Shadows Of Mordor (Melbourne House) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

Computer Gamer

Shadows Of Mordor
By Melbourne House
Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Computer Gamer #27

Shadows Of Mordor

The arrival of the second part of Melbourne House's Lord Of The Rings trilogy has been eagerly awaited. Firstly, by the most avid Tolkien fans who will lap up anything on the subject regardless of quality. Secondly, by those more discerning Tolkien fans who will want to see if the Shadows Of Mordor resembles the book rather more than the first part did - e.g. no more references to orcish heavy metal bands. And finally, there are the adventure freaks who will want to know whether the game is going to be more challenging and faster than part one; especially on the C64. And also, generally, whether the game is actually worth parting with their hard-earned money. Well, just read on and all will be revealed.

The Shadows Of Mordor deals with book four of the Lord Of The Rings, i.e. the second half of volume two - The Two Towers. Frodo and Sam have left the rest of the company and are striking out alone for Mordor where they must go if they are to destroy the ring that Frodo is carrying. This is the One Ring, secretly manufactured by Sauron, who is now trying, using everything in his power, to get it back so he can use it for his own evil purposes.

The game starts with the pair on the eastern edge of the lake Nen-Hithoel. Ahead of them lie the Dead Marshes, the Desolate Plains and, finally, Mordor itself with the city of Minas Morgul rising from the mountains.

The first problem is to get down a steep cliff. Some nifty ropework is required here. At the bottom of the cliff, wait until Smeagol, also know as Gollum puts in an appearance. You will need him to help you out but he is shy and slimy too and you will need to extract a solemn promise from him before he will guide further once you have made your way across the maze of marshes.

Hiding from the Nazgul - Sauron's nine ring wraiths - and the orcs shouldn't prove too difficult if you heed Smeagol's advice. Convincing Faramir that you are who you say you are may prove to be more tricky, however. But smeagol will lead you to the secret entrance - if you can find him, he tends to disappear a lot. Now all that remains is a final encounter with Shelob - a giant spider - in her lair.

The game allows you to take the part of Frodo, Sam or both, but I think that most players will stick with the first option. The parser is the standard Melbourne House 'Inglish'. This is a fairly sophisticated parser but it does have one or two quirks. 'Examine' is not particularly well supported, for instance. Also frequent references are made to objects in the text which are not understood by the program, and although you can use 'all' you can't use 'except', 'but' must be used instead. Confusing and very odd as most phrases such as 'pick up all but the short sword' don't sound quite right.

Not every version of this game comes with graphics. There are none on the 48K Spectrum, although they are present on the 128K version. The Amstrad has limited graphics, the C64 slightly better ones but you can expect the disk versions to have full pictures, although these haven't been finished yet.

So what of the game itself? Well, it is certainly harder to play than the first part, but I am not so sure that the problems are particularly wonderful. There is a lot of maze work and back-tracing to be done. This is not necessarily a bad thing but the game is spoilt by one major design fault: the game is so big that it allows no facility to quit and start again, so has to be loaded in again or a saved position loaded.

This is really off-putting if you happen to die in the first few minutes which, incidentally, is quite likely. Surely, Melbourne House could have removed a couple of locations and used the memory saved to provide a quit option. As it stands, I would recommend that your first move should be to save the game at the beginning before you even make a move!

This is the first Melbourne House/Tolkien joint production that doesn't come with a copy of the book. This keeps the cost of the game down to a reasonable £8 or £9. As the books only cost about £3 - a lot less if you buy them in bulk! - it just goes to show that someone somewhere was making a lot of profit out of The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings which both retailed at about £15 each! The Shadows Of Mordor is a much better game than its predecessor and much better value for money, but there is still room for improvement. Perhaps in part three...