Category Archives: Gaming

Supporting in DotA 2

Supporting in DotA 2 can be one of the most thankless tasks in the game. Even when you’re doing everything right, you’ve bought wards as soon as they’re available, you’ve dewarded across the map, you’ve stolen no kills and your income is pitiful due to the <10 last hits you’ve taken, you will be raged at. Despite the fact wards are sold out and there is 7 on the map, there’ll be someone who’ll spam the macro for “We need Wards”. You will receive hate and blame the entire game, most of the time. Nothing you do or say will change this, it’s all in the luck of the draw on who you’re matched with. In this post I’ll be trying to detail some of the things you can do right when you’re Supporting, and despite all of the rage, by the end of the match feeling good about the A-game you brought to the table.

Firstly, buy courier and upgrade it. At the minute 3 you’re able to upgrade the courier into a flying courier, if it’s not upgraded by the 5 minute mark, you’re failing. In the early game, the items being delivered can have a huge impact over how the game works out. Your middle might be waiting for a bottle that will let them move back into the fight. Your top lane might be being pushed under the tower and so have no access to the side-shop. If all 3 lanes need an item at once, it’s an excruciating wait for the courier to slog it to two different lanes before it heads your way. So, upgrade that courier. If you’re the only support it is your job to do so.

Equally, buy a ward at the beginning. At least one. Sometimes two. This doesn’t necessarily mean you place it straight away, if you move straight up and place the ward down before the match has even begun, your ward will be gone before the 6 minute mark. It’s safe to say there is more chance of ganks post 4 minutes. The smarter thing to do, I feel, is to wait until just before 2 minutes, move around to go and get the bounty runes, place the ward and get back to lane. If you feel safe doing so (for example, all heroes are still in lane) then get the oppositions bounty rune for your lane also. If you can get both runes, you’ll have got more XP than you would have in lane, your carry in the lane will have earned more XP from playing solo for that short while, and you’ll have an influx of gold to make up for the fact you’re not last hitting anything.

While you’re in lane, forget that the enemy creeps are even there, they’re not for you unless you’re sure your carry isn’t going to be able to get the last hit, or it looks like the enemy heroes are going to deny. Your task during the laning phase is to deny, harass, deny and harass. Start going for the last hits on your own creeps, equally start attacking your own creeps as soon as they go below 50% health. This will counter-push the lane and ensure you don’t end up fighting under their tower before you’re ready and any denies that you pull off will prevent the opposition from getting gold from the last hit and lowering the experience received to 70%. Equally, you will gain the other 30% of that units experience. A win-win by all accounts.

With harassing, avoid using your spells too much. You wont do much damage but your right click consistantly hitting the enemy will whittle down their health over time. This is best done as a ranged hero, just keep in mind that if you’re too close to enemy creeps, they will switch targets and chase after you. Keep your distance, harass every time they come in for a last hit. If you’re going to use your spells, avoid Area of Effect (AoE) spells that will damage the creeps if you can, as this will just push the lane and undo any denying you’ve achieved. When you’ve right click harassed the enemy heroes enough, they’ll begin to stay behind their creep line hoping to just gain experience, this is the opportunity to run forward and throw a spell before retreating behind your line. Do this right, and your Carry will be able to farm with impunity. This isn’t to say it will always work out, your Carry may not be brave enough, their Support might be following the same tactic or their Carry may have skills or passives that negate the damage you do. If this happens, focus on denying and keeping your Carry safe.

When you’re moving around to get bounty runes you will often be around the site of the river runes, there are five runes you can pick up; Regeneration, Double Damage, Invisibility, Haste and Arcane Runes. Generally, you should try and leave the runes for your team mates, but early in the game it may make more sense to take it yourself. If you’re able to use that rune to position yourself and pull off a gank in a different lane, do it. In the early game your skills will usually be very useful should you get in at the right time. If you’ve picked up an invisibility rune and the enemy middle is pushing the tower, get in there, get behind him, and let your middle harass him, once he’s low HP you can unleash hell. You’ll either get the kill, or force him back to base to allow your middle to get back into farming and regain the lost advantage. In the same method, if your Carry is handling the lane okay, and you see an opportunity in another lane, take it. Just make sure the team knows you’re moving lanes and what you’re planning. Get the gank done, then move back to your lane or gank another lane. It may seem like it makes sense to sit around as a trio in a lane for a while, but through your gank you will have either killed them, or failed and they’re still there. If they’re dead, this is the opportunity for your teams other lane to gain XP and Gold advantage. If they’re alive, you’re giving the enemy team the XP advantage as you’re now splitting any experience received 3 ways, handicapping your team mates.

As the game moves on, keep buying wards and keep prioritising your Carries. When I support I always have the mantra of “Supports die before Carries”. If you’re able to go in and save your Carry, but there’s a high risk of you dying. Do it. Your death is likely to give them less gold, and you’re going to lose out less from being dead. Your Carry will be able to use that time to gain more gold and bulk up further. This doesn’t mean you just always run head-first into fights that you can’t help. Judge the situation, if it’s 1v4, your Carry is almost dead and they have a lot of stuns. You’re not going to save anyone. If it’s 1v2, your Carry is taking a beating and you’ve got a decent AoE stun or a useful skill to pin, slow or distract them, get in there while screaming at the Carry to run. When judging this situation, also judge the worth of your Carry. While the basic idea is that a Carry is worth more than a Support in the long-run, this doesn’t account for bad players. If your Carry is terrible and you think you are a more viable addition to the team, save yourself (put your ego aside here!). Don’t reinforce failure. There’s few things as bad (or as satisfying) as watching a team die one by one because a stupid Carry has pushed too far and been ganked, then the entire team running in one-by-one to try and ‘help’ and just being picked off separately. DotA is a team game, you’re better together, but unless you can organise your team to plow in at the same time (or you’ve got a good ult such as Tidehunter’s/Treant’s to buy time), you’re not going to save the day alone.

Now for the tricky part, there’s two supports. Your team line-up is a good set of two carries, a mid nuker/carry, a durable support and a disabling support. Depending on the other Support, it might mean you have an opportunity to skip buying wards. For the start, decide between you, one of you buys the courier and a ward, the other buys a ward. The person who didn’t buy the courier, upgrades it. Past this point, you’ll need to judge which hero is a better addition to the team. Which hero will help to control the game with an early Aghanim’s Sceptre or Refresher Orb, which hero can survive with the basic items. If the other Support will make good use of an early item, buy wards until they’ve got it, then swap so that you can pick up some advanced items and vice versa. If it really doesn’t matter, spread the cost. Buy wards for a while, then ask them to pick it up while you get that next item, once you’ve got it, pick up wards again. Spend some extra gold de-warding, every Observer ward that you destroy will refund the cost of a Sentry ward and so if you know it’s there, deal with it.

With warding, try to be clever. There are observer points on the map at very specific places which, when warded, grant good vision of key travel areas. This doesn’t mean you should use them. The enemy support’s job is to ward and de-ward, and the first place they’ll place their sentry ward is on that observer spot. Think outside the box, you’re given an idea of what the ward will show up before you place it, so move it around and go for somewhere different. At the very least it might mean that the enemy support has to buy more sentry wards to figure out where you’re placing it.

Dota2 Map Obs.jpg

The blue dots denote the ‘regular’ observer points that most players will throw an observer ward onto. The red dots are some very basic, but under-used positions to place your ward to help control vision of the river and lower the risk of having your observer ward destroyed. If you do place a ward on an observer point, and it is swiftly destroyed, keep in mind that there is a high chance they’ve left a ward of their own in it’s place. Grab a sentry and get it destroyed. Just please, please, please for the love of all that is good with DotA, be smart. If you’ve got no vision of any enemy heroes, get a bodyguard or wait until you know where they are. So many people run around warding and die because their team mate keeps screaming ‘We need Wards’. You can guarantee, as soon as you die it’ll be ‘Stop feeding!’ swiftly followed by ‘Where are the wards?!?!’. Staying alive takes priority over warding.

And so there you have it, a basic run-through of supporting in Defense of the Ancients 2. Does anyone else have some basic tips? Any pitfalls to avoid? Let me know! And just remember, like the header picture suggests, that Carry who you’ve babysat at the beginning should be running the show later. It pays off to help them. If you enjoy winning anyways!

DotA 2 – The Beginners Pool – Sniper

Here I’ll talk about Sniper, my view on him and how I generally like to play him, this isn’t a perfect view in any respect but it works for me. I refer to and use aspects of Torte de Lini’s builds as they work very well and have helped me to hone my skills for sure, if you don’t read any further than this but still want advice, just follow the premade builds and don’t feed! I wont go over the basics of exactly what each skill does, this is under the assumption you’ve played Sniper and just want to know more. If you haven’t, or need to refresh yourself check out the page here.


Sniper is, as described by Valve in their game, a Carry and a Nuker. The nuker part of sniper is somewhat misleading. He only has one high damage skill, which is his ult that does 650 magical damage to a single target. Which, you may be thinking, sounds like a good spell to nuke with.

The problem is, it has a 2 second ‘build up’ before you can fire, during which you’re stood stationary, unable to move or do anything else. This makes it feel like less of a nuke, extremely useful for getting the final damage on a fleeing enemy, but less useful in the middle of a fight where, sometimes, you can do more damage just by right clicking. So try to avoid using the skill to initiate or in the middle of a team fight unless it is to secure a kill from an enemy fleeing the field.

The Carry side, is entirely true. Sniper, to me, is a glass cannon. Sniper can pull off impressive amounts of damage and tear down the strongest heroes, but once he’s caught he’ll struggle to survive. The key to Sniper is mobility and range.

Sniper is a hero that many favour playing the middle lane, which is definitely a viable option. Torte de Lini’s guide will give you an easy time playing middle, favouring maxing the Shrapnel skill before taking Headshot and then lastly, Take Aim.

Early Game

I prefer to take Sniper into lane, begin with Headshot for that initial mini-stun for random bursts of damage, then Take Aim to give yourself more room to fire in from afar, one level in Shrapnel for versatility, before then swapping between Take Aim, Headshot and Shrapnel. Take Aim is always my priority, giving myself that extra room to maneuvre and avoid approaching enemies. Playing within a lane, this allows me to comfortably harass enemy heroes and pick off last hits and denies, without worrying overmuch about getting caught up in an attack, as I have plenty of warning if the two heroes I’m facing off against start moving towards me. In the last set of games I’ve played, this has allowed for a comfortable lane-win whereby the enemy heroes haven’t been able to farm, and if the team is playing well has allowed the mid-lane to come in for a gank, destroying the two heroes who I’ve kept on low health.

The heroes that this method struggles against are the likes of Phantom Assassin, who can hit a long distance slow with Stifling Dagger and then close the gap with his Phantom Strike, giving his team mate time to bear down upon you. There isn’t much you can do to counter this, except to play well with your support and keep PA on low health so that she’s not confident enough to give it a go. When she’s on full health and pushing heavily, be cautious and beware a gank. Like I said, Sniper is a glass cannon, and you will feed heavily if you’re not careful.


Hopefully, by the time you’re hitting level 6 you’ll have been doing well in the lane, at this point I would have 1 point in Shrapnel, 2 points in Headshot, 2 points in Take Aim and 1 point in Assassinate. I still follow the build that Torte de Lini suggests, Ring of Aquila and Boots of Speed before moving onto Mask of Madness and Phase Boots, straight after this I go for Dragon Lance. From there it depends on who I’m facing as to what I pick next. Maelstrom is a great pick for Sniper, and I pick it up along with it’s follow-up Mjollnir in every game. If you’re facing a powerful Phantom Assassin who is farming well and causing trouble, it could be worthwhile picking up Monkey King Bar. Sniper is great at tearing down enemy carries from afar, but when that carry can evade 50% of your attacks, you wont be doing enough damage. Your output is halved. Monkey King Bar grants you truestrike, and takes away Phantom Assassin’s key skill and your worst enemy. There are few heroes out there that will get in the way of a well-played Sniper, and PA is one of them.

If you’re not up against a PA, or they’re not causing you too much trouble at the time, your next decision is Shadow Blade. Sniper has no escape mechanism to speak of, beyond throwing down Shrapnel as a slow and trying to hot-foot it away. Generally, the extra range you’ve got means in a team fight you’re far enough away from the fight that escape wont be your first thought. However, if you’re in a game where the opposition is flowing through the map picking you off consistantly then Shadow Blade is going to be a key purchase. It’s the choice between sinking money into an item that doesn’t do much for your stats, or dying so often that you can’t afford the right items. If you’re farming comfortably and your team has the situation handled, skip Shadow Blade, if you’re facing trouble then make it a priority.

If you’re happy to skip both MKB and Shadow Blade, move onto Maelstrom and then into Daedalus. Torte de Lini suggests picking up Hurricane Pike, which is a good addition but again, I don’t think the stats in the endgame are worth it if you’re not in dire need of another escape mechanism. Dragon Lance is something I sell off once I hit level 25 and can take the +100 attack range talent, meaning I can still fight from a distance but pick up an item that works better for the team, such as Desolator or Eye of Skadi.
In terms of farm, once you have Mjollnir, you can go to the dire small jungle, and farm all 3 camps including the ancients at once, allowing the lightning to jump between the creeps and very quickly and consistently gain gold with minimal danger (Unless you’re radiant, then you’re not in as much luck). If you’re on Radiant, the small jungle there is still likely to be your best shot. Jungling in both of these locations requires good warding, if your support isn’t warding that spot, think about picking it up yourself as the 60 gold spent will give you ample time to get away and allow you to farm comfortably for a good while. Depending on how fast you can clear the jungle, the lane is generally a more efficient area to farm xp and gold (as long as you get those last hits!) but it’s not always viable. As soon as you pop up on a lane alone the enemy will move to intercept and so you’ll need to plug gold into an escape, equally you will push the lane to the tower where it is even more dangerous to fight and so after a couple of creep waves you’re back into the jungle.


As you move into the endgame, you’ve hit your 20s, your team is pushing the Tier 2 and 3 towers and you’re looking to finish before you are finished, the extra range, damage and Shrapnel charges are going to come in handy. If you’ve got Monkey King Bar at this point, when you’re pushing the Tier 3 towers you are going to be able to shoot the high ground without missing, meaning you can sit back out of range of the towers and pick at enemies when there is vision. The True Strike on Monkey King Bar unfortunately doesn’t work on buildings and you will have a 25% miss chance, but even then, at this point, you should be doing upwards of 300 damage. If you still have your Mask of Madness and are comfortable risking the extra damage in-take, pop it and watch the tower burn from a distance. There is few things more satisfying than having your team sit in the low ground defending you while you destroy their T3 tower and their only option is to forfeit their high-ground advantage or allow the tower to fall.

Most likely thing to happen, is one hero will charge out to stop you and your team will annihilate him, then the rest of their team will follow giving you a 5v4 advantage. Just be ready to retreat very quickly, the games you’ll play early are unlikely to have the most communicative players and this works for the enemy aswell as your own team, but sometimes it does happen. They could be communicating very well and pop out from the high ground all at once and that will cause you trouble, your team is likely to panic, target different players and muddle it up. Keep your head clear, back away and keep your distance. If the mute from Mask of Madness has worn off, pop a Shrapnel or two down while you back away, then turn back into the fight. Target the hero who’s not popped their ult, or the one most likely to do the most damage. If it looks like your team is going to lose the fight, either get away, or if you think its safe, take out the hero most likely to chase and catch you. This is going to be Phantom Assassin, or another hero with Blink Dagger and stuns or slows. What you don’t want to do is stick around just to grab a kill to find yourself killed anyways.

As for talents I go the following route:

  • Level 10 – +15 Attack Speed
  • Level 15 – +200 Health
  • Level 20 – +8 Armour
  • Level 25 – +100 Attack Range

The attack speed allows you to tear down everything, and you’ll find the mana regen unimportant to you, the extra health and armour will keep you alive longer as you move through the midgame before the final talent allows you to get rid of your Dragon Lance and pick up an item that allows you to put more damage into the game. If you’re finding that Shrapnel is being used often and you’re always out, opt to swap the +8 armour for the -25% cooldown reduction. I try to avoid dropping the +200 health as it can make the difference between getting away clean or having a nuker drop one skill on you and wiping you out.

So that’s it from me for Sniper. Do you have any thoughts? Where do you most like to play Sniper? Have you got an item that’s a little unusual to buy on him but you think works really well? Let me know!

I wanted to create a build on the DotA website and link to it, but unfortunately they’ve temporarily taken the function down! I’ll work on it and add it to this when I can.

Defense of the Ancients 2 – Things I wish someone told me when I started.

I’ve been playing DotA 2 for years now, I’ve racked up over 1040 hours which means I’ve spent 42 complete days playing DotA. If you’ve already delved into the game, you will probably know that this doesn’t mean I’m a pro, or even necessarily good. I’ve learned a lot through the game, and I’m still learning more. It still surprises me how much better I am now than I was 2 months ago, and infinitely better than compared to a year ago (and so on, you get the point!).

DotA is a game that has quite a toxic community, and I can admit, I’ve been at fault for that. You’re stuck in a game for possibly more than an hour if you don’t want to risk an abandon, if you’re being let down by one person who keeps doing what you consider stupid things, unless you’ve the patience of a saint it will aggravate you.

As a new player, you’re the stupid one (bare with me here). It’s something I failed to realise when I came over from SMITE to begin playing DotA 2. I thought that if I’ve played one, I’ve played them all, I’d pick it up quick. So I was the toxic one who would feed and blame the team. Don’t. Be. That. Person. Learn from your mistakes. If someone shouts at you, get around the frustration and try to see the advice there. If there’s no advice in it, mute them. I’ve been known to rage at someone doing something stupid even now, I’ll admit it, but underneath the rage I’m still trying to tell you something. Yes it is a bad idea to rush under that middle tower alone when you’re level 4 and there’s two of them at level 5. It’s not going to work. Even if one of them is low health. You might not realise it, you might think that your respawn time is low enough for it not to matter, but it does. They gain experience, they gain gold, and you lose a small period of opportunity to gain both of the same. It also allows them time to do what we call ‘free-farm’ which means they’re last hitting creeps with impunity. This is bad. So listen to the rage, tune out the frustration and see if the person makes sense. It’ll help you get somewhat past the toxicity of the game. It never goes away, but the better you play the less it bothers you because you’ll know what you’re doing and understand it is purely frustration and nothing more. Water over a ducks back so to speak.

Now, on to the main mechanics. You’ll find similar information everywhere, but I’ll write this up in my way and maybe it’ll speak to someone where others haven’t.

The game breaks it’s heroes down into two basic categories. Carry and Support. These then break down into further categories of: Nuker, Disabler, Jungler, Durable, Escape, Pusher and Initiator.

Delving deeper into the game in this respect will take you into things that are a bit more advanced. Ideally, having a good team build will have a reflective aspect of all of these sub-categories, and 3 to 2 split of Carries to Supports. With one of those Supports generally acting as your ‘main’ support, picking up the majority of wards, while the other Support will be getting team-orientated items or pushing for endgame items such as Aghanim’s Sceptre or Refresher Orb

Your Carry heroes are those who will; given time, gold and experience, become your end-game destroyers. These heroes aren’t the strongest in the early game, but as they progress, get last hits and farm their XP and gold, they will become very powerful. As such, it is extremely important that you allow the Carry to take last hits, on both creeps and enemy heroes. This isn’t to say that if you think a hero is going to get away you don’t go for it, but if a death of a hero is assured and you have a skill ready to quickly shoot in and nab the kill, if you’re not a Carry, don’t do it. You’ll suffer in the end for it. When you’re in lane you’re going to be looking to keep an eye on the creeps, waiting until they’re low health, and then attacking for that last hit gold bounty. Don’t sit there in lane attacking the creep from full health to dead. This is what we call Pushing the Lane and it will force you to fight under the enemy tower. At early levels, this will be devastating if you get caught under their tower and it also means you’ve got less opportunity to harass the enemy as they can just run under the protection of their tower.

The Support class is the opposite. These are heroes who can generally do well without buying the big items. Their spells are team orientated, and while having the bigger and badder items definitely are a positive thing, you’ll want to give priority to your Carry. You’ll find in the early game, if you go for it, you’ll do a lot of damage to enemy heroes, and you’ll feel like you’re the powerful one and your Carry isn’t doing enough. It’ll push you, as a new player, to snub your team mate and get farm yourself. It’s understandable. Don’t do it. A few last hits here and there, no one will quibble about, you need items, you need gold for wards, but if you’re consistently taking what we call ‘farm’ from your Carry, then you’re giving the game away. While in the laning phase, you’ll want to deny your own creeps, look for when they’re low health, tap the ‘A’ key and click on your friendly creep. This denies most of the XP to the enemy, denies them the chance to get the gold from the creep, and also gives you a portion of the XP of that dead creep. On top of this, harass the enemy heroes, don’t chase them too far, and try to avoid standing on top of the creep lane or your team mate, but the more damage you can do to the enemy heroes, the more likely they’ll stay back away from the creeps, severely limiting their farm capability.

Key point to remember! Do not chase heroes half way around the map in the early game. You’ll be laning 2v2 in your lane, and that’s enough to keep you at a close-to stalemate. Unless you’ve managed to buy 16 wards and ward the entire map, you wont have much advanced warning of a hero from another lane making a switch to come and attack your lane (which is what we call a gank). If you allow yourself to get lured under their tower, into their jungle, or inbetween their towers as a creep wave comes up, you will be in trouble. At the very least you’ll have no friendly creeps, two enemy heroes and a creep wave coming in at you. If they’ve got any skills ready to go, you’ve got a long, long way back to protection. At the worst, they’ve coordinated this with their middle or opposite lane hero, and you’re about to be 2v3 with a fresh and ready-to-fight hero coming down on you. This is the biggest frustration when playing with newer players, that they don’t know when to back off. If a game has gone to 20 minutes with only 5 kills total, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, it just means that no one has played stupid and neither team has really got lucky.

If you and your lane-partner get caught and killed, the game is now 3v5 until you can respawn, and either teleport (wasting gold) or leg it back into the fight. That can be a very long wait when your middle hero has more than half the enemy team coming at him.

As you start to move into level 6 and upwards (and remember, if you’re in lane and level 4, chances are the middle hero has already hit level 6 and has their ultimate ready to pop, be ready for the gank), you’ll see heroes starting to move between lanes and being more fluid with where they operate. As each tower goes down, the team will move focus to the next one, until all of your Tier 3 towers are dead. Or, if you’re playing well, it will be your team doing this. Avoid using your spells on random creeps, or popping your spells randomly at enemy heroes. You want to try and keep yourself ready to fight, keep in mind how big your mana-pool is, and how much your spells cost. If you have 3 skills to use at 70, 85 and 130 mana, each with fairly long cool-downs, you’re only going to be able to use them once in a team fight. Knowing this, you only need to keep around 285 mana in reserve, so if your mana pool is 400, pop one spell off, wait for your mana to regenerate and repeat. The last thing you want is to get stuck into a fight and only being able to right-click. On the opposite of this, don’t be afraid to use a spell to scare off an enemy you think is about to challenge and you’re not in a position for the fight. Use your stun, your disable or high damage spell and run like the devil is on your heels. Try to avoid using your Ultimate unless you’re either A) Guaranteed the kill B) Your team are in-bound and will be there soon enough to have a chance to finish the job or C) Your death timer is likely to be longer than your cool-down. Your ultimate is likely to be important for your team fight unless it has a ridiculously low cool-down (Sniper for example).

When it comes to what Items to buy, I suggest you use a guide. Every single hero has a pre-built guide on the system, select it. If there is more than one option, pick the one closest to the role you’re going to play. If you’re what the game client suggests is a support player, don’t pick the guide that says ‘Carry‘, it’s possible to achieve, and works really well when done right, but being new you’re unlikely to pull it off. Equally, your team mates will be expecting you to play a certain role unless you’ve told them otherwise, and their hero picks will work around that. A player called Torte de Lini has written a guide for every hero, and they generally work really well, with good advice on how to use certain skills, or when to pick certain items. The more you learn the game, you’ll begin to pick up different items dependent on who you’re facing, but that comes with time. (Again, listen to your team mates, if you’re playing Sniper and there is a Phantom Assassin on the other side and your team mates are screaming for Monkey King Bar, pick it up! You’ll devastate her.)

Beyond that, enjoy the game, try not to feed, and always carry a teleport scroll! Don’t use it to teleport back into the fight from the fountain unless there is a fight you need to jump into, keep it for when you need to teleport to save a tower, your barracks, or escape a gank.

I will try to begin writing up my own guides and thoughts for each of the heroes from the reduced selection pool for new players over the next few weeks. First up will be Sniper, who I keep ending up with, but who can be a very versatile hero. Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions please let me know!

Middle Earth – Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War Part 1

I thought I’d start things off with a game that I’ve plugged 12 hours into recently, and it’s predecessor which took 30 hours of my time. I’ll start with the original game.

Middle Earth – Shadow of Mordor was released towards the end of 2014 and I picked it up early, being a huge Lord of the Rings fan, new games set in Middle Earth always makes me nostalgic for that first read, or the old RTS games I used to play when I was a teenager (The Battle for Middle Earth and it’s ilk).

Beware plot and game spoilers here people.

Shadow of Mordor starts off with a new hero, Talion, who is non-canonical to the original Tolkien works. Talion is a Ranger of Gondor serving at the Black Gate with his wife and child. The game sets in and out of cinematics and tutorial-like game play with orcs attacking Talion’s outpost. This is where you and your family are sacrificed by the Black Hand in a ritual intended to bring the great Elf Lord Celebrimbor’s wraith into himself. Instead, Celebrimbor instead merges with Talion and prevents his death.

Thus begins a ritual of revenge and devastation that you will reap across Mordor with the help of Celebrimbor and the increasing power you receive as he regains his memories. During game-play there are several flash-backs to information you’d only know if you are familiar with Tolkien’s posthumous publications such as the Silmarillion. You’ll come across Gollum throughout the game too, beyond that it’s all new characters beyond the name-drops.

The game play itself has a lot of things to remember, but they’re all added in over time so that just as you’ve got used to one thing, and it’s become part of your routine in combat, you get a new toy to play with. This does go some way to alleviating the repetitiveness that the game has. The game will put you into missions which involve a lot of “Go here, kill this” or “Collect this, then go here, then kill this”, the sort of filler quests you expect from World of Warcraft, but which can be acceptable when you’ve got enough decent end-game content or side-content to keep you satisfied and changing things up. I feel this is where Shadow of Mordor falls short in it’s expectations. The main plot quests are a consistent slog of going to one place, to kill a captain/warchief “for revenge” before moving on to repeat the cycle. It’s hard to invest much emotion in the story line as you’re pulled from one area of the map to another without gaining any real feeling for the mission beyond the knowledge that this is how you complete it, Talion as a character doesn’t help you really care about the death of his family, and just seems like an emotionless puppet doing as Celebrimbor tells him to. You get some respite in Torvin’s side quests, which are quite enjoyable and he’s a likable character, but there isn’t enough there to keep you entertained long-term.

The positives there are the combat, and the Nemesis system. The Nemesis system within the game takes actions that you’ve taken against the Uruk population, and remembers them. Fail to kill Oglob the Trickster, but you burned him before you died? He’ll remember that, be more powerful, and want revenge for his disfigurement. Die to a random non-entity grunt-Uruk? He’ll be promoted and remember having killed you. It adds an interesting twist to the game and makes fighting powerful captains a little more interesting in the knowledge that failure almost certainly means it will be harder next time and you will need to spend more time preparing for round 2.

The combat itself is very smooth, and will challenge you at first. Once you’ve worked your way through the plot you begin to get more and more advantages that eventually will make combat a lot easier. You will have to contend with different types of Orc, some with shields, some that you can’t just go toe-to-toe with, and pretty much every orc will have some kind of throwing weapon to hit you when you’re crowded by 30 enemies and they can’t get close enough. I feel like the developers realised they were making Talion too powerful, and thought to balance this they would just throw more and more at you in the interests of making it harder. They’re right, it is more challenging, but it’s usually easy enough to spam a set of keys until you’ve killed the cannon fodder, and then you can go after the big guys. Equally you can just run up a wall, hide out of sight for 10 seconds, then ‘Brutalize’ with a stealth attack and half your enemies will run in fear.

All in all, the game is good, but I’m not sure it deserves the critical acclaim that it received back in ’14. The game brought new things to the table, and then expanded on it with it’s second ‘act’, but I don’t think it did enough beyond that to keep a player engrossed and wanting to play more. I’ve got 30 hours in the game, but that is partly due to returning to it before the release of it’s sequel, Shadow of War, to remind myself of the game play, and on the second play through I didn’t bother to finish it. The replayability is low, and you’ll find yourself forcing your way through the last missions if you’re a completionist, and if you’re not – well – you might just give up.

I’m currently 12 hours into Shadow of War, and I’m spending more time picking up artifacts and completing side missions, will review when I’ve done more!

1 – My First Blog

I’m not one to go on and on about myself, and so this in itself is completely out of my comfort zone. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. I’m (currently) a 27 year old man, living alone in South West London. Very recently went through a bad break-up and have been looking for something, anything, to occupy myself. I stumbled across some other blogs during my late night insomnia or my mind-numbing boredom while sat around the flat and thought to myself – this could work.

So I’ve tagged the site as ‘London Gamer’ because in the shortest words, it’s what I am. I game. A lot. Some people will sit and watch TV, some people will spend their time at a bar, others watch football. I play games. A lot of people look at me strangely when I say I’ll happily spend hours in front of a screen and ask me questions: “Doesn’t it get boring?” “Don’t you get lonely?” “Why don’t you socialise more?”. Gaming to me, is one of many forms of socialising. I’ll play games with people I’ve known for months or even years, other times I’ll be gaming with and talking to someone I’ve met for the first time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to a bar, reading a book, hunkering down with Netflix as much as the next person, and dependent on how I’m feeling; even more so. There is just something inherently appealing about sitting down to play a video game, more-so if I do well (which I generally do, I’m no professional but I can play well).

So this blog will, for the most part, be about my life as a gamer. I’ll post about some of the games I play, I might even dabble and review a game here and there, looking back at old gems (Deus Ex, if you’ve not played it, do so. It’s dated and past it’s time, but it was one of the best games I remember of my childhood). Other times it’ll be talking about things I’ve done in London. I’ll review different beers (gives me an excuse to try more!), theatre shows when I get a chance to, and other events/places/restaurants etc that I’ve had the opportunity to go to.

This, in all likelihood, will be a complete waste of time as no one will even see the site, but it gives me an output for my thoughts.

If you are here, I hope you enjoy, and please give me any feedback as you see fit. I can take it!