Exclusive: Middle Earth Shadow of War Preview

Middle Earth: Shadow of War is the long awaited sequel to Shadow of Mordor, a highly rated open world fighter that takes place in everyone’s favorite land of Mordor. Players once again control of Talion as he forges a new ring of power and attempts to keep control of it for use in the war against Sauron and his forces of darkness. The game doesn’t officially launch until October 10, but it just so happens that I was in the store and they miraculously had a copy on the shelf already. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity for an exclusive review, so I took it.

The more I play this, the more I’m pretty sure that this is an unreleased prototype spinoff, possibly taking place in between the first two games. My local store had a copy called the Shadow of War: Pepperoni Edition, and frankly within ten minutes I could tell that this would revolutionize gaming as a medium. To start, the special edition was clearly mislabeled and thus rang up for about $4 at the counter. The cashier didn’t seem to care that I was getting this product more than a month early.

And I know what you nerds are going to say: Why focus on Pepperoni as a character when she was such a minuscule factor in the books and never made it into the movies? Look, I love Lord of the Rings just as much as any of you do, likely a lot more. I’ve read the books literally three thousand times each, and I’ve been waiting what feels like decades for the Tolkein Estate to finally release the rights to Pepperoni for her own game. In fact, just the idea that pervasive sexists are fighting so hard against her appearance as a lead character should be all the evidence the Warner Bros needs to put her front and center.

The most surprising thing of Shadow of War’s Pepperoni spinoff is that it not only isn’t compatible with any of the current gen systems. Instead, Pepperoni Edition is compatible with most microwaves and convection ovens. It does contain a code for 100 coins in the main game, however. The cashier told me that this game doesn’t play as well on the microwave, so for the ultimate experience I went with my trusty convection oven. After a quick 10 minute installation process at 400 degrees, I was ready to go.

Let’s get into Pepperoni as a character in Shadow of War. It’s nice to see Warner Bros. finally giving us a gritty female character, one with a tough, crispy outer shell that actually hides a rather saucy personality underneath. We see a character that is both sweet and a bit tart, always ready to help when called. The dialogue can get a little cheesy in parts and it lacked a really meaty ending, but overall the presentation is one that you can really sink your teeth into.

While her motivations aren’t as in your face as, say, Talion wanting to survive and destroy Sauron in the main game, it’s pretty clear from the get go that Pepperoni is all about sustaining the survivors still hiding within Mordor. She wants to enrich life back into the lands via copious amounts of iron and protein. The game really goes far to show the gritty, greasy reality of life in Mordor and while I wouldn’t exactly call this game “profane,” it is dirty enough that you will literally need some napkins in order to walk out with your hands clean. Perhaps some wet naps.

The delivery method of Shadow of War: Pepperoni Edition is going to irk some customers. The idea of games slowly becoming more of a service than a product has become more popular over time, but this is the first game made entirely out of consumables. The box came with 40 consumables that must be individually installed, of which I used a baker’s dozen for this review. Now I can see why this cost $4 at the store, most will beat it in less than a week while hardcore games can probably get through it in a day. I did severely burn my mouth on the first three consumables, but that’s the cost of games journalism.

There is little doubt in my mind that this review is going to get slammed on social media because “oh it’s not a real game,” and “oh Connor you don’t know what a real game is, you’re not a real games journalist.” Shadow of War: Pepperoni Edition doesn’t cater to the ‘hardcore gamer,’ the unemployed basement dweller who has all the time in the world to memorize button combinations. You don’t need quick reflexes to play this game well, nor do you need to memorize insane codes or find secret areas. Shadow of War: Pepperoni Edition can be played both solo or co-op/competitive, but there is no online option.

MMO Fallout Verdict: 4.5/5 – Shadow of War: Pepperoni Edition is a welcome spinoff of presumably a great game. It’s simple to install, engaging to play, and features a filled out protagonist with clear cut motivations. Will it win the hearts and minds of hardcore gamers? No, but the general public will find something to love in Pepperoni’s cheesiness. 

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