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    Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

    SCORE: 9.5/10

    Photos courtesy of Google Images

    Activision, Ubisoft, and Bethesda are all giant names in the video game industry, usually releasing multiple games yearly (except for Bethesda which releases games only every once in a while). Sometimes we can be skeptical when purchasing games from unknown companies, especially when those games belong to a big franchise. Sometimes though, franchise games can be great such as the Batman Arkham series. But most of the time, they are mediocre attempts to sell games before their movie or TV show counterpart is released. 

    Recently, Monolith studios released Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, an open world action adventure game where combat and politics (more on that later) is key. At first, I was very skeptical about this. Can a licensed game be any good? They are notorious for being awful and the last game developed by Monolith was Guardians of Middle Earth, a multiplayer online battle arena game that didn’t fare too well. I put my skepticism aside and bought the game being a huge Lord of the Rings fan. After about 16 hours invested, I haven’t had this much fun in a video game since The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

    When starting SOM, there is a brief opening scene and then you are thrown into the desolate destroyed land of Mordor. Many Lord of the Rings fans will know that Mordor is the area of Middle Earth, which is home to the evil Lord Sauron. My first concern with the game was the map itself. How can Mordor be an interesting location to explore? It’s completely destroyed and overrun by Uruk-hai, what will be visually interesting and entertaining? These questions were answered as soon as I started tackling the first few missions in the game.

    First, I realized that there are two maps within the game, not just one. The second map, which was unlocked farther on in the game, is a lush green-forested area called the Sea of Nirn. Then, I saw that even though the Mordor map is destroyed and abandoned, it was littered and populated with Uruk-hai, fortresses, captains, warchiefs, side quests, collectables, and giant beasts, the same goes for the Sea of Nirn portion. This created a diverse environment filled with many things to do and to see. 

    The lighting is brilliantly done and really makes you feel as if you are in Middle Earth, taking many queues from the Peter Jackson films. Overall, the game is very aesthetically pleasing and next-gen console owners will be pleased to have a gorgeous looking open world game at their disposal.

    The story in SOM is an interesting take on Lord of the Rings lore. You play as Talion, a ranger who was once stationed on the black gate until disaster strikes and he is executed. Here you become one with a wraith (who’s name I won’t spoil) who gives you incredible power such as teleportation, speed, archery, focus, and wraith sense, which lets you detect enemies. A simple tap of the L1 button will change you to wraith mode and holding down the L2 button lets you aim your bow.  Holding down R2 allows you to draw. 

    When aiming with the bow, you have an ability called focus, which temporarily slows time and recharges when it’s not in use. This is really helpful when picking off Uruk-hai or when aiming it at a caragor (giant tiger like beasts) so you can teleport onto it and control it. Talion himself is a skilled fighter, using his sword and dagger to dispatch enemies in a Batman style sword fight or stealthily and silently with his dagger. Combat consists of building off your multiplier, which is indicated by numbers on the left of your screen so you can pull off finishers and combos.

    When your multiplier is built up you can unleash a variety of combos, my favorite being the execution, which instantly kills an Uruk-hai near you. The combat is fast, exciting, and extremely responsive. Talion will quickly respond to any counter you do or any combo you execute, it feels a lot like the Batman Arkham series fighting, except a bit more refined and fluid. Stealth is very basic but works great and is also fun to use.

    The part of SOM that really caught my attention was the nemesis system. Trailers and gameplay footage shown before release claimed that a regular computer Uruk-hai that managed to kill you could eventually become an endgame boss and would remember you and whatever you had done to him. The political portion of this game is the Uruk-hai hierarchy. At the top we have 5 war chiefs, each one with captains as bodyguards, beneath them we have the captains. Captains have randomly generated strengths and weaknesses, personalities, names, and appearances. No captain you will encounter will be the same. The system works perfectly, causing lots of infighting amongst the Uruk-hai and captains taking each other places while you are intervening in their affairs changing them to your own needs. 

    It’s a very complex system that becomes more interesting once you gain the power to control Uruk-hai and make them do your bidding. For example, you can rank up your captain and make him a war chief or you can have him help you kill another captain or you can raise his power. The possibilities are truly vast with the nemesis system. Also, enemies have memories, remembering if they killed you or if you injured or killed them and they are still alive. This brings forth enemies that are really life like and are more than just disposable generic video game enemies. Each one is truly “alive”.

    Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor truly is an incredible game. Two open world maps, with loads of side quests, collectibles, and places to explore really add lots of replay value to the game. It has a great story and excellent combat. But the nemesis system steals the show and makes this a really unique experience. Overall, I would recommend this to Lord of the Rings fans and non-fans alike.


    Review - 'Destiny' for Playstation4

    This year has been extremely interesting in terms of games. We had three 
    extremely hyped games that were due to release. First it started with 
    Watch_Dogs by Ubisoft, a mediocre third person shooter that promised a 
    reinvention to the sandbox genre but delivered a bland sandbox world and awful 
    driving controls. Next Xbox One received the highly anticipated Titan fall, a first 
    person shooter that included a feature that allowed you to fight in giant robots 
    against each other. What sounded great at first fell short in terms of actual 
    gameplay and an attempt at a story mode. The third game that was highly 
    anticipated was none other than Destiny, the extremely highly anticipated first 
    person shooter by Halo developer Bungie and Call of Duty developer and 
    publisher Activision. What we received was a polished first person shooter with a 
    loot system like borderlands, gorgeous graphics, intense atmospheres, lackluster 
    story (or lack of), and a somewhat empty universe.
    Let’s start off with the pros, this game is absolutely gorgeous. I remember 
    playing beta and just staring at these wonderfully crafted worlds filled that 
    accurately portrayed what post – apocalyptic earth would really look like. When 
    the full game was released we got the opportunity to explore other planets 
    such as Venus, Mars, The moon, and Earth. My favorite thing about Destiny is 
    its representation of these places, it is done in such a perfect way that very few 
    games manage to capture. It takes familiar things (the planets in our solar 
    system) and transforms them in ways I’ve never seen before. When walking on 
    the moon you actually feel like you’re on the moon. You can clearly see the earth 
    and you leave footprints in the moons dust. Venus is completely reimagined as a 
    lush colonized planet that ultimately fell to the darkness, skyscrapers litter the 
    foreground as plants and vines grow all over them. Mars is a decimated landscape 
    also full of remnants of the humans who once lived there. The atmospheres are 
    incredibly well done and my favorite moments of the game are when I’m trekking 
    far below the moons surface with a tiny flashlight guiding me on my way. 
    There’s the moon... I mean the earth.
    The controls in Destiny are familiar yet streamlined. Each class will gain 
    access to a boost that allows them to glide or jump higher which can easily 
    be activated by double tapping X (On PS4 and PS3). Aiming and shooting are 
    perfect and tossing grenades is as easy as tapping R1. One stylistic choice that 
    I really enjoyed Bungie implementing is whenever you’re on planets the game 
    weapons by holding R2.
    Destiny is an MMO-RPG so multiplayer is a huge factor. Luckily multiplayer 
    works great, forming fire teams with friends is easy and joining public fire teams 
    is as easy as searching for a multiplayer PVP game. Speaking of PVP, Destiny has a 
    brilliant PVP mode. All your skills and guns get transferred over from the story 
    mode so if you find a gun you really like while playing PVE you can use it in PVP. 
    Sometimes though I feel like some players have guns that are extremely over 
    powered and even though level differences are ignored, weapon power stays the 
    same. This can lead to some pretty frustrating game where a level 20+ player has 
    a weapon does much more damage than yours. Even though in PVP everyone has 
    the same HP and shield, their weapon still deals more damage decreasing your 
    health and shield much faster than you can decrease theirs. 
    My personal favorite feature of Destiny is the strikes. Each planet has one 
    strike except for Mars, which has a Play Station exclusive strike “Dust Palace”. 
    Strikes consist of 3 players going into a dungeon and clearing the objectives while 
    fighting off enemies. While the objectives aren’t very varied they usually consist 
    of defend your position for a certain amount of time, continue, defend your 
    position for a certain amount of time, continue, defeat overpowered monster at 
    the end. While this may seem tedious to many players, others will find it fun to 
    work together with friends or strangers and complete these strikes. I personally 
    love them because I like to repetitively do things to get better loot in video 
    games. Although the strikes on the planets are leveled according to the planets 
    levels (for example, the strike on earth is leveled to 10 and the strike on Venus is 
    leveled to 14) there is a strike playlist game mode, which comes in 4 different 
    levels, choose your corresponding level and you’ll be placed in a random strike 
    the game offers leveled to your corresponding level. You won’t need to repeat the 
    same strikes over and over again with enemies far below your level and receiving useless loot.
    Destiny is an ambitious game that promised a lot but didn’t deliver on 
    everything. Don’t get me wrong though, Destiny is still an extremely fun game 
    that will eat away your time. It’s flawed loot, confusing story, and sometimes-
    unfair PVP can be fixed with some patches that will help make the game a better 
    experience. Overall Destiny is a unique experience that shouldn’t be passed up on 
    especially if you’re looking for a great next gen title.
    Score – 8.5/10

    2014 Art Show

    Photos by Victoria Quintero '15/Story by Vitor Pagano '16

    The 2014 Palmer Trinity Art Show was another huge success, with students showcasing work from multiple mediums.

    Students were also recognized for excellence in various categories. Ryan Chang '16 won an award for best painting. "It's hard to feel that I won," he said. "There were so many other great pieces."

    Art teachers also enjoyed the opportunity to show student work. "I wish we had more opportunities to exhibit art on campus," art teacher Lisa Colandrea said.

    Art teacher Tilly Strauss echoed Colandrea's sentiments. "We need a permanent gallery," she said. "There's really great talent at Palmer Trinity, and it's hard to select what pieces to include in the show."

    - Contributed by Alex Salgado '14 and Joseph Chao '14



    Grudge Match Review

    By Alex Salgado '14


    Wolf of Wall Street Review

    By Vitor Pagano '16

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