Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor takes place in the Lord of the Rings universe but, for the most part, distances itself from the stories. There are a few cameo character appearances but they don't amount to much. The story told here is mostly its own. Talion, the main character, is a ranger whose spirit is bound to an amnesiac ghost elf. The story follows Talion's revenge after his family is murdered and discovering the mystery behind his connection to the ghost elf. Over the course of the game he will cut through crowds of Uruk(orcs), sneak through their strongholds, and manipulate their power structure to take down a few bosses.
At the center of this game, two things stand out to me, one is the power structure system. Orcs are controlled by captains and those captains are controlled by War-chiefs. In the game, this hierarchy is shown as a screen in the pause menu. The captains rove the map and can be taken out or later in the game, controlled. This gives you the ability to either work your way up the food chain by killing bodyguards of the war chiefs or pitting them against each other once you gain control of them. This feature feels very next gen, its the kind of system that developers should invest time in rather than a flashier lighting engine, at least in my opinion.
The second thing that stands out to me are the controls, or maybe just how Talion moves through the environment. You hold one button and it basically tells Talion to vault over obstacles or climb walls. This happens with a fluidity that the Assassins Creed series has aspired to but never reached, super smooth. You rarely find objects that Talion can't scale. You have the ability to mount a few different creatures in the game but moving as Talion feels so much more agile, it's a tough choice to use them.
I don't have many negative things to say about Middle Earth besides that there are a bunch of cool ideas that might need a little more glue. The missions and story felt a little disjointed at times. Also, while there are a lot of activities in this game but if you just played the story missions, it wouldn't take long to finish the game. Finally, while there are two distinct maps that you play through, the environments can look pretty sparse at times.
Shadow of Mordor has some awesome moments, hunting and fighting a giant creature called a graug with your dwarf buddy, rescuing an injured damsel in distress from a fortress(trope), and fighting through crowds of uruk 20 strong to name a few. What's really great about this game is that it gives you the tools that, if used correctly, can accomplish seemingly impossible things.