The thing about story-DLCs is that I really expect them to bring something new to the gameplay. That was true for Middle-earth: Shadow of War‘s first story-DLC, Blade of Galadriel, which let us play the elven assassin Eltariel and use her awesome light powers. It is also true of the second story-DLC, Desolation of Mordor. But there is a difference.
The story follows Baranor, the Gondorian warrior we last saw fleeing Mordor in the main game, leaving Talion to fight his battle all alone. And while Talion is certainly capable and ruthless enough to become the leader of an Ork army, Baranor is, actually, neither immortal nor does he possess a Ring of Power.
Baranor may be boring, this DLC is not
Of the two companion characters in the main game Eltariel is by far the more interesting one (She’s an elf! An assassin! And she hunts Nazgul!), but, here we are, stuck with Baranor.
Like Talion, Baranor is classic hero material, but rather boring. He’s honorable, brave, earnest and loyal. That’s pretty much it. And, yes, Talion would also be a boring character were it not for his family’s tragic death (a classic) and the tense relationship with the elven wraith Celebrimbor, that has possessed him.
To remedy that predisposition, Desolation of Mordor introduces Serka, leader of the mercenary-band The Vanishing Sons. He is a ruthless warrior who lives for the fight – and for gold, admittedly – and wh also thinks he is funny. In short, he is just the opposite of Baranor and, incidentally, his big brother.
Also, there is Torvin.
Torvin is a dwarf who was first introduced in the Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor-DLC Master of the Hunt. Then, he taught Talion all he knew about the beasts of Mordor and how to hunt them and use them against the enemy. Sneaking up on Orks seated atop a Caragor, scoring stealth kill after stealth kill sure felt good. And that fight against that Graug? Epic.
This time, Torvin has been reduced to providing Baranor with useful weapons upgrades he fashions from ancient artifacts our hero has to find throughout the region of Lithlad. And if any of you are now thinking: Wait, that sounds familiar! Yes, it does. In fact, Torvin has become the Leonardo to Baranor’s Ezio Auditore.
The gamplay is badass
See, Baranor not possessing badass wraith powers means that he is rather vulnerable. Also, if he dies, there is no respawn. You start at the last save and lose whatever Character-upgrades, mercenaries or outposts you have gained inbetween.
So instead of barging into a fight, sure that you’ll get out of it somehow or else respawn to try again, you need to think and act more tactical in this DLC.
I really liked that.
This is why Baranor gets badass upgrades that are badass indeed. Also, he gets a kite/parachute-thing (no kidding) and a grapple-hook-thing he can use to make a quick escape. And, the most important thing, he can hire up to three mercenaries to act as his bodyguards. They saved my ass more times than I care to count and took down a number of high-value enemy captains for me, too.
And then there are the were-wyrms. One of them actually swallows Baranor in the beginning and it is only thanks to Torvin’s hunting skills, that our hero survives that attack. The nice thing about these monsters? Baranor can lure them to the surface to strike at the enemy. Which is also pretty badass.
Weapons and Inventory
Baranor’s weapons include sword, dagger, wrist-crossbow and shield, all upgradeable, just like his armor. The shield is also used for shield-charge, a nice way to knock down you enemies. Upgrades are dropped by captains and some select grunts and even found on specific bodies (look for the orange loot symbol), the crossbow is upgraded thanks to Torvin’s skills in refashioning the lost artifacts.
I have not found all of the artifacts during my playthrough (nor did I bother to look for all of them), so my inventory is a little lacking. But I got steel bolts and poison bolts for the crossbow plus concussion and poison bombs. I also got thet badass upgrade that has the grapple-hook-thing turn into a cyclone-spinning chain that can be upgraded to set enemies on fire (possibly also poisoning and freezing them).
The Nemesis System is a little different
Since Baranor is mortal, the Nemesis System does not work the way it does with Talion. Baranor can hire mercenaries and set them on enemy captains and that then counts as Nemesis. He’ll still have to deal with enemies surviving their initial encounter and ambushes (My favorite!).
Works for me.
Short story, but intense
The Blade of Galadriel-DLC put the stakes higher than this one, certainly, with Eltariel sure to be facing off against Talion (!), in the end.
Baranor simply has to conquer outposts, save his brother a couple of times and disable the main fortress’s defenses to lay siege to it and ultimately defeat the region’s overlord.
There are five main missions on total:
Baranor joins his brother in a raid and proceeds to make things a little more complicated for his mercenary band, the Vanishing Sons.
Baranor and his brother infiltrate the fortress of Shindram to see what’s what and Baranor makes an enemy of the local overlord.
There’s a slight change in command in the Vanishing Sons-band and Baranor has to go save his brother from a gruesome death in the ring.
A Warm Welcome
After having taken all the outposts in the region, Baranor returns to headquarters only to fight off an enemy attack beside his brother. This attack includes suicide sappers trying to poison the oasis. The trick here is to stay close to the water’s edge and picking them off by using the wrist-crossbow.
The Conquest of Shindram
Okay, so I played on Easy and this one was a walk in the park. The trick is knowing when to retreat and recover ammo and health. Also, having three legendary mercenary bodyguards fight by your side helps. Serka will assist in the fight against the overlord and his minions.
And that’s it!
Playing the roughly two and a half hours of the main quests without bothering to hunt down most of the enemy captains and focusing solely on the putposts and the fortress was fun, and I am looking forward to causing some more mayhem as Talion.
Yes, you can visit Lithlad as Talion in the main game.
Speaking of games, the next ones on my list are The Last of Us: Part Two and Life is Strange 2.
Keep on playing!