Thanks to Panda for lending me his library! Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor takes on the LOTR story and follows it on. As I'm not an avid reader nor the LOTR films, I have absolutely no idea about the story line, however I found myself very much in love with this game!
This game has taken on board a similar feel from Assassins Creed. An open world, story-filled, plentiful side missions that can be somewhat repeatative. However, there's a quite a few differences which have made it for a better game play.
So, you can follow the main missions, you will need to in order to get started. But once you've completed the first few, you can begin to make your own way. Multiple sword, bow and dagger upgrades are available in side missions that hone on your skills using the particular weapon. There are also captains and other heirachy of Saurons army. What I found to be brilliant, is that this army continuously changes. If you kill one of them, you gain power. They kill you and they gain power and move up in the ranks. I had one who became my nemesis and effectively became a Legendary Captain. The bad thing was is that he continued to turn up in side missions I was doing and in being there, the game focused on him as well as my mission and thus he cornered me and killed me multiple times. I then decided to focus on the weapon upgrades and bringing down other captains to then allow my own power to match his and ultimately kill him. However, he resurrected 3 times. Not sure how or why as no one else had resurrected. The plus to killing captains and the like is that they drop power ups for your weapons. There are "epic" items but are not always the best but they do sell for a large amount of currency.Currency (M-something) is used to buy upgrades and you have Attribute points for move upgrades, health and focus.
The fighting style of the game caters for both styles. You can either be stealthy and sneak around everywhere, take a high point and take them out with your bow or other brutalising stealth moves, or you can charge in and take them by surprise. I would advise a mix of both, as stealth is good but can only get you so far and running in and charging only gets you so far before you're swamped by an entire army and spend the next ten minutes fending them off before you either 1. kill them all 2. frighten them off.
This side missions are a tiny bit repeatative but there's only one that repeats significantly and that's the slave missions where you have to free them (obviously). What changes is the environment and what you have at your disposal. However they all have an effect on the main mission (minus the weapon upgrade missions). Freeing the slaves means you have more back up, not by much but enough to cause distractions. Killing captains, sabotaging feasts and interferring with face-offs help to weaken the army and it shows in the main missions. I could've gone for the king pin straight away but decided to take out all his main captains first. Doing this meant that his base was only half guarded as the Uruks had either died or fled when the captains were taken out. This made the mission much easier and the game responds to what missions you do and the order you play them in (to a certain extent obviously).
UPDATE: Having spent 36 hours and now completed the game, all I can say is that having branded the entire army helped immensely, however also rather took the fun out of it. The boss battle was a series of 4 quick time events with only two real boss battles to come across. It's almost a let down and this lack of interest in the final boss battle being something of fireworks and explosions to really light your heart up, has left me feeling rather disappointed and a hole in me that suggests, I wasted all that time for nothing?
If you like the Assassins Creed games and can stand a little repeatition, this game is a definite go ahead. The graphics are good and the change in weather and time of day can make a mission harder or easier. I would advise using a controller though.
6/10 - Don't need to be a LOTR fan to play. Good gameplay but a little repeatative in places.