This is a game where you can spend dozens of hours wandering around, killing orcs, and essentially achieve nothing. There are multiple types of secondary missions that will go on forever, independent of the main story. These will allow you to progress your character, gain experience for abilities, Mirian for attributes, and runes for weapons, becoming stronger, but with no impact on the main campaign.
This might seem like the standard sandbox fare, and that's exactly what it is, a massive playground for murder in increasingly creative ways. It's also exceptionally fun, considerably more entertaining than Arkham City (to which this game owes so much).
What makes it so good is the fact that it manages to blend multiple mechanics without feeling bloated. You can play it all stealthily, or just go balls out and duke it with a hundred uruks simultaneously. Of course, you can also die, and you should be murderized at least half a dozen times. In fact, if you get bored with the same weak orcs, just die a lot, because with each death, the enemies delivering the killing blow become stronger. Each failure increases enemy difficulty.
This is gonna sting, innit?
That, in a nutshell is the nemesis system. Orcs remember you, and they progress through the ranks by killing you, gaining new immunities, attacks, and shedding weaknesses. Empty spots are filled by new orcs, and they will constantly fight for control. Uruk Warchief's might have duels between one another, hold feasts, execute lesser kin, and try to get on with their lives. You can intervene in all of them, and spoil the fun for everyone, or get yourself splattered in the process.
You see, Talion & the wraith possessing him are immortal, each time they die, they're teleported to the closest beacon (Towers that open a part of the map). This mechanic alone gives you a sensation of power, not derived from killing scores of enemies, but from the level of control you have above them.
It also feels exceptionally entertaining when you lose said control, and you have a powerful Warchief hunting you.
Here, lemme help you with that
As I previously mentioned, the combat is heavily inspired by the Arkham series, but itts made to feel a lot more fluid and versatile. Alongside your ranger nature, fighting with the sword and dagger, you also benefit from the Wraith possessing you, which grants you a new type of vision, a spectral bow to shoot orcs from afar, teleportation and even the ability to brand (mind control) enemies.
Speaking of which, remember that powerful Warchief hunting you? Why not use his own men against him, while you sit perched atop a wall and watch as scores of Orcs are slaughtered one by one, as his life slowly, but surely goes down. The mind-control ability literally changes the way you play the game, because it allows you to control everyone and pit them against said Warchief, and then brand him as well.
Often, there's a clear winner when Uruks challenge one another
Lastly, there's the Stealth system, shamelessly taken from Assassin's Creed. While you don't have any benches or groups of people to blend in, you do have the same murder-bushes, the same running / jumping / killing wahey free-movement, and even the tower-leap is similar to the aptly dubbed Leap of Faith. Unfortunately the AI is kinda blind, and will not see you skulking around. Not until you start screaming in elven and burn their face off.
There is a lot to do in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, with dozens of side-missions, alongside the primary campaign. You might spend dozens of hours trying to fill up the lore library, or looking for all Ithildin pieces, just so that another important piece of story content is unlocked.
That is a pretty . . . thing
Whatever I can use to describe Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, dull or repetitive is not among them, even though 80% of the time you will spend it by killing someone, preparing to kill someone, skulking around, running away, or just branding everything that speaks with a cockney accent.