Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Middle-earth: Shadow of War Game Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Brutally violent fantasy focused on pop culture franchise.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 18 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Straightforward good-versus-evil fantasy tale, with undercurrents of love, trust, wariness, revenge. Some philosophical commentary over "good of many" versus "good of few."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Talion is a good guy fighting to save free races of Middle-earth from death and slavery, but his solution for every problem is killing.

Ease of Play

Controls are easy for experienced players, but combat is hard, with no option to reduce difficulty. Enemies that defeat you grow stronger with each win.


Nearly constant combat against humanoid orcs, other creatures. Fighting involves brutal medieval-style warfare with swords, daggers, bows. Heads are chopped off, a body is cut in half, and blackish blood frequently gushes through the air. Slow-motion effects for executions highlight gory details.


Features characters and settings popularized in books and film. Microtransactions involving real-world money were part of the game at launch but have been permanently removed as of July 2018. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to orc "grog," an extremely potent, potentially lethal intoxicant.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Middle-earth: Shadow of War is an action role-playing game (RPG) focused almost entirely on brutal, bloody combat involving swords, daggers, and bows and arrows. Talion, who fights the good fight against evil armies of orcs to save the free races of Middle-earth, spends nearly all of his time engaged in brawls against multiple foes, using vicious attacks to lop off heads and other body parts, sometimes violently executing enemies in slow motion. He's a good guy, but his only solution to every problem is to kill the creatures at its root. It's also a hard game, with enemies getting stronger rather than weaker if they defeat Talion. Parents should be aware that while this game originally incorporated microtransactions that let players buy items using real-world money, they were removed as of July 2018. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byDave W. October 15, 2017

I thinks it is 10 and up

This is because there is violence but not as much as the first one and there is slaves. I believe that this game would allow children to see that you should not... Continue reading
Adult Written byBuffetBoar October 19, 2020


I've read some comments, and I know from owning both games that Shadow of War ≠ Shadow of Mordor. It is different. The game you are reviewing currently is... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bySkyGod February 15, 2020

Fun and violent fantasy game for Lord of the Rings fans

Firstly, I should say that this game is the second in a series of Middle-Earth games, with the first game being Shadow of Morder. Playing Shadow of Morder first... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLemonSheep January 25, 2018

Gory hack and slash fails in comparison to its predecessor

Shadow of War is packed full of gore, severed limbs and brutal sword combat. You play as a ranger, following the life of the character from the first game (Tali... Continue reading

What's it about?

The follow-up to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, MIDDLE-EARTH: SHADOW OF WAR continues the story of Talion, a ranger whose soul is bonded to that of the dead elf lord Celebrimbor. The pair hack and slash their way through seemingly endless orc armies, which are rallying and threatening to overthrow human cities. Action is set on a series of open-world maps teeming with enemies. As players journey through the world to carry out quests to progress the story, they encounter not just minions, but also captains and war chiefs, unique and extremely powerful orcs with specific strengths and weaknesses that can be revealed only by interrogating their followers. Defeating these enemies earns players experience and loot in the form of armor and weapons, but losing to them causes the enemies to grow in power, making them harder to beat the next time they're encountered. Talion's strength slowly grows as well, as he levels up, learns new skills, equips better gear, and gathers new allies, which he can deploy either as bodyguards or as castle defenders. Success depends on players knowing their own skill and ability, learning the strengths and weaknesses of their enemies, and deciding wisely when to take on foes.

Is it any good?

Monolith Productions' fantasy-action RPG sequel is fun but falls just short of being truly great. Middle-earth: Shadow of War manages to re-create the atmosphere of the films (if not the books) that inspired it. Its generic fantasy story isn't that compelling, but characters like the mysterious spider woman Shelob and the likable shield maiden Idril capture the magic of the novels. And the beautifully animated brawling combat, though it gradually grows repetitive, can be an absolute blast, making it seem believable that one man possessed of an elf spirit could counter and carve his way through endless orc armies. The Nemesis system -- which gives many powerful orcs distinct personalities and makes each fight against them a challenging grudge match -- has been subtly refined, forcing players to be even more strategic in preparing for and choosing their battles against the most bloodthirsty foes. And the process of building Talion's group of followers to hold back the forces of Sauron is both complex and rewarding.

All of this said, the sequel carries over some problems from the original -- and introduces a couple of new ones. The world lacks the detail and personality of similar games, such as those in the Assassin's Creed and Batman: Arkham series. And movement through the environment -- including climbing and leaping -- isn't as fluid and natural as it is in those games. It's easy to miss a precision jump onto a suspended line, or accidentally climb up a tower at the wrong angle. The presence of microtransactions serving as progression aids was also a misstep at launch, though this feature was removed months after release following player complaints. There's a ton of fun to be had wading into armies of orcs, and if that's all you're looking for, then Middle-earth: Shadow of War could be one of the most entertaining games you play all year, especially if the designers keep making further tweaks to sand off the game's rougher edges.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in the media. The focus of Middle-earth: Shadow of War is exhilarating combat, but would the thrills be any less if the developers eliminated the blood and gore?

  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War once incorporated microtransactions that let players pay for faster progress. Do you think microtransactions should exist in games that aren't free to play? If consumers complain about microtransactions in games, do you think more developers will include them to make money, or will they leave them out to please players?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate