Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is set between the events of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The Ring of Power is supposedly at Bilbo, and the Necromancer fled Dol Guldur. There's word that Sauron has returned to Mordor, and you, Talion a Gondor ranger atop the Black Gate, will come face to face with Sauron's echelon group, neither of which are Orcish in nature.
They kill your family, you, supposedly in order to summon an elf-lord. He chooses to use you as its host, and keeps you in limbo, alive but dead. With newfound powers, you start plotting revenge.
Spoiler Alert! Turn back now, before it's too late!
The story isn't fantastic. It's as straightforward as it gets, and except one small twist (unsurprising one too), there's nothing to be had. If you're looking for a good story, you might not be satiated by this.
They're smiling. Hope nothing bad happens to them!
However, there's one important bit, one that lore-fans might find worthy, the reason I also slapped the Spoiler Alert there. You see, the elf-lord is actually Celebrimbor, Smith of the Second Age, maker of the Rings of Power, trapped and tortured by Sauron, and in the game's universe, forced to perfect the One Ring.
Of course, Celebrimbor doesn't remember anything about his past, and requires your aid to recover his memory. As you progress through the story, you get snippets of a much more interesting past, explaining who the Elf is, how he is tied to Sauron, and to you.
>Sauron and Celebrimbor being best-buds
Surprisingly enough, other than the rather spectacular lore pieces they worked with, the rest feels shallow. I find it underwhelming that the world is not as well developed as it could be. I would have liked to interact with the characters I meet freely, maybe get a taste of Middle Earth in other ways, than knife to the face. I swear that wasn't on purpose.
There's a refugee camp that you never get to explore, a Dwarf hunting in Mordor that you never get to share some leisure time, and even a keep in the Sea of Nurn that you cannot visit without a ticket from the plot fairy.
Lastly there's Gollum, who makes his mandatory appearance, because whenever the One Ring is mentioned, someone has to say "Filthy Bagginses!" Sadly, his presence feels token to say the least, even though he's a welcome reprieve from murdering orcs.
I may be heading in rambling territory, aren't the orcs missing something? I know they're supposed to be just evil, evil, bad monsters, but maybe I want to get to know them better, listen to some of their songs, see what they eat, beliefs, aspirations; you know, treat them like an anthropologist discovering a new population. Though that analogy kinda falls apart considering what Talion does with the Orcs.