, the pacing was off. The end came on suddenly. I'd been chasing Agandaur for some time, but once I caught up to him, things ended quickly. Which at least meant it wasn't one of those final boss fights that goes on forever because he keeps escaping and you have to keep giving chase. But it was still a moment of surprise that the game was over. Maybe I was thrown because an hour earlier, I'd been repeatedly stymied by one of those irritating missions where you have to make sure something doesn't get too damaged. I was stuck fighting two Trolls by myself, trying to keep them swinging at me and not the door in question, because my allies were being useless. I almost gave up on the game entirely because of that. Agandaur was comparatively easy.

There are a few sidequests you can do or not, fetch this or that and receive something. But the map screen only pops up when you're getting ready to progress to a new area in the game. If you forget there's a quest you can complete by returning to Rivendell during one of those instances, you're shit out of luck.

* I know there's more to the game, but that's how I envision myself playing it, a spectral scourge attacking from every angle.

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