Three years after Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor broke ground with how video game systems can tell stories, its sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War builds on that foundation and more. Do these new layers elevate or encumber the experience?
With a twist of his hunky wrists, Ur-Hakon Brawlmaster extinguished Bugu Flame Monger’s ambitions of becoming warchief. The 15-foot Olog berserker separated the fiery terror’s head from his body, showing every orc in the ice cavern Fight Pit of Seregost what he’d do to challengers. It was an impressive audition for a spot in my army that would face Sauron’s siege. Ur-Hakon just didn’t know it yet.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a revelation for video games in 2014. On the surface, it looked like a cash-grab mash-up of The Lord of the Rings, Assassin’s Creed, and the Batman: Arkham series. Technically, it was, as it used the LOTR universe as well as the combat and stealth mechanics of the two aforementioned video game franchises.
What made it special though was the Nemesis system. Basically, it generated enemy orcs with randomized sets of various strengths and weaknesses that would grow stronger if they killed the player or survived the encounter. They would remember how the encounter with the player ended, commenting on it through voiced dialogue if they’d meet the player again. These orcs would also fight with one another, with or without the player’s input, and the winner would also become stronger.
This system facilitated all sorts of unique stories, and was the number one driving force for all the accolades the game received.
The sequel, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, expands on the Nemesis system with a lot more traits assigned to orcs, novel ways they can react to the player’s actions, loot drops, and a whole new fortress capture-and-defend element.
Despite winning with relative ease, Ur-Hakon sustained enough damage in his duel with Bugu that it would not have taken long for me to Dominate him. Just a few more strikes from my sword, and he would’ve been ready to submit and join my legion of mind-controlled orcs. So I leapt into the pit, eager to replace my now headless captain with this hulking behemoth, right into an ambush by Horza, Feral Tracker.
There are four areas to conquer, each with its own host of orcs that have different attributes and equipment they can drop. The gear you can pick up is sorted in a separate menu, listing their statistics along with bonuses you can access by completing small goals and wearing a matching set. Runes can be slotted into your equipment for buffs, and runes of the same kind can be upgraded by combining three similarly leveled runes to form one stronger rune. You have more skills to unlock compared to Shadow of Mordor.
The game introduces these mechanics over time so that it’s not overwhelming. It’s pretty easy to get immersed in exploring how they interlock. Does this polished vitality rune go better with the rare longbow that restores health with every headshot over the regular chest piece that gives a flat increase to your life bar? Would this ability to freeze multiple baddies at once be effective against this orc captain that always has a pack of caragor-riding hunters with him? Perhaps pairing this sickly warchief with an orc bodyguard that gets stronger when poisoned would do well against an enemy orc that can summon venomous spiders for this one fortress siege.
And it’s in those fortress sieges that Shadow of War shines.
Ur-Hakon’s might should have been mine. Complications by way of several blades to my back courtesy of Horza led to this death. Well, deaths, as I did get rid of the meddling party after chopping off the Feral Tracker’s limbs. Ur-Hakon, taking advantage of the distraction, pummeled me into the ground. “I’ll get him on the next life,” assuring myself upon seeing the Brawlmaster’s power grow for ending me.
Compelling complexity in chaos
Opposing orc forces smash into each other on screen by the dozens. Siege beasts hurl explosives over spiked metal walls. Gigantic Graugs and club-wielding Olog-hai batter the gates as toxic fumes blow out of spouts, choking would-be invaders trying to scale the perimeter. Fire rains from a drake circling the skies. Warchiefs face assault leaders in strategic areas, their powers and weakpoints laid bare in pitched combat.
And there’s you, right in the middle of everything, the one X-factor that can change the tide of battle.
Depending on how much you planned prior to engaging, these sieges can be quick, calculated affairs under 15 minutes or wild and protracted struggles that have you teetering on the edge of defeat for 30 minutes or longer. Whether you’re seeing a sound strategy swiftly executed or barely surviving a slog of a brawl, it can be exhilarating.
Up to a point.
It didn’t take long finding Ur-Hakon at the edges of Seregost’s snow-capped mountains. He was fresh this time, unburdened from the tolls of a pit fight. Before I could get close though, a snarl behind me snapped my attention to Tuka the Machine. I burned him to death once. Half of his face was steel now, and he had a gang to back him up. We fought, unfortunately, in front of Ur-Hakon. The Brawlmaster killed us both.
The weight of war
Beating the game requires you to do about 30 fortress sieges, 20 of which come back-to-back at the end, and that’s if you don’t lose. Of course, each one gets harder than the last, as the orcs you face have progressively higher levels. The higher their levels, the fewer weaknesses they have and the more immunities they possess. By the last 10 sieges, most orc bosses you have to defeat are invulnerable to a lot of techniques and can also kill you in a couple of hits, even when you’ve reached the max level of 60 and have powerful gear.
The orcs you’ve put in charge of the fortresses from naturally playing the game get outpaced in level by the enemy orcs when you reach this point, too. How do you keep up?
You either slowly level up your army through the Fight Pits, or you buy loot boxes that contain more appropriately leveled orcs. The former takes forever as you can only do it for one orc at a time, while the latter just feels icky with how blatantly it takes you out of the experience and pressures you to pay up.
Granted, you can buy a basic loot box with in-game currency that you’ll have probably amassed enough of by this time from completing quests.
Did I mention there are quests?
This was it. I tracked Ur-Hakon to a nearby cavern. There was no one else around to interfere. I would best him in one-on-one combat and have him under my command. I attacked. My sword was but a needle poking at his tough leathery hide. He would not succumb. His brute strength humiliated me. I fell to my knees one last time, his fist raised and ready to crush my skull. It fell past my head, as Stakuga the Knife came to my side at the last second, his blade catching Ur-Hakon’s blow, severing the arm from the elbow down. Stakuga saved me. He demanded a promotion, which I was more than glad to give.
I almost forgot about the quests because of how utterly unremarkable they are. They’re short, plain, and repetitive, asking you to accomplish one or two goals in the most straightforward manner. The Nemesis system doesn’t apply at all. No orcs can wander into the missions you’re on to surprise you. You die, you’re treated to a game over screen. Talion AKA Bargain Bin Boromir is as boring as video game protagonists come, and the rest of the cast is dour and unlikable, save for the handful of orcs that have way too minor roles.
The only notable thing about the narrative is the complete disregard of the canon and tone of the original Lord of the Rings stories. The first game certainly wasn’t the most respectful use of the LOTR license, but Shadow of War straight up retcons the lore to a ridiculous degree. Its attempt at commenting on the nature of evil clashes with how it rewards the player literally enslaving others.
By tying the completion of this forgettable story into the fortress sieges in the final act, Shadow of War burdens the one clearly enjoyable thing about it and turns it into a chore.
There’s fun to be had in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, for sure, but it’s all in the dynamic mechanics divorced from the plot. Feel free to drop it when finishing it starts fatiguing you. That release is worth more than enduring the nigh endless endgame for a predictable ending.
I tasted steel, and then dirt. I got up. Again. I assembled what was left of my troops. That fort in Gorgoroth had to be retaken. I had lain waste to that invading force before that stray arrow caught me in the melee. I only needed to storm the throne room. Stakuga died defending the courtyard. Some nameless goblin cut him down as he ran, afraid for his life. I envied his escape from this mortal coil. I reclaimed the fortress. Four more to go.
[irp posts=”22702″ name=”Indygo: A game that talks about depression”]
ASUS releases the ROG Zephyrus S17, M16
ASUS adds three new gaming laptops for gamers and creators alike.
ASUS Republic of Gamers Philippines (ROG) released brand new gaming laptops equipped with the latest Intel 11th Generation CPUs. Lead by the award-winning ROG Zephyrus series, together with the crowd favorite TUF Gaming family. Released in their latest event, the ROG: Unleash the Legend Inside Digital Launch. With this, ASUS finally completes ROG’s roster of gaming laptop products this 2021.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17
Starting off with their newest lineup we have the ROG Zephyrus S17!
ASUS tweaked its gaming experience with its Rising Optical Mechanical Keyboard design, adding a 5-degree tilt to improve airflow by 25 percent. Having provided optimized typing comfort, this assures its user’s full control of any modification. They implemented ROG’s AAS Plus technology, together with the ROG Intelligent Cooling feature. Also with a new redesigned Arc Flow fans create a quiet and efficient airflow system. Having said this, it favors the Zephyrus S17’s thermal capacity. It maximizes cooling and performance for the laptop’s build.
Geared with up to the latest Intel Core i9 11th Gen CPU, paired with up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, the Zephyrus S17 delivers top performance to provide users the best experience in gaming and other heavy-duty tasks. With up to 32GB RAM and 3TB SSD storage, the Zephyrus S17 maximizes its hardware to perform at a high level. The laptop also has display options of 4K UHD, 120Hz refresh rate, or WQHD 165Hz. The Zephyrus S17 caters to both gamers and creators alike.
ROG Zephyrus M16
The latest addition to the Zephyrus M line, the ROG Zephyrus M16 arrives with the newest specifications, but also a renewed design. Designed within its prism aesthetics is a 16-inch screen display in WQHD resolution with 165Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and an Adaptive-Sync. Users can enjoy the 16:10 aspect with a 94 percent screen-to-body ratio. Having this said, it elevates their gaming experience to another level. Artists can also expect top-grade visuals with Pantone Validated colors across 100% of the cinema-grade DCI-P3 color gamut, supported by Dolby Vision.
This gaming laptop can run through any application. The laptop is powered by the latest 11th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU and paired with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 GPU. The Zephyrus M16 brings powerful performance to deliver the best output and deliver it through its beautiful display. With RAM of up to 32GB and SSD storage of up to 2TB, expect quality performance across many applications. With its battery lasting about 10 hours, ROG produced the immersive experience in its thin-and-light form factor. Made possible thanks to its 90W Hour Battery and Thunderbolt 4.
TUF GAMING F17/15
The TUF Gaming series has been known for its gaming performance at affordable options. This year, ASUS redesigns the TUF Gaming F17/15 with great value for the latest CPU and GPU specifications. Equipped with the newest Intel Core i7 11th gen CPU, with available options from the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti to RTX 3060 options. With a 144Hz refresh rate screen, users can experience high and stable FPS while playing their favorite games.
New variants of the TUF Dash F15 are available. Now also equipped with the new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU.
Price and Availability
The ROG Zephyrus line will be available in-stores starting 3rd quarter. In August 2021, the Zephyrus S17 will be coming with the following items: ROG Ranger Backpack, ROG Delta Headset, ROG Chakram Core Gaming Mouse, a Type-C PD Adapter, and a pre-installed Windows Office Home & Student 2019. The price starts at PhP 184,995.
By the end of July 2021, the Zephyrus M16 will be arriving and comes with the ROG Backpack, ROG Delta Headset, ROG Chakram Core Gaming Mouse, a Type-C PD Adapter, and a pre-installed Windows Office Home & Student 2019. The price starts at PhP 129,995.
The TUF Gaming F17/15 and the TUF Dash F15 with Intel 11th gen CPUs and RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti GPUs are already available in the market since June 2021. Both lines are available with the new design of the TUF Gaming backpacks. Price starts at PhP 54,995
ASUS advised that coordination with your preferred store is convenient when ordering or reserving products.
To view the full price list click the link here.
Plunge into a dark world in Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness
A thriller series based on Capcom’s beloved franchise
Resident Evil proved to be one of the most popular game franchises of all time, spanning different console generations. For over 25 years, Capcom produced some of the most jaw-dropping, horrifying game releases that shake people to their core. Just last May, they released Resident Evil: Village to a fanfare of everybody simping for Lady Dimitrescu.
Apart from the games, Resident Evil also received several television and movie adaptations, bringing the same horror to the big screen. From live-action movies to animated TV series, these provide a good amount of fan service to long-time fans of the games. For 2021, Capcom has a new series that I believe fans will also appreciate upon release in RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness.
A series of unfortunate events
The world of RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness still revolves around the whole zombie encounter-theme the games follow, but on a rather global scale. In the year 2000, U.S. special forces were sent to intervene in the ongoing civil war in the region of Penamstan. However, tragedy struck when the helicopter fell from the sky, and the special forces were annihilated. At least, that’s what they believe happened.
Fast forward to 2006, back in the United States, a hacking incident occurs within the White House. To avert more disaster, the government invited four agents to investigate but were met with strange circumstances. As it turns out, a horde of zombies infiltrates the building and the agents, along with the U.S. S.W.A.T. team, fight them off.
It’s an anime series that tackles a ton of mystery about the events of the past, and how they catch up in present time. In essence, the agents seek to unravel what truly happened that day in 2000, and how they could avert another disaster from happening.
A familiar face returns to the scene
Remember how I mentioned that there are four agents assigned to the investigation? Well, one of them is Leon S. Kennedy, one of the main playable characters in Resident Evil 2. In this series, he looks a bit older and wears a more formal attire than a police uniform. In an interview with Director Eiichiro Hasumi, he explained to me why they picked him in the first place.
According to him, Leon’s character provides a “lot of freedom to move around” in terms of the storytelling aspect. Compared to someone like Chris Redfield, for example, Leon’s character doesn’t necessarily tie him down to any specific roles or places in the story.
As seen in his character design, Leon looks a bit more tired — as if the youth in his aura was sucked out of him. Director Eiichiro notes that he is “in a slightly bitter position” compared to his younger self. How exactly will this version of Leon deal with the crisis of Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness? We’ll find out soon enough.
Managing your expectations a bit
So, what can you expect from RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness when it comes? For starters, it’s a fully animated TV series that Director Eiichiro hopes would be easily digestible for everyone. It’s a series that reveals everything slowly, and eases you in on what’s happening with every bit of new information.
Secondly, while I’ve already mentioned Leon’s presence, you will also see Claire Redfield, another protagonist from Resident Evil 2. In the series, she serves as a volunteer for TerraSave based in Penamstan, and even does her own set of investigations. Where these investigations will take her, you’ll have to find out on your own!
Finally, there will be zombies and zombie killing, like a lot of it. I mean, it’s par for the course for the games to have zombie killing, so the anime series should include it. As for the zombies they will be killing, again, you have to watch the series to find out.
RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness will arrive on Netflix on July 8, 2021.
Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2: Price and availability in the Philippines
A immersive, gaming-centric experience like no other
Lenovo continues to break ground on bringing the gaming world to a wider audience. As such, they launched the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel last year to do exactly that. Their own take on a proper gaming smartphone received a mix of adjulation and criticism, but it didn’t stop them. This year, they’re bringing the heat with the new Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2.
The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 doesn’t necessarily stray away from its predecessor’s overall design. Although, with a 6.92-inch AMOLED display, it’s certainly a little larger for a good reason. Also, this time around, the Legion Phone Duel 2 sports a whopping 144Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support for clean and crisp gameplay.
Inside this machine, you will find a Snapdragon 888 5G CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, and a 5,500 mAh battery for intense and extensive mobile gaming.
Another prominent gaming feature of the Legion Phone Duel 2 is its Octa-Trigger system. On the phone, you have eight airtriggers to map onto different actions during gameplay. In essence, it’s as if you’re already using a controller for your phone to play your games. Along with Lenovo’s Dual HaptiX technology, you can also expect precise touch feedback, as well.
The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 is available for pre-order beginning June 18 until June 30, 2021. It comes in two colors in Ultimate Black and Titanium White, but only the former is available during the pre-order. As for the SRPs, here are the available configurations:
- 12GB RAM + 256GB storage — PhP 39,995
- 16GB RAM + 512GB storage — PhP 49,995
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