Thoughts on trophy hunting in Shadow of Mordor

Over the weekend I earned the Platinum Trophy for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. For PC and Xbox players, substitute “achievement” for “trophy” and know that the platinum is basically the “You’ve earned all the other trophies” trophy. It’s the same I guess as getting 1000 gamerscore out of an Xbox game.

I’m still not entirely sure I’m cut out for trophy hunting. (This is only my 2nd Platinum, the first was in Infamous: Second Son.)

The good news is that I got a lot more gameplay out of SoM. I was at 25 hours when I finished the story and 45 hours when I got the last trophy, so it almost doubled the time I spent with the game. And it was very satisfying to get that last trophy after all those hours, even though earning each individual trophy wasn’t always fun. I hit frustration levels well beyond what I experienced just playing through the story, but even the frustrating trophies came with a nice shot of dopamine to my brain when I earned them.

For example one trophy required you to get a Level 25 Rune. You get runes for killing named orcs. The level of the rune is the level of the orc plus some bonuses, and orcs cap out at level 20. So to get a level 25 rune, you need to kill a level 20 orc, but it needs to be a warchief (one of the top orcs in the hierarchy) because that gives you a 2 point bonus. You need to know that orcs weaknesses which means you’ve had to get Intel on him. 1 point for that. You need to USE one of his weaknesses or strengths (which can be easy or hard depending on what they are) because that’s a 1 point bonus, AND it has to be a revenge kill, meaning that orc has to have killed you already. 1 point for that.

When I went after this trophy, the first problem was there were no level 20 orcs and all the warchiefs were under my control. So I had to kill some of my warchiefs to create an opening. Then I advanced time (I think, I’ve already forgotten some details) to get enemy warchiefs in place. Then I got intel on them to pick one that would be easy to trigger. (Sometimes weaknesses are pretty obscure, sometimes strengths make them hard to fight). OK so now I had a warchief who got enraged by fire and I have a fire arrow skill. But he was level 16 and he hadn’t killed me. So then I fought him but he brought bodyguards and I couldn’t get the warchief to kill me since he was content to let his bodyguards do the work. In trying to let this warchief kill me, a random archer actually got in the killing blow. OK respawn, now isolate and take out the bodyguards. Then go after the warchief, kill all the minions around him and he FINALLY kills me. So now he’s level 17. Go back a few more times letting him kill me over and over to level up to 20. Finally I have a level 20 warchief who I can get revenge on and I know his weaknesses..that’s 24 levels of rune. In the battle I hit him with a fire arrow to enrage him, that makes level 25 and finally I just had to kill him. Trophy unlocked… FINALLY. That was like 90 minutes of game time.

On the one hand, it was really satisfying to finally get it. On the other, playing to lose (so the warchief would kill me) wasn’t as much fun.

I guess I’ll just worry about trophy hunting on games I really enjoy. I loved Shadow of Mordor. I loved the setting, loved the combat, loved little touches like how on a combat finisher the ‘clang’ of swords rang out from the controller speaker. I loved finding artifacts and listening to the “memories” and in general, I just love Middle Earth so the opportunity to spend time there was really appreciated. Even after 45 hours I was still getting a lot of joy out of just hacking and slashing my way through swarms of orcs. Even after Talion was completely leveled up and there was no reason to fight orcs, I’d keep fighting them because it was just so darned fun.

I think that SoM is known for being a pretty easy game to Platinum, which was OK by me. And none of the trophies were based on high levels of player skill. If you could finish the storyline you can do all the trophies. You don’t need to be a gaming god to achieve any of them. And there’s no multiplayer, so that’s a huge deal for me since I don’t do multiplayer any more. Even with all that, the Trophies that required you to manipulate the in-game situation in weird ways (like intentionally letting yourself get killed) were a lot less fun than the trophies that just came with playing the game they way you’d naturally play it.

Weekend recap: The End of Mordor and COD Modern Warfare

I’ve rarely been so appreciative of gaming as I was this weekend. With all the shit going down in the world, I spent about half my time reading the news and half my time hiding in a game. Games take me away from the stress and anxiety of the real world in a way neither TV, books or movies can. I just lose myself, and wow did I ever need to lose myself this weekend.

And I finished not one but TWO games. WHO AM I? The first was Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered, which I’ve been poking at here and there without really talking about it. But my PS4 Pro hard drive is full (!) and so I wanted to finish off COD so I could delete it for now. I don’t have a lot to say about this game. I didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, it was just there. I mean it’s a fine game, just not really in my wheelhouse. I like fantasy and sci-fi settings more than modern day ones. I will say the campaign didn’t pull any punches. Spent some time trying to decide if I wanted to do trophy hunting and I don’t think I like it enough for that.

The other game I finished was Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I absolutely LOVED this game. I’ve put about 25 hours into it to get to the end of the story, and it was a really good story too. But I love the setting and the gameplay so much that I don’t feel at all done with it. The same statistic that told me I was about 25 hours in also says I’m only 50% through, so there’s tons of side quests, collectibles and other things to do and I’m not ready to leave Mordor quite yet. My intention is to keep it around to dabble in until I get bored with side-questing.

Great game. I really hope we get a sequel.

Now I have to decide what I want to attack next. Maybe Far Cry Primal. Maybe Titanfall 2. Maybe something else will grab me. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next 4 years trying to lose myself in games so I’m glad I have plenty to choose from!

Even More Mordor

This past weekend I spent a lot more time in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The more I play this game, the more I like it. I want you to play it too, if you haven’t, so I’m not going to spoil anything major, but in general terms here’s what I learned this weekend.

The basic concept here is that you’re a ranger, Talion, who is guarding the Black Gate. This happens, best I can put together, between the events of The Hobbit and those of Lord of the Rings. Sauron has returned to Mordor but hasn’t really started his war on Middle Earth yet. Talion gets killed but rather than staying dead he merges with a wraith.

In gameplay terms, this gives him some magic-ish abilities and explains why he can respawn after he gets killed.

I thought I was going to spend the game in the map area that is revealed early in the game (which was fine…it’s a big area) and that it would basically be just me and my wraith pal (and this isn’t just a nameless wraith, you learn who he is as the game goes on, I just don’t want to spoil).

But no, there’s more. This weekend I moved on to a whole new area, probably the same size as the initial map. This is a big game! The new area is a little more green than the space you spend the first parts of the game in. I also have met some other characters who’re on the same side as Talion.

Again I’m deliberately being vague. But it’s a bigger game than I thought it was and the story is more interesting too, at least for a Middle Earth nerd.

As Talion gets more upgrades and skills I feel like the game is getting easier. I remember when facing a single warchief was really dicey, but yesterday I took on three at once and eventually won. My biggest fear at this point are warchiefs that use ranged attacks since they can whittle down my health before I can clear out their minions to go at them.

I’m also spending a lot more time mounted, which is fun too. That’s gotten a lot easier too.

But easy doesn’t mean boring. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel powerful and skilled. But in order to keep you modest, the story missions spike the difficulty a bit so you’ll need to earn those. I’m finding the difficulty level to be about perfect.

Just a great game so far. A big game though. I think I’m something like 35% done with the story after all this time.

When does Shadow of Mordor 2 come out? I’m excited to play it, if it exists!

And of course as usual, I took no screenshots 🙁

Back to Mordor once again

After finishing Diablo 3 Story Mode so I could unlock Adventure Mode and do all the fun stuff that comes with it… I’d had enough of Diablo 3. I did poke my nose into the Diablo 1 rebuild and decided you can’t go home again. It’s cool that they did it but I can’t see spending a lot of time playing a deliberately janky (even if that’s authentic) game.

So after my nightly Let It Die run I fired up Shadow of Mordor. Took me a while to get the feel of the controls back and I’m still a little rusty, but after a while I was back to killing warchiefs.

I’ve talked before about the weird difficulty system in SoM. When you die (so when you fail) orc warchiefs grow in power (so the game gets harder). Well now I’m finding the converse is true to some extent. When you kill warchiefs they get replaced, often by lower level orcs. I was taking out random warchiefs pretty easily, though the “story mission” elite guys still gave me some issues.

I’m so glad I re-discovered this game a while back. I’ve gotten much farther than I ever have before and I’m really enjoying it. I’m playing on the PS4 Pro in the “4K” mode (which has a dynamic resolution that varies between 1728p to 2160p dynamic) and the game looks gorgeous in a dark, dismal kind of way.

(These images were shared via Twitter so have been down scaled because I forgot to copy them off the PS4.)

I can’t believe I bought the Game of the Year edition for $10. I’d almost feel guilty about it if I hadn’t already bought the GotY Edition for Xbox One (also for $10) and the standard edition at full price when it came out!

I can’t Let It Die and Mordor bares its fangs

It’s been about a month since free-to-play Playstation title Let It Die launched, and I still haven’t really played it. I’ve tried to play it on no less than 4 occasions but each time the universe conspires against me. Either the dog needs to go out or Angela decides on an early dinner that night or some other interruption. Problem is, it’s now been so long since I played the tutorial that I’ve forgotten everything I learned, and it’s a weird-ass game so that might be a problem. I’m not even positive I want to play it since it’s so gross, but I’d at least like to give it a try.

[Oh by the way I managed to take exactly zero screenshots last night so sorry for the wall of text today.]

Yesterday Diablo 3 got patched. For this month only (as I understand it) you can play through a re-creation of the original Diablo inside D3. One of my January gaming goals is to finally finish the Diablo 3 storyline. I’m in Act 2 and can’t go back to Act 1 without losing progress, and you need to be in Act 1 to check out the Diablo re-make (again, as I understand it). Since I didn’t want to lose progress I created a new character, but Adventure Mode doesn’t open until you’ve completed Story Mode. I started a new Story Mode game but didn’t see the portal in Tristram. Either I was looking in the wrong place, or you can’t get to this content from Story Mode.

I guess this all just means I have more incentive to complete Story Mode sooner rather than later. Oh and I had a laugh at myself when I created the new character. I’d said somewhere that “even on Hard difficulty” Diablo 3 was pretty easy. My bad I guess, since Hard is the 2nd easiest out of about 16 (literally) difficulty levels. There’s Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and then 12 tiers of Torment difficulty beyond that. What a noob I am! I had no idea.

I can still only play Diablo 3 for so long before I get bored. When I hit that point last night I jumped back to Shadow of Mordor and it’s like the game heard me talking about how easy I’ve been finding it, and decided to school me. I’ve done something, either gotten to a point in the storyline or leveled to a critical point…something I’ve done has changed the game. There are now caragors (the big hulking dog-ish things) roaming all over the place and Orc captains are springing up like weeds. I died three times to caragors last night when they came charging into a battle I was in the midst of. On top of that, several times I’d get into a fight with some run-of-the-mill orcs and uruks and suddenly there’d be one or even two captains there.

Long story short, I guess I died half a dozen times last night, and of course every time I did, the orc captains grew stronger. Video game life has a way of balancing things out, though, and towards the end of the night I unlocked a new tier of powers and now I have a skill that lets me shoulder rush uruks with shields in order to break said shields, and when I leap over an orc it gets stunned. I also suddenly have this flurry attack power; not sure where it came from but it’s potent. So over the course of the night the game got a lot harder but then eased up a bit due to new abilities. I was getting really frustrated at one point last night but by the time I quit I was back to having fun.

I did manage to complete one of the wraith’s story quests (the ones with Gollum) and I got Ratbag in position as a War Chief. Now I just have to finish thinning his competition to complete that quest. So…progress!

Holiday weekend recap: Still a little baffled by Shadow of Mordor

Even though I had a 3-day weekend thanks to the New Year, I didn’t do a ton of gaming this weekend. Instead I watched a lot of TV. Football for one thing, and after a long and idea-filled thread at Imzy, I started in on a new (to me) anime, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, which I’m enjoying so far.

Next week we’re canceling cable so I signed us up for Playstation Vue, and I’ve been messing around with that a lot. I find the interface is taking some getting used to, but overall we’re fairly pleased so far. Anyway in the course of messing about I started watching Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel and got inexplicably hooked. It’s about some townie from Boston who travels around the world sampling various alcoholic beverages while taking in the local culture. I like booze so I’m interested in that aspect, and it’s fun to see the places he travels to. It’s much better of a show than I expected it to be.

I also watched Tiny Fey, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, based on the true story of journalist Kim Baker’s time in Afghanistan. I enjoyed that very much, and I was delighted to find it on Hulu. Since when does Hulu get recent movies?

Beyond that, we’re working our way through the DC superhero shows on Netflix. So yeah, lots of TV.

I did start up Diablo 3 again. After one session on the launch PS4, I installed it on the PS4 Pro. It hasn’t been patched to take advantage of the Pro’s extra horsepower, but it runs much quieter on that system. It’s one of those games that makes the fans on the launch PS4 start to scream in protest.

I’m playing D3 as a barbarian on Hard mode and it is still ridiculously easy, at least for the parts I’ve played (I’m in Chapter 2). And so much loot. Too much, really. As a natural pack-rat I can’t just leave stuff laying in the dirt, so I’m constantly heading back to town, trying not to be overwhelmed by all the choices I have, and feeding most of the stuff to the Salvage yard. Honestly I get bored playing D3 pretty quickly, which makes me sad since I loved both Diablo and Diablo 2 back in the day.

The other thing I played was Shadow of Mordor and man I’m confused by some of the choices the devs made in that game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast playing but I feel like the more you struggle, the harder it gets, and vice versa. I haven’t really been focusing on the “main quests” but have been roaming around the world collecting things, doing side quests and slaying lots of orcs. There are these “Conflicts” on the map that tutorial text told me were struggles between orc captains and that if I didn’t break them up, one of the orc captains would win and grow stronger. This wasn’t happening for me. I also had a bunch of skill points I couldn’t spend because I wasn’t powerful enough.

Then finally, I died. And when I did it was like time moved forward. The conflicts got resolved and some of the Captains got stronger. I also gained power somehow, which unlocked the next tier of abilities. Seemed odd that my death resulted in enemies getting stronger. Then I died again shortly thereafter (when a cave troll noticed me hiding in some bushes) and more conflicts got resolved and more Captains got stronger.

I wrote a while ago about how Shadow of Mordor seemed much easier this time around and now I think the reason is that I’m moving cautiously, gaining power while not dying much, so the orcs aren’t getting more powerful.

I’m really enjoying it though. I’ve started playing this game a few times before and it never ‘stuck’ for some reason, but this time it sure is. Even more so now that I’ve encountered this old villain:

When did Shadow of Mordor get easy?

A couple of sales back I picked up Shadow of Mordor, Game of the Year Edition for the PS4. That was actually the THIRD time I’ve bought the game. I bought it when it came out on the PS4, then bought the GotY edition for Xbox One for $10, and now the GotY edition for PS4. I forget how much it was on PS4 but it was cheaper to buy the GotY edition than it was to buy the DLC that came with it.

Three purchases and I’ve never really played the game. I mean I tried it when it first launched but it was HARD for me. I have nothing but frustrating memories of dying over and over again. I may have got through one story mission before moving on.

My most recent purchase was spurred by news that the developers were supporting PS4 Pro, and last night I finally fired it up, bracing myself to be humbled.

And I found the opening hour or so to be pretty easy, and I don’t know why. Now I am NOT complaining. I want to play through this game, not get stymied by the first Orc Captain I encounter. I’m just curious about why I’m finding it so much easier now. I’m pretty sure my gaming skills haven’t improved any. I’m old and any kind of hand-eye coordination activity is on a downward slide now.

Now maybe I’m just remembering wrong and I got farther along before getting tripped up. Fact is I haven’t done the first story quest in this new play-through, but I have killed 3 orc Captains that I just stumbled upon. Or maybe the game was patched to tone down the difficulty (there’s no difficulty setting).

But I was also wondering if it has to do with the new TV and/or the PS4 Pro performance improvements. I have no idea what the imput lag on my old TV was but it was probably big given how old the set was. It was from when 1080P LCD flat screens were pretty new. The new TV (Samsung KS8000) is supposed to have input lag of about 21ms in game mode, which is pretty low. I KNOW I have fewer motion sickness issues since I got the new TV…been meaning to write a post about that. I’m not sure that the PS4 Pro improves performance that much given that I’m playing in “High Resolution” mode but it might smooth out dropped/slow frame pacing issues.

I actually Googled the game and came up with complaints both about the game being too easy and it being too hard, so I’m not even sure what others thought about it. I guess all I can do is keep playing and see how much harder it gets.

I really hope I can enjoy the game more this time around. I certainly was having a good time last night. I was slicing and dicing my way through orcs as if my last name was “Son of Arathorn!”