Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Monolith It had been a while since I last encountered Tarz Plague-Bringer. An obese, boil-covered uruk who had lost part of an eye in our last battle, he had been stubbornly persistent when it came to killing me: five times at my last count. Tarz had risen steadily through the ranks each time, from captain through to war chief. But this time my strategy was foolproof: send one of my orcs undercover as a double-crossing bodyguard, ride in on my dominated caragor to target his fear of beasts, and then stage a full-on attack with my entire enslaved army. Simple, really. There isn't anything particularly original in the story or basic gameplay of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor . The quick, brutal combat is liberally borrowed from the Batman: Arkham series, while the parkour-like free-running movements across its open world are inspired by Assassin's Creed . Gamers take on the role of a murdered Gondor ranger whose slain body is empowered with special abilities from an elven blacksmith's soul, and it's all set somewhere between J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books and the recent films. None of that really matters, though, because Middle-Earth is only really concerned with your attempts to battle Mordor's armies. And what separates it from button-mashing games of similar ilk is its highly publicised "Nemesis" system. Using what must be incredibly complex artificial intelligence, the game keeps close track of not only your interactions with the numerous villains, from low-level orcs through to high-ranking uruks, but also their interactions with each other. They're a scheming bunch, and constant power plays mean their ranks are forever evolving. That all means Middle-Earth has an incredible memory. It knows that characters make up a great story, and rather than inundate the player with scripted development through endless cut-scenes, the narrative all plays out right there during the game and is specifically tailored to you. It won't matter if you're a Tolkien fan who has spent countless hours poring over the details of hobbits, elves, orcs and men, or just a gamer bored with beat-'em-up gaming's lack of consequences: Middle-Earth 's blend of action-adventure and creative RPG elements make it the most exciting release so far this year. For now at least, and until it undoubtedly begins to inspire developers over the next few years, this is the one game to rule them all.