Better start sharpening those swords and daggers as we prepare to return to Mordor, with the release of Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The sequel to one of 2014's games of the year, #ShadowofWar will see the wraith ranger Talion return to wreak havoc across the wasteland that is Sauron's domain. Which sounds great to me; I had a blast playing the first game. But there is always room for improvement and innovation, so here's what I'm hoping to see implemented into the sequel to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
1. A Much Bigger Map
One of the things that I wasn't a huge fan of in the first game was the map, which was rather boring. Sure, #Mordor is a crappy place and isn't particularly pleasing to look at, but there was nothing iconic about the geography. It was either a wasteland filled with Uruk strongholds or green fields — filled with Uruk strongholds. It just wasn't aesthetically pleasing.
Another fault was that the maps (there were two) were just too damn tiny. In an age where The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's map is visually engrossing, tremendously large and immersive for the player, you'd think that a location as iconic as #MiddleEarth would do the same. In the gameplay reveal, we saw that there were multiple locations scattered across the map. Whether this is one giant world or several mini open worlds akin to Dragon Age: Inquisition remains to be seen. I'm hoping for the latter but expecting the former.
Here's hoping we're leaving Mordor for other parts of the game as we've been teased with, thanks to the teaser inclusion of Osgiliath and Minas Tirith on the world map. Are these just there as information holders, or will we be able to go there? Venturing into the realm of men would be a great contrast to the darkness of Mordor.
2. Fortress Gameplay That Matters
We know fortresses will play a part in this game, thanks to the gameplay reveal walkthrough. But how integral will they be? These should be more than a simple "capture location, get a new mission" mechanic. Once #Talion has captured a fortress, everything — from the welfare of the fortress to guard placement and upgrading the buildings — should be taken into account, along with side quests specific to the fortresses.
What does capturing a fortress entitle you to, aside from XP? Can you lose a fortress? Monolith Productions says these encounters are procedurally generated, ensuring that each experience is unique to the player, which is awesome, but I'm hoping it goes beyond simply which Uruk you'll be fighting in that particular moment.
3. One Ring To Challenge Them All
In The Bright Lord DLC, Celebrimbor forges and takes possession of the One Ring. And it's pretty fun, albeit shallow. The Ring simply allows you to use any of your wraith powers for a set amount of time without any restrictions.
For Shadow of War, I'd like to see the Ring become something more than just an unlimited ammo cheat code. Instead, why not give the Ring a point of weakness, such as loss of health for the duration of its use? This would create more strategy instead of spamming the execution command whenever the recharge meter refills.
The Ring of Power should make you feel powerful, yet shouldn't be trusted. The Ring will likely be critical in the formation of the Bright Lord's army, but for combat scenarios I want a push-and-pull mechanic.
4. Epic Boss Battles
It's been said already, but Shadow of Mordor's bosses? Eh, not so good. I had more fun fighting the warchiefs than I did fighting the Black Captains of Sauron. This time we should expect massive and difficult battles against the likes of Balrogs, Ringwraiths and other terrible foes, and those battles should extend beyond spamming attacks.
These bosses should make us think, block, dodge, and wait to press our advantage instead of charging in, which is what I did in Shadow of Mordor — and unfortunately this tactic worked just fine. Take notes from Dark Souls, Witcher 3 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It'd also be awesome to use the Drake in battle against Balrogs or cave trolls, or even the Nazgûl.
5. Character And Item Customization
While Talion may be sporting a wraith bow that has bragging rights for days, the same can't be said for his armor. This time around, gamers should be given the option to customize his armor and some items to suit the look and play style of the player. The gameplay revealed that there would be different armor this time around, but I want to see it go even further. Why not have these items be upgradeable? One could harvest and make good use of those hunting challenges that no one liked in the first game and improve their armor stats even more.
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6. A Cast Of Characters
The first game kept social interaction to a minimum. You were ultimately given the quests of three characters, excluding Gollum, over the duration of the game. These three characters were the ranger, the dwarf and the tribal queen. Shadow of War should include more characters in the story and encourage NPCs in friendly zones. If Gondorian territory is included in this game, why not have shops, merchants and towns to explore, filled with characters to interact with? Plus, despite being a wraith and all, it may end up being expensive running an army, ergo a currency system could come into play to encourage returning to civilization after being in Mordor for so long.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is scheduled for release on August 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. What do you hope to see in the final game? Let us know in the comments below!
Will you be returning to Mordor this year?
[Image credits: Monolith/WB Games]