Middle-earth: Shadow of War

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Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Video game
DeveloperMonolith Productions
PublisherWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
PlatformPC, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release date10 October 2017
GenreAction role-playing
RatingESRB: M[1]

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an open world, action-adventure roleplaying video game developed by Monolith Productions. A sequel to the 2014 game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War was released on 10 October 2017[2] for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. Set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the game follows the continuing adventures of Gondorian Ranger Talion and the Elf-wraith Celebrimbor in their campaign against Sauron.[3]


The player continues the story of the ranger Talion and the spirit of the Elf lord Celebrimbor, who shares Talion's body, as they forge a new Ring of Power to amass an army to fight against Sauron. At the beginning of the story, Celebrimbor is captured by Shelob, the spider of Cirith Ungol. Talion seeks him out and eventually tracks the Bright Lord. Shelob turns into a human form and forces Talion to trade the Ring for Celebrimbor. The gravewalker travels to Minas Ithil to retrieve the palantír, but sees the fortress being attacked. He kills an orc captain with the help of Idril, Lord Castamir's daughter. Celebrimbor advises Talion against staying with the Gondorians, but the gravewalker refuses to leave his kin. When the Witch-King and the Nazgûl come to raid Minas Ithil, Talion stays to help. The city is eventually lost through Lord Castamir's betrayal, and Talion attempts to retrieve the palantír with no success. Before being corrupted by the Witch-King Talion is rescued by Eltariel, an elf assassin connected to Lady Galadriel and sent to hinder Sauron's ascension. She wields some portion of Galadriel's own power of light and she can use it to disrupt the workings of Sauron and his creatures. She does not wholly trust Talion and his bond with Celebrimbor, but accepts them as an ally of convenience and preferable to Sauron. Talion and Eltariel flee as the Witch-King settles into his new seat of power--the newly christened Minas Morgul.

Eventually, Sauron learns that Shelob is plotting treachery against him and sends Nazgûl to kill her. Talion and Eltariel fight them back, but Shelob is exhausted and weakened, and surrenders the New Ring to Talion. With the power of the Ring, Talion and Eltariel are able to lay claim to Mordor.

Elsewhere, he arrives at Nurn. He dominates a champion Olog--an orc-troll hybrid of sorts--named Bruz and begins gathering the troops and resources needed to lay siege to and thereby claim some of Sauron's fortresses. After a successful siege Talion and Bruz confront to overlord who turns out to be Ratbag, the snivelling orc who'd been Talion's willing pawn in the first game, who is still alive.

Meanwhile, the Nazgûl have become more active and are using some means to dominate and control orcs; Eltariel spies on the Nazgûl to attempt to understand their weaknesses and sometimes relays information to Talion. He and Celebrimbor have themselves been exploring the potential of their bond, finding more powers and applications. Talion's forces repeal an attempt by Sauron's orcs to capture the fortress, but Bruz--who had either faked his domination or overcome it--betrays and slays him in front of the entire army, claiming the fort and its forces for himself. Talion's unique status keeps him from truly dying, and he revives soon enough humiliated but thirsting for revenge. He gathers more forces, retakes the fortress, and after chasing Bruz throughout Mordor he finally runs the clever Bruz to the ground--using the power of domination to go further than simple control. Talion and Celebrimbor break Bruz's mind and leave him deranged. Ratbag is horrified at this fate, and deserts Talion.

Eltariel's investigations yield fruit, and Talion is able to find and confront some Ringwraiths directly; two are revealed to be kings of men tempted by Sauron and Celebrimbor, who aided Sauron--in his guise as Annatar--more willingly and for longer than he'd admitted to Talion. The third is shown to be Isildur, the king who'd defeated Sauron at the end of the Second Age, whose body was retrieved and given a ring by agents of Sauron, revived into undeath to make him serve Sauron as humiliation and punishment.

Talion's army grows mightier and he and Eltariel lay siege to Barad-Dur to attempt to reach Sauron, doing well enough the Ringwraiths appear in desperation. Talion once again battles Isildur, and bests him. He and Celebrimbor attempt to dominate the wraith, and this time succeed in breaking Sauron's control. Celebrimbor makes to enslave the Ringwraith to his service, but Talion realizes that Celebrimbor doesn't want to stop Sauron, the elf wants to replace him as the Bright Lord. He stabs the Ringwraith, destroying Isildur and laying him to rest. Celebrimbor rages at Talion, and the pair quarrel far more harshly than they ever have. Talion refuses to aid Celebrimbor in ruling the world, and Celebrimbor forsakes him for Eltariel--leaving Talion dying from the old wound of his cut throat--and takes the New Ring with him. The pair abandon Talion to die and go to confront Sauron on their own with the idea of dominating the Lord of Mordor to their combined will and the might of the New Ring. Talion receives a vision from Shelob, who advises him to take up Isildur's Ring and resist Sauron's domination as long as possible. Talion accepts, and begins gaining the powers of the Ringwraith.

Now cursed but retaining his own will, Talion storms Minas Morgul, raising shades of the dead to fight beside him as he goes until he rolls over the city's orcish defenders. He confronts and bests the Witch-King but cannot destroy or dominate him, only force him to withdraw. He uses the Palantir in Minas Morgul to watch Celebrimbor and Eltariel battle Sauron and almost win. At the last moment Sauron pulls a trick from Isildur and cuts the New Ring from Eltariel's hand, weakening her and cutting Celebrimbor loose. Sauron seizes the elf-wraith and tries to subsume him. Eltariel flees with the New Ring.

All he can do is buy time, so Talion wages a decades-long campaign, leading a civil war in Mordor to continually disrupt Sauron's forces and prevent them from unifying. One day his will can longer hold out against the corrosion of the Ring and he accepts Sauron's control and the Witch-King's leadership--but his actions delayed Sauron from being able to multiply and strengthen his forces, and gave time for the One Ring to be found. Without his efforts the free people of Middle-earth would have been utterly outmatched by Sauron's orc hordes. Eventually Talion dies with the other Ringwraiths at the destruction of the One Ring. Celebrimbor is released or perhaps diminished when Sauron's power is dispersed. In the next world Talion, free of his wraith corruption, walks through beautiful lands discarding his unneeded weapons as he goes to whatever comes next.

Voice cast

Role Actor
Talion Troy Baker
The Wraith Alister Duncan
Eltariel / Ioreth Laura Bailey
Isildur Nolan North
Witch-King / Nemesis Orcs / Humans Matthew Mercer
Sauron Steve Blum
Torvin Adam Croasdell
Shelob Pollyanna McIntosh
Gollum / Daughter's Suitor Liam O'Brien
Galadriel Jennifer Hale
Ratbag the Coward Phil LaMarr
Nazgûl / Nemesis Orcs Darin De Paul
Brûz / Suladân Gideon Emery
Humans Victoria Atkin
Ranger / Helm Hammerhand / Nemesis Ologs Fred Tatasciore
Idril / Helm's Daughter Nicole Tompkins
Dagor / Nazgûl / Nemesis Orcs / Nemesis Ologs JB Blanc
The Agonizer / Nemesis Orcs Kumail Nanjiani
Nazgûl / Nemesis Orcs Clayton Nemrow

Deviations from the source material

Shadow of War plays far more fast and loose with some details of the legendarium than Shadow of Mordor ever did. According to the game, Sauron freely uses his elf-like guise of Annatar, though in the books he lost that form in the destruction of Númenor, and the king of Rohan Helm, who according to the books he lived in the Third Age, is transplanted into the Second Age. Likewise, Celebrimbor is portrayed as an erstwhile ally of Sauron who travelled with him to recruit unknowing human lords to be Ringwraiths. It also reinterprets Shelob as a somewhat heroic character, using her gift of foresight to contribute to Sauron's downfall even at her own cost. She is depicted as a Maia, in addition to being Sauron's former lover, who takes the shape of a beautiful woman when she wishes. Nothing about all of that is ever seen or mentioned about her in any of Tolkien's books.


Aggregate Scores
Metacritic81% [4]
Review Scores
IGN9 [5]
Electronic Gaming Monthly8 [6]
Game Informer9.5 [7]
GameSpot7 [8]
PC Gamer (US)73 [9]
Polygon7.5 [10]

Middle-earth: Shadow of War has received generally positive reviews, with reviewers praising the sound quality, accessibility, the game's core feature, and its Nemesis system, although less positive to its predecessor. It was criticized for the story elements and the changes that were made to established characters.

IGN thought that the game was "bigger and more ambitious in scope than Shadow of Mordor, with great results" and especially it praised the nemesis system, the battles and the multiplayer.[5]

It's an entire section that should have been cut or severely truncated, and playing through the repetitious levels felt like padding meant only to make the game last longer.

An array of characters

GameSpot however, gave a more critical review, saying that "It tries to be larger than its predecessor, there are more abilities, more weapons, more Orcs, yet it leaves you wanting less." It specifically criticized "the storefront and the menus and loot system" but summed up "at its core, it's a fun experience with brilliant moments[8]


The game was ranked by Entertainment Weekly in eighth place on their list of the "Best Games of 2017", while EGMNow ranked it 15th on their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017.[11] At the IGN's Best of 2017 Awards it won "Best Action Game"[12] and it was nominated for two other awards.


  1. ESRB Ratings, "Middle-earth: Shadow of War, dated August 29, 2017 (accessed 14 December, 2022)
  2. Tom Phillips, "Middle-earth: Shadow of War release date delayed" dated 1 June 2017, Eurogamer.net (accessed 2 June 2017)
  3. James Orry, "Middle-earth: Shadow of War confirmed for Project Scorpio" dated 28 February 2017, Video Gamer (accessed 3 May 2017)
  4. Metacritic, "Middle-earth: Shadow of War (accessed 14 December 2022)
  5. 5.0 5.1 IGN "Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review", 20 October 2017 (accessed 14 December 2022)
  6. Electronic Gaming Monthly, "Middle-earth: Shadow of War review", 26 September 2014 (accessed 14 December 2022
  7. Middle-earth: Shadow of War Review, 6 October 2017 (accessed 14 December 2022)
  8. 8.0 8.1 GameSpot,"Middle-earth: Shadow Of War Review, 6 October 2017 (accessed 14 December 2022)
  9. MIDDLE-EARTH: SHADOW OF WAR REVIEW", 30 October 2017 (accessed 14 December 2022)
  10. Middle-earth: Shadow of War review", 30 October 2017 (accessed 14 December 2022)
  11. JEGM’s Best of 2017: Part Three: #15 ~ #11", 29 December 2017 (accessed 14 December 2022)
  12. Best of 2017 Awards: Best Action Game", 27 December 2017 (accessed 14 December 2022)

See also

External links

Licensed video games set in Middle-earth
 Melbourne House: The Hobbit (1982) · Lord of the Rings: Game One (1985) · Shadows of Mordor (1988) · War in Middle Earth (1988) · Crack of Doom Software Adventure (1989) · Riders of Rohan (1990)
 Interplay Productions: The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (PC) (1990) · The Lord of the Rings, Vol. II: The Two Towers (1993) · The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (SNES) (1994)
 Vivendi Universal: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) · The Hobbit (2003) · War of the Ring (2003)
 Electronic Arts: The Two Towers (2002) · The Return of the King (2003) · The Third Age (2004) · The Battle for Middle-earth (2004) · Tactics (2005) · The Battle for Middle-earth II (2006) (The Rise of the Witch-king (2006)) · Conquest (2009) · Heroes of Middle-earth (2023)
 Turbine/Standing Stone Games: The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (2007-) (Mines of Moria (2008) · Siege of Mirkwood (2009) · Rise of Isengard (2011) · Riders of Rohan (2012) · Helm's Deep (2013) · Mordor (2017) · Minas Morgul (2019)) · War of Three Peaks (2020) · Fate of Gundabad (2021) · Before the Shadow (2022) · Corsairs of Umbar (2023)
 Warner Bros: Aragorn's Quest (2010) · War in the North (2011) · Guardians of Middle-earth (2012) · Kingdoms of Middle-earth (2012Armies of The Third Age (2013) · Shadow of Mordor (2014) · Shadow of War (2017) · Rise to War (2021)
 Glu Games: Middle-Earth Defense (2010)
 Traveller's Tales: Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game (2012) · Lego The Hobbit (2014)
 Daedalic Entertainment: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (2023)
 North Beach Games: The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria (2023)