For some 2014’s Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor was a surprise success. A new IP set in the Lord of the Ring universe that didn’t suck? Impossible. For me, this game had been on my radar since it’s announcement, in fact, I bought my PS4 on October 2nd 2014 specifically to play Shadow of Mordor when it was released, this was my 2014 Game of the Year. The game was a huge hit and it doesn’t take a genius to come to the realization that they’re working on a sequel over at Monolith Studios (the game itself teases at a sequel). Knowing that we are probably only a few months away from an official announcement and having recently played through the games two DLC packs I decided the make a list of things I’d love to see the sequel include.
Give us more stuff to do
The original Shadow of Mordor was very good at doing what it did. The combat was fun, fast-paced, and empowering, world traversal was quick and painless and the story was more than decent. My only gripe with the game was that there just didn’t seem like there was enough to do. Monolith seemed to rely on the Nemesis System itself to promote extra value and replay potential in the game (which to be fair, it totally does) but it seems to have come at the expense of variety. I spent 36 hours with Shadow of Mordor and in that time I got a 100% completion percentage and earned a platinum trophy. I essentially did everything the game had to offer. However, in those 36 hours I was doing primarily the same stuff over and over. Side missions in Shadow of Mordor feel very similar to story missions and while the Nemesis System did create personal vendetta’s—that felt like side quests—between various Uruks and me, I would have loved to see more varied and handcrafted side quests. I would love to see Shadow of Mordor take a page out of The Witcher 3’s book when it comes to crafting deep and rich side quests with nuanced characters. Monolith was onto something with Ratbag, a cowardly Uruk who became your (forced) ally. I would love to see more conflicted Uruks or possibly NPCs from other races in Middle Earth exist in the world to provide some much needed variety.
Change the mission structure
A quick glance at the map in Shadow of Mordor would tell you all you needed to know about what quests were available to you. To start any sort of mission you had to walk to a designated area and press a button to trigger the quest. This style of mission initiation and structure seems like something out of the PS2/Xbox generation. Games like Skyrim and Witcher 3 allow you to stumble onto missions organically and in this sense things aren’t nearly as cut and dry. In Shadow of Mordor, you are either in a quest or in a kind of free roam mode. This is somewhat related to the topic above, but by making mission structure more organic Monolith would make Mordor a bit more nuanced, a but more subtle, and a whole lot more interesting in my opinion.
Make getting through Uruk hierarchy harder
I recently went back to Shadow of Mordor to play the “Lord of Light” DLC which tasks you will taking over five more warchiefs and taking the fight to Sauron himself. The problem here, similarly with the vanilla game is that it is far too easy to kill/dominate the all five warchiefs. Dominating all the warchiefs was presented as a Herculean task but in reality I could often start a warchief mission, walk up to him, and exploit his weaknesses enough to eventually kill or dominate him. The game proposes dominating the warchiefs’ body guards to make the battle with him easier, and while this is a viable option, it is rarely necessary. Make the warchiefs tougher, make it a necessity to dominate their body guards, allow me to set up traps, spring ambushes, make dominating a warchief feel like the boss battle it should be. Shadow of Mordor has drawn plenty of comparisons to Assassin’s Creed for its world traversal but I would like to see it take another hint from the franchise, particularly the original Assassin’s Creed game. While rough around the edges in many ways, I loved the way the first Assassin’s Creed made each assassination feel like a huge important moment. It accomplished this by requiring you to do missions that led up to the assassination that built up the suspense and infamy of the target. Obviously Shadow of Mordor won’t have you pickpocketing Uruks but it’s not to had to imagine a series of missions leading up to a tense final confrontation with a warchief that really gives the moment gravitas.
Make the Nemesis System deeper
The Nemesis system was the single greatest thing Shadow of Mordor produced and was one of the main reasons the game received as much attention and acclaim as it did. It was a literal game changer in terms of enemy AI and I would love to see it evolve even further in the sequel. Shadow of Mordor did a wonderful job of creating personal rivalries between you and the random Uruk who happened to be the one lucky enough to land a killing blow, there was a real feeling of hatred you had for that bastard and if he didn’t immediately go to the top of your hit list than you were playing the game wrong. Make those rivalries even stronger, make Uruks hunt you down after they’ve already killed you once, have them loot your body and force you to go back and get what they stole from you. The Nemesis system has truly opened up the possibilities for what is possible for enemy AI and I cannot wait to see it continue to evolve.
Give us a mount
How cool would it be to ride around on a wraith horse? That is all.
Avoid movie/book references as much as possible
Shadow of Mordor tells a satisfying story (which its DLC expands upon) but what I loved about it was that it didn’t feel tied to the movies or books too closely. Often game can become handcuffed to their source material so much that the game experience suffers from it. One would never mistake Shadow of Mordor for anything but a Lord of the Rings game but at the same time it existed entirely outside of the frame of the books and movies (if not for an appearance by gollum the game would have been entirely free of movie characters). Giving it freedom from the source material allows the game to tell it’s own story, to not be bound by what has already happened/needs to happen. Given the tease at the end of the first game, it seems like Monolith has no interest treading on the grounds of existing LOTR mythos (hint: they’re forging a new ring).
Make character progression and leveling even deeper
One of the many great things Shadow of Mordor did was make you feel strong. By the end of the game I was able to walk into a group of 50 Uruks and slaughter them all in a satisfying manner. The issue is that all late game, fully leveled players will be exactly the same. By the time you get to the end of the original game you’re fully upgraded and have unlocked all powers and wraith moves. While this isn’t a bad thing I would love to be able to build Talon differently from my friends. Perhaps this could encourage different play styles. Shadow of Mordor flirted with stealth but why not make it an entirely viable way to play the game? What to dominate every Uruk and create your own army? Theres a skill tree for that. Prefer combat and decapitating Uruks? Theres a skill tree for that.