Shadow of War: Blade of Galadriel DLC Review – Does it Work Without The Nemesis System?
Stripping out the Nemesis system leaves Shadow of War feeling smaller.
If you’re looking to put a new spin on a winning formula, you probably don’t want to leave out your secret ingredient. Monolith does deserve credit for trying to make the Blade of Galadriel DLC feel like something other than just more of the same Shadow of War gameplay, but wielding Galadriel’s Light can’t hold a candle to the domination and Nemesis systems it sidelines.
Blade of Galadriel picks up after the third act, with Eltariel recovering Celebrimbor’s ring on the tower at Barad-dur and heading off to fight the remaining Nazgul on behalf of Galadriel. She’s still as bland a character as you’d expect a female elf version of Talion to be, so don’t expect any big twists, turns, or character moments from her. What few interesting moments there are come from brief appearances by Talion, though they serve only to repeat things we’ve already seen in slightly greater detail and, of course, to retread more lines from characters from the movies and books.
Light does let you pull off some flashy mass-killings.
Though Eltariel mirrors most of Talion’s abilities from the outset, she has only a handful of upgradable powers to work with, so progression is limited. Her main distinguishing feature is that, instead of dominating uruks (which she refuses to do on principle), she can blast enemies with what is effectively a damage-hose: the Light of Galadriel. Build up enough of it on a single target and they’ll be stunned, and hitting them with another blast evaporates them into glowing mist. That does let you pull off some flashy mass-killings – I like to jump into the midst of a group, set off a Light bomb attack, and then hurl Light blasts at all of them to eliminate the entire group in seconds – but it’s fairly simple and repetitive once you’ve done it a few times. Swapping the Light cone to a Light radius or adding target-chaining to Light projectiles doesn’t change it up very much.
The Light really is no substitute for the Nemesis system, which is all but absent in The Blade of Galadriel. There’s no dominating, no managing your army, no sending them on missions, no custom sieges or defenses. Most of what makes Shadow of War special is missing here, and it makes it feel like a much more conventional action game.
Nevertheless, we do get more of the seemingly bottomless supply of colorful uruks during a short series of recruitment missions in which you gather up some already-dominated allies. A crusty old archer, twin pyromaniacs, a masked assassin, and more make strong entrances in a series of quick but unique missions. Their goals are significantly different from the main game’s story missions which make for some good moments, like dodging an ice groug while you set off explosive barrels or evading a sniper’s bow as you sneak up on him. It’s disappointing that none of these missions are replayable without deleting your save and starting over.
It’s disappointing that none of these sidekicks stick around long.
It’s also disappointing that none of these sidekicks stick around long. They’re just there to bolster the defenses of a fortress for a single siege defense, and later to build up your army for one attack. Not that I was hungry for a lot more sieges after the Shadow Wars act of the main game, but here the fights played out in a noticeably more difficult way: because you’re unable to turn high-level captains to your side in the middle of the battle, things can take a bad turn more quickly. The pacing is a little better, too, in that Eltariel regains health just by holding a button for a few seconds without being hit rather than feasting on the life-essence of uruks like Talion does.
There are also a few decent boss fights against Nazgul that’re as good as any in the main game, which is to say they’re decent and at least as challenging as a tough uruk, but nothing special. When you beat them, there’s a high-quality new Nazgul origin cutscene to cap their short story off in a way that makes Blade of Galadriel feel like slightly more than an afterthought.
But most of the six or so hours is soaked up by fighting a few dozen legendary uruks to gather up new sets of legendary gear. The gear is cool and all, and is themed around powers like poison, fire, and ice, but the fights get pretty repetitive because you’re thrown into them with little fanfare – there’s not even the typical setup of interrupting a challenge or a duel or something like that. These battles can drag, too, especially when those uruks have so many resistances that virtually all you can do is chip away at them with basic attacks. And not having the option to dominate them makes those fights less interesting because there’s only one possible outcome.
Plus, if I can’t take the gear back to the main game or use it in sieges, the rewards aren’t really worth fighting for. You unlock an Eltariel skin you can use in the outside world, but the gear doesn’t come with you.