Vandal

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Destroy a Monument • 10G • 52.72% of gamers unlocked this

I had seen this achievement on the list a couple of times now, and the percentage of completion prompted me to assume that it would be something I stumble across during the course of my gameplay. Sure enough, my brief session this morning (with no purpose, just intended to log on and kill a few orcs) caused me to stumble across a large orc statue in the middle of a stronghold.

If I was Monty Burns, I would have rubbed my hands together and salaciously whispered “Excellent.”

There’s no pop-up or tutorial to instruct you how to actually destroy the monument. My experience of digital vandalism is largely confined to the Just Cause series, which usually involves placing explosives onto a statue and … well … pushing a button. Here, I shot arrows into the statue, detonated the nearest explosive barrel and swung my sword at it a few times, but – as it turns out – all you have to do is climb onto the head, click RB and Talion will do the rest of the work for you.

Exit, one monument.

In other gaming news, I still have no gaming PC yet, so I’m feeling a bit tetchy about all the gaming goodness I’m missing out on. It’s not like I’ve actually got any time to play anyway – but you know what they say about absence and the heart!

Promise Keeper

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Issue a Death Threat, and then successfully kill the target • 20G • 31.15% of gamers unlocked this

A bit more Middle-Earth today, and – if I’m honest – this was a bit of a cherry picked achievement. For much of the last week, I’ve really just been working my way through Mordor and killing and building up Orcs for my army without any real rhyme or reason. I think the mechanism is a bit different from the previous game, in that the ‘pleb’ orcs don’t hang around and they certainly don’t do anything for you beyond fight in the here-and-now (or, at least, not attack you), which is frustrating, but it’s also equally fun – and so while I am likely not making much narrative process, I also feel like I’m doing what gaming is supposed to be about – having fun.

Today was all about threatening and then killing a particular orc. The ‘worm’ orcs seem to play a more important part in this title than the first installment, in that they are more numerous and serve as a logistical force behind a lot of the emergent gameplay, and it wasn’t hard to find one – send a threat out to a random captain, and then … well … then kill him.

In other news, I still haven’t heard about my Ryzen PC, which – regular readers will know – has been sent to the technicians for troubleshooting and repair. It’s quite frustrating, I had hoped for a weekend of gaming that I have otherwise had to miss out on because of my potato PC, but if this blog has taught me anything, it’s that the vicissitudes of life tend to prohibit these plans on a not-uncommon basis anyway.

There is a temptation to call the technician and give them a hurry up, but a saying which I was always fond of repeating springs to mind – good things come to those who wait …

… or does the squeaky wheel get the oil?

Avenged

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Complete a Vendetta Mission • 15G • 59.36% of gamers unlocked this

I’m going to attempt to going back to adding in more detail about my achievements in the initial leader line because I think, in some instances, that context is useful. In some ways, differentiating between a Bronze or a Gold trophy, or understanding it’s difficulty in terms of earn-rate (percentage) provides a rich picture about the achievement beyond my usual musings and often over-tired and shoot-from-the-hip style of writing.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not sure if this achievement is glitched or not, but from what I could tell, it unlocked while I was still in the middle of the titular Vendetta mission. While I did complete it in the end, I was actually in pursuit of my Orc target when it unlocked – which caused me to raise an eyebrow, briefly, before resuming my chase and eventually cutting down the tricky little blighter who had killed me twenty minutes prior.

It seems that I have progressed far enough in Shadow of War now so that my time is to be split between managing my army and playing the game itself. I am still having my hand held by a lot of the tutorial and help screens for this part of the game – but from what I can tell, it’s a good evolution of the already-excellent nemesis system.

One of the more emotionally-charged moments of the game came this morning when ‘Tarz of the Black Gate’ came on me and decided to taunt me with his admission he was there on the night that Talion’s (the protagonist) family were killed in an Orc attack. I’m not sure if this was a dynamic or scripted introduction into the game, but I loved it. Loved it. It triggered just the right of emotion into the battle that I felt like Tarz needed more than a simple sword-to-the-face. I wanted him to be properly punished. I wanted him branded.

So I did.

To add insult to injury (for Tarz), the delightful war troll, Brûz – who is best known for his appearance in the original gameplay reveal – rolled in shortly after I dominated Tarz and suggested that I make him my bodyguard. Great suggestion, Brûz. With a couple of controller clicks, I had converted Tarz, the taunting, family-killing orc captain into a minion under my control.

Delicious.

I’m still slowly working my way through this region of the game, and pretty much just undertaking quests if-and-when they occur. There is a method to working through the quests in sequence, but – to be honest – I’ve just been having fun levelling up Talion and, now that I’ve unlocked it, branding Orcs to fight for me.

Now if only they have the brilliant mechanic from Shadow of Mordor that allowed me to explode their heads en masse, we could have some real fun!

Better Luck Next Time

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Meet an Enemy or a Follower who has cheated death

I am feeling a bit miffed, as I had hoped to have a beautiful new Ryzen 5 PC built and be playing something significant on it by this time today, but alas, good ol’ Ryzen chips don’t have on-board graphics, and I can’t work out whether the little-2GB-GPU-that-could is actually supposed to work on that board, or whether I should genuinely be upset that the CPU fail Ezy Debug light is showing on the beautiful new motherboard.

Net result: I am a little upset.

It’s a good thing there is the sweet, sweet catharsis of killing orcs to see me through, as I pushed on with a couple of missions today – resulting in a not-insignificant amount of slaughter for a few named orcs. I have to admit, I do miss my full powered-up Talion from the original game, but judging by my skim of the upgrades list, most of his old moves are there, and it should just be a bit of a grind away to get them all in the end. Time. It’s just simply time.

I’m still a bit on-the-fence about the game’s representation of Shelob … as a humanoid. I mean … I can see that it makes the narrative a little easier, but I don’t think anyone has really ever taken Tolkien to be a allegorical work, still fiction, of course, but everything has typically had its plain meaning. Still, good gameplay tends to forgive a lot of sins, and thus far, I am killing Orcs at a pace that satisfies my tortured soul.

 

Dismantled

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Disable an Outpost

Believe it or not, there is 59 different shaders you can use in photo mode on Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. The problem is, they all look a bit ‘meh’, and following the simplicity by which I was able to take shots on God of War, this clunky, mediocre effort actually makes me irrationally mad.

Thank God the rest of the game is, so far, ‘OK’.

There’s not a lot different between the original Shadow of Mordor and this outing, and I’m absolutely alright with that. Sometimes, games need to stick with what they do well, and that is it. Call of Duty is perhaps the best series which fell off the bandwagon when they introduced the most ridiculous mechanic in gaming in the last twenty years: the wall run.

In terms of achievements, this is a surprisingly slow burn. It’s taken a solid hour (though I’m sure it’s much more) before this first achievement popped – and judging by the achievement list, I’m can’t really see a path to quick-and-dirty achievements. Most seem to be unlockable through just routine gameplay, while others are for what I can only assume are key story beats.

Either way, it’s good to have a few runs on the board. I am a huge, huge fan of the WB Middle-Earth games, regardless of all the carry-on about loot boxes and micro transactions, I think a solid game is a solid game. I can’t wait to get into it a bit more!