Games Review: Middle-earth – Shadow of Mordor: The Bright Lord (Xbox One, 2015)

  • David Smith
  • March 4, 2015
  • Comments Off on Games Review: Middle-earth – Shadow of Mordor: The Bright Lord (Xbox One, 2015)

The Bright Lord is the latest DLC to be released for Monolith Soft’s 2014 surprise hit Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Surprisingly substantial, as DLC goes, it’s a welcome return to Mordor’s barren, Uruk-infested plains and allows itself to tell a rather important story in Middle-earth history while it’s at it.

The DLC’s name, The Bright Lord, refers to the elf lord Celebrimbor – the master smith who forged the three elven rings of power, and the Doors of Durin in Khazad-dûm. Celebrimbor was the ghostly wraith who became Talion’s offsider in Shadow of Mordor’s main quest. The Bright Lord sees us playing as Celebrimbor himself in a tale set thousands of years before his adventure with Talion. The adventure begins with Celebrimbor taking the One Ring for himself in order to protect Eregion from the Dark Lord Sauron. To do this, he will raise an army of branded Uruks, swayed away from Sauron’s control.

The Bright Lord introduces us to a very different Celebrimbor. He is far more vicious and headstrong than he was when he was riding shotgun in Shadow of Mordor. The One Ring corrupts him even as he wields it to perform acts of immense power and skill. With each piece of territory clawed back and Warchief branded, Sauron taunts Celebrimbor and the Bright Lord, swayed by the evil ring on his finger, roars his defiance in a manner wholly uncharacteristic of an elf. It gives more fuel to the idea that the developers want you to cut loose with this DLC.

They want you to be a true force of nature, decimating and enslaving the local Uruk population in equal measure. Celebrimbor starts his quest with a completely maxed abilities page and is able to collect higher-level runes than Talion ever was, which means he starts out brutally over-powered and somehow becomes an even greater threat the longer you play. Branding Uruks and converting them to your cause fills a bar on your HUD that represents the One Ring. When the One Ring is charged, it can be unleashed by clicking the left and right sticks together. This puts Celebrimbor into a state of slow-motion and grants him invulnerability and nonstop finishing moves until the bar runs down to nothing again. It’s the perfect get-out-of-jail free card for whenever you find yourself surrounded by more Uruks than you could ever hope to deal with.

However, just because Celebrimbor becomes a living fear engine while he’s wearing the Ring doesn’t mean the game is going to let you rain all over the Uruks’ parade with complete abandon. Shadow of Mordor remains a tough game and the Uruks in Sauron’s Army are no slouches. In fact, very few of them are below Level 20 and even fewer are vulnerable to anything other than combat finishers. This means you often have no recourse but to get in there, pop the One Ring, get your hands dirty and hope you can get the jerk down to low health and brand him before he can draw any aggro. That means people who favour a stealth or ranged approach have get comfortable with a bit of biffo in a hurry. It also means if, like me, you haven’t played Shadow of Mordor for a while, you’re going to have your backside brutally handed to you a few times while you get warmed up.

Mordor has changed a bit since last we saw it – it’s now a barren waste, full of swirling winds and Sauron’s dark influence. Celebrimbor slowly claws territories back from Sauron by forcing branded Uruks to build the towers Talion was restoring in the main campaign. Though the architecture hasn’t changed much at all when you get right down to it, the change of lighting and some textures does give it feeling like the place is very different.

The missions, similarly to the base game, are a bit of a mixed bag and few of them amount to much more than “get in there and smack some Uruks around until you control them.” Some are much harder than others – one mission asked me to brand 15 Uruks in two minutes and then maintain control of at least 10 of them for a full minute. That sounds pretty straightforward but it is way harder than it sounds. I found myself getting really frustrated because when you’re stuck in a mosh pit full of branded and unbranded Uruks, Celebrimbor has no way to tell them apart and you frequently end up cutting friendly Uruks to ribbons. Similarly, when I would enact a combat brand, all too often Celebrimbor would grab an already-branded Uruk instead of the unbranded one I was looking at and pop their head like an overripe melon.

I was actually able to wring a whole lot of playtime out of this DLC, due largely to my insistence on branding every single captain and general in Sauron’s army before tackling the Warchiefs. It’s nice to see a substantial piece of DLC for the money – so often all we get are an hour or two of story that got cut from a main quest, but here there’s actual meat on the bone. Refreshing!

Overall, for the Lord of the Rings and Shadow of Mordor fan, this is a must play. The Bright Lord is a welcome reminder of what made Shadow of Mordor so awesome (as well as what annoyed us all greatly about it). This is the rarest of birds – DLC that is both substantial and actually worth the money. Grab it.

Review Score: 7.5 out of 10
Highlights: Celebrimbor is delightfully OP; One Ring is a cool addition
Lowlights: Parkour can still derp out hard; stiffer challenge may turn off casual players
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: WB Games
Released: 24/2/15
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Reviewed on Xbox One


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David Smith

David Smith is the former games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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