One of the things I learned very quickly in my PAX West demo of Middle-earth: Shadow of War was the value of having friends in high places. Quite literally, getting a mission's archers branded to your side is naturally game-changing.
Sure, that isn't really news, except that now you can use your shadow strike abilities to pull enemies toward you instead of just going to them. So you can absolutely pull all of the archers, all of the high-priority orc targets, and then eventually the mission boss (unless they are immune to it) up to one specific tower where your boss battle can't be interrupted. And that's glorious. Nothing like taking an army to a one-v-one duel, you know? And instead of doing a boss fight where you end up fighting a hoard of adds, this time you are the one supplying them.
Well, in a way.
Granted, much of the demo experience showed me just how much of the controls I'd forgotten, as I went about getting my butt totally kicked. Sure, I'm not the most adept gamer, especially at a convention, but I saw and played enough of the game to say with absolute certainty that if you liked Shadow of Mordor, you will love it.
If you found Mordor lacking, perhaps when it comes time to dealing with multiple enemies, well. I found Shadow of War to be more of a step in the right direction than a total fix. The enemy targeting in a massive melee scuffle can be absolutely atrocious. I repeatedly almost drained enemies I'd already branded while trying to brand new ones to my cause — because some days you just want to have all of the orcs under your own personal control.
I was in a particularly malevolent mood, and the Massive team member assigned to assisting me on my playthrough was absolutely encouraging of that. He and I had some fun.
But you can rather fluidly swap between targets while doing just basic melee attacks. It isn't as smooth as the Arkham games could be, and wasn't as easily manueverable as the original Assassin's Creed crowd-control counter attacking was, but that's alright. I do absolutely think Talion should be pretty much Middle-earth's answer to Batman, especially with the game's stealth capabilities and use of Celebrimbor's magic.
So, it still stands as something of a hack and slash that doesn't quite do the genre justice. But I absolutely enjoyed the improvements and hey, it has multiplayer. Sure, it's just Metal Gear's Forward Operating Base missions with Orcs rather than reality-bending zombie creatures. You can just never have enough orcs.