It’s a new year, and with it comes the first DLC for my personal game of the year of 2017, Middle-earth: Shadow of War. This DLC, titled Blade of Galadriel, puts you in the role of the elven assassin Eltariel, the titular “Blade of Galadriel”. I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but if you have not yet beaten the main campaign for Shadow of War and haven’t seen the first ending before the Shadow Wars chapter, then proceed with caution. Taking place immediately after the pre-Shadow Wars final battle, Eltariel is commanded by her mistress, Lady Galadriel herself, to take up the new Ring of Power once again and to slay the newest prospective member of the Nazgul (those who have reached the first ending of the main game would know who I’m talking about). Afterwards, Eltariel sets out to fight against a new threat (sort of) that seeks to conquer all of Mordor and take full command of its Orc armies.
In order to accomplish this quest, Eltariel must go through the same regions featured in the main game to recruit more Orcs to her cause. However, unlike when controlling Talion/Celebrimbor in the main game, you cannot dominate Orcs in this DLC (it’s not that Eltariel lacks the ability to do so, she simply refuses to use the new Ring of Power in that fashion). At the very least, it is still possible to dominate the beasts of Mordor: the Caragors, Graugs, and Drakes. Anyway, Eltariel decides to recruit new Orc allies the old-fashioned way, by helping them accomplish their own goals, which usually entail helping them destroy their enemies or helping them remove certain obstacles. Each region also contains a number of side-missions where Eltariel must battle against new Legendary Orc captains in order to reclaim Legendary weapons and armor sets, namely new daggers, bows, armor, cloaks, and runes for her light jewel. These new Legendary sets are the only loot that can be acquired in this DLC. Unlike in the main game where Talion would get new weapons and armor every time an Orc captain met his grisly end, Eltariel only has access to her default gear and the Legendary gear she can acquire in the side-missions. Killing regular Orc captains in the different regions simply gets you more of the other new item in this DLC: light gems. Similarly to the gems Talion used in the main game, these light gems can be affixed to Eltariel’s weapons and armor to grant her with extra boosts for critical hit damage, health recovery, and light magic potency.
Don’t expect to spend much time on Nemesis Missions (Orc duels, ambushes, raids, etc.) in this DLC; while they are featured, there are never more than just a couple of them active in each region at one time. Plus, you’ll normally be going in blind since available intel on Orc captains’ strengths and weaknesses is rather scarce thanks to Eltariel’s insistence on not using her ring to dominate Orcs. Also, there are only a couple of fortress defense/siege missions in Blade of Galadriel, which I’m sure will be fine for most gamers given the number of those we had to deal with in the main game’s Shadow Wars chapter.
Now let’s go over the newer features for this DLC in more detail. While Eltariel controls the same as Talion, her actual abilities are rather different. Using the same jewel she used in the main game known as the Light of Galadriel, which is now enhanced by the new Ring of Power, Eltariel has access to a number of light-based abilities that let her blind her opponents to make them more vulnerable, heal herself and her allies, and even turn invisible. Aside from the aforementioned ability to dominate beasts, some of Talion’s abilities from the main game carry over to Eltariel thanks to her possession of the new ring, including detonating fire pits, being able to shoot enemies from midair, chaining multiple stealth kills, etc. Furthermore, the different Legendary gear sets she can acquire all grant her with other special abilities that Talion was able to use in the main game, like immediately killing Orc grunts through well-timed counters, freezing enemies solid, unleashing a fiery shockwave, and more. Eltariel’s abilities and armor sets, also like in the main game, are upgradeable. Although Eltariel does gain new abilities after acquiring enough experience, she doesn’t technically level up, though that doesn’t affect the gameplay at all. In the main game, all Talion’s level did was affect his ability to dominate Orcs (he couldn’t dominate Orcs that were a higher level than him), and given that Eltariel does not dominate Orcs in the DLC, she therefore doesn’t need a level.
But in order to keep things balanced, the Orc enemies are all more or less within the level 20 to 30 range. However, things weren’t always so “balanced” with some of the Legendary Orcs possessing tons of invulnerabilities and almost no weaknesses. There was one case in particular where a Legendary Orc was just ridiculously overpowered. He was immune to damn near EVERYTHING: stealth attacks, execution attacks from the front, regular frontal attacks (he was a Defender), arrows, light attacks, ice, poison, and beasts; he also very quickly adapted to me vaulting over him. His only “weakness” was fire, and even that did relatively little damage to him. Needless to say, killing him was quite the chore and required me whittling his health down by leading him to several explosive barrels and Morgul fly nests, among other somewhat cheap tactics.
Overall, Blade of Galadriel is a bit more of the same as far as gameplay goes. The main mission can be beaten very quickly, though making it a point to collect all the Legendary gear can easily double your time with the DLC, but even then you can beat it within 6 hours. Eltariel’s different abilities do make things a bit more interesting, and the story was actually pretty good, even though the only worthwhile parts were the intro and the final scenes, including the actually fun boss fights they featured. I should also mention that even further blasphemous liberties are taken with regards to the backgrounds of a couple of the Nazgul, so once again, Lord of the Rings purists should prepare themselves for more outrage. After seeing how this DLC ends though, I must say that I’m rather curious as to whether or not there will possibly be a third game in the series or maybe just a standalone expansion that will fully close things out. However, there is still one more DLC to go, The Desolation of Mordor, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things end with that one.
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 6th February 2018