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For all but the most devoted of Tolkien fans, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was seen as a fairly successful entry into the world of The Lord of the Rings video games. Despite heavily breaking from the source material, Shadow of Mordor managed to evade most criticisms thanks to its enjoyable gameplay, which succeeded in winning over the majority of naysayers.

So when a sequel was announced to such a popular title, expectations naturally went through the roof. Check out the latest bit of media related to Middle-earth: Shadow of War below:

The video, courtesy of GameSpot, showcases a number of promising improvements to the series. The player takes part in one of the game’s many siege battles, which pit the minions of Mordor against each other while the protagonist, a ranger named Talion, seeks out his quarry. While this isn’t the first video displaying Shadow of War’s gameplay, we do catch sight of a number of new changes.

For starters, Talion is now able to subdue and dominate the mind of flying drakes, which allow him to engage in aerial attacks against his enemies and fly over the fort’s defenses. Another interesting inclusion involves the customization of the player’s army. In a briefly displayed menu we can observe Talion choosing the types of troops that will suit him best in the assault. Artillery, mounted cavalry, and hulking Olog-hai are a few examples of the available options.

The most major change for me however is related to the actual objectives of the player. Due to the nature of the antagonist’s defenses, Talion will not simply be able to run through and immediately assassinate his target. Instead, he will have to engage in a dynamic battleground, destroying defenses and overcoming obstacles to bring himself – and his army – within reach of his prey.

While the core gameplay doesn’t seem to have undergone any major changes, there have definitely been a number of minor improvements that focused on polishing the combat rather than completely overhauling it, As Shadow of Mordor was widely praised for its stellar fighting mechanics, this is an understandable move.

What is disappointing, however, is the lack of a graphical upgrade. While not a terribly ugly game, the first installment’s most major of flaws was the setting. Mordor is a grim, grey, and grimy environment, and while Shadow of War seems to added an impressive number of alternate locations, the very first shot of the above video looks like something out of the last generation of consoles.

Another discouraging change (or lack thereof) is Talion’s apparent strength. One of the downsides to gradually upgrading your character was simply growing too powerful for the enemies to be much of a challenge. Playing through the second half Shadow of Mordor’s story was often too easy and thus a little boring. In the narrator’s own words:

“…you can become this unstoppable, half-man, half-wraith, orc-killing machine.”

Still the sequel to 2014’s game of the year does otherwise look like an excellent installment in the franchise. The gameplay looks as fun as ever, and the appeal of once again becoming lost in the world of The Lord of the Rings may be too much to ignore.

For future updates about Middle-earth: Shadow of War, follow the official account for the game over Twitter. Further information can be found on its website, where new information is regularly made available in the form of developer videos and related media.

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