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Middle-earth: Shadow of War is the sequel to the award-winning Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Continuing where they left off, Talion and Celebrimbor go behind enemy lines to forge an army, conquer fortresses, and dominate Mordor from within. Many characters make an appearance this time around like Shelob the spider. The Nemesis System is better than ever because it results in even more memorable encounters with strange orcs. As great as the story and characters are, the technical aspects of the game bring is down on Xbox One because it looks blurry and unimpressive on the console.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War takes place in a world which is many orders of magnitude larger than Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The difference is staggering and initially it’s a little daunting when you finally can see how large the map is for the first time. The first few missions serve as a tutorial so you don’t get the sense immediately. This has to be the best quality of the game because it gives you a lot of activities. However, many of the quests feel repetitious especially when you get towards the end. Despite that, it’s still a lot of fun because let’s face it, who doesn’t want to keep on slaughtering orcs?
Just like the first game, the combat is smooth and takes a lot of pages out of the Batman: Arkham series. You have your standard attacks and counter by pressing the Y button. However, there are some improvements like how you can counter two enemies attacking at once by pressing Y twice if you’re in close proximity to them. While this may seem simple, it’s difficult because you’re usually surrounded by dozens of orcs. You still have to pick and choose your battles, luring enemies to areas where you have the advantage rather than in the middle of a camp.
As you progress though Middle-earth: Shadow of War, you can unlock new weapons, armor and other abilities. Just like the first game, you start off as a weakling but you end up becoming a truly overpowered force. The mechanics of loot and other upgrading aren’t revolutionary here by any means but they add to the addictive nature of the title. This is what will keep players hooked because you’ll want that better sword and gem.
There are countless examples of well-optimized games on Xbox One, just look at Forza Motorsport 7 or Sunset Overdrive. Both of them boast phenomenal visuals and feature crisp graphics and high-resolution textures. The textures in Middle-earth: Shadow of War on Xbox One are blurry in many instances and this is evident when you walk up close to a wall or any other massive structure. In many aspects Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor looked better because I don’t remember coming across frequent blurry textures and other jarring visual oddities. It’s understandable that the game will look the best on Xbox One X but it doesn’t mean that standard Xbox One owners should get such a blurry and strange looking version.
Overall, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a good game that’s let down by how it looks on Xbox One. I know you can’t judge a game sorely based on its visuals but it’s an issue which will upset a lot of gamers who pick up the title on Xbox One. When you pay $60 for a game you want an expansive experience along with stellar visuals. If I were you I would wait for the Xbox One X version because right now Middle-earth: Shadow of War doesn’t look like a AAA game on the standard console.