Shadow of Mordor — or why I should retire from open world action games

One of the most intriguing games to come out in the past decade, and one of the major reasons I looked forward to getting a PS4, is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The major draw for the game is what is called the Nemesis System. This feature creates an extra level of drama for the player outside of the main story. Interactions with the enemies become more meaningful because each encounter actually means something. Uruk, basically the bosses of the orcs, have procedurally generated features and names as well as strengths and weaknesses. You learn of these weaknesses by interrogating random orcs, and you can exploit the weaknesses in battle. However, if you defeat an Uruk, it does not mean the Uruk is completely out of the game. You may scar them, and your means of defeating them may no longer work in the next fight. Defeated Uruk may show up during one of your missions and call you out for defeating them last time — or for running away. Later in the game, you may send orcs back to them to make death threats, powering up the Uruk (resulting in a better loot drop) and giving them something else to yell at you about when you fight them. This is a fascinating feature of the game that I’m sure I’ll return to from time to time.

If I could return to just that feature, that is. Upon completion of this game and my previous completion of Spider-ManI’ve come to the realization that maybe open world action games are not the right genre for me. The two games feature the same general game play of placing missions around a map that you run between, adding random fights with cannon fodder along the way, and utilizing a combat system that is easy to use but becomes repetitive over a short period of time. They’re also similar in that they have last battles that are quick time events and enjoyable stories that are ultimately underserved by their game play.

These are games that cost several thousands of dollars to develop, so they are sold at $60 upon initial release. To make this supposedly of appropriate value to customers, they pad the game with these tedious, repetitive battles and more missions than they probably need (not to mention the collectibles and optional upgrades). I bought each game at $20; I still feel like I spent more money on the games than actual value squeezed out of them. The length feels forced. I want less of what they consider added value and more fun instead.

This really guts the replay value for me, although I admit I view replay differently than many other players these days. To the current generation, replay is continually playing the game until you bleed it for all its worth or you move onto the next shiny new thing. To me, replay means returning to the game every so often — after days, weeks, months, or even years. There are NES and SNES games that I still go back and play because they are perfectly packaged experiences that I want to have all over again. Games that feel padded and laborious don’t do that for me. It’s completely understandable why the current generation of gamers are so willing to trade and sell their games, as well as why the companies are shifting more to digital platforms to discourage people from buying cheaper copies of the many games with which many players have grown bored.

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