When discussing immersive open-world adventures, it’s hard not to think about The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Both games are critically acclaimed with a massive following, and both are among the best in the genre. However, players looking to get into open-world games might have trouble deciding between the two. This is why we’ve decided to compare both games, to answer the eternally burning question. Shadow or Mordor or Skyrim, which game is better?
Shadow of Mordor will be better suited for players looking for a fast-paced action adventure with great emphasis on combat and little emphasis on world immersion and exploration. At the same time, Skyrim is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It will appeal most to players who love exploring and creating open-ended gameplay and combat tactics. Skyrim is an absolute winner in terms of sandbox features, exploration, and crafting, but it falls short in terms of combat & story. At the end of the day, it’s up to your individual tastes.
Now that we’ve answered which game is more suited to an average gamer, it’s time to analyze why. We’re going to compare the gameplay, combat, visuals, and story of both games so you can see why we came to our conclusion. If you’re interested in more, stay with us and keep reading!
Skyrim vs. Shadow of Mordor: Gameplay
We’re gonna start out the comparison with the gameplay portion since it’s objectively the most important thing.
Skyrim is an action RPG that puts great emphasis on the sandbox features of the world. You are able to explore every nook and cranny while distracted by numerous quests, both important and unimportant in nature.
The game has an incredibly open-ended combat system that focuses on no play style in particular and gives you absolute freedom in terms of how you will customize and level your character. It features a nonlinear narrative structure that allows players to choose their own path and shape their character’s destiny. Players can engage in real-time combat using a variety of weapons, magic spells, and ranged attacks.
The best part about Skyrim and why it’s played all these years after release is that it allows you to tailor your adventure. You have absolute freedom to play however you want.
On the other hand, Shadow of Mordor is s an action-adventure game. And while it’s set in an open world, the world has many more constraints than Skyrim’s. The game blends stealth, combat, and exploration elements to deliver an immersive gameplay experience.
Players assume the role of Talion, a ranger with a tragic past who is bound to an elf wraith named Celebrimbor. Together, they seek revenge against Sauron and his forces that have taken over Mordor. The game offers much less freedom than Skyrim, but for some players, this is irrelevant.
Shadow of Mordor combines third-person melee combat, stealth takedowns, and ranged attacks. Players have access to a wide array of abilities, weapons, and supernatural powers granted by Celebrimbor, which can be upgraded and customized as the game progresses. Combat encounters are fluid and fast-paced, with players using a combination of swordplay, counter-attacks, archery, and magical abilities to take down enemies and execute impressive finishing moves.
Since gameplay is not something that can be, in large part, objectively judged, both games will get the point here. Some players might feel overwhelmed by Skyrim’s scope and open-ended nature and might opt out for a more “closed” experience that SoM offers, and vice versa. This is why both games are winners in this category.
Shadow of Mordor 1: Skyrim 1
Open World & Exploration
If one thing Skyrim is famous for, it’s the massive map. Skyrim is the perfect sandbox open world that allows you to discover over a hundred locations ranging from Nordic ruins to abandoned Dwemer underground cities. However, there are a plethora of unmarked locations as well, hiding secrets, easter eggs, and treasures in general. Skyrim likewise has incredibly diverse biomes ranging from snow-capped mountains to ice-covered seas and wide plains. There are countless hidden locations, side quests, and points of interest scattered throughout the world, waiting to be discovered.
Skyrim offers a variety of exploration-based activities, such as hunting wildlife, gathering resources, and engaging in random encounters with creatures and NPCs.
Shadow of Mordor’s open world is not as large and extensive as Skyrim’s. The game offers much fewer locations to discover, and the diversity of biomes is not as obvious as in Skyrim. The exploration aspect of the game may feel somewhat limited when compared to other massive open-world games. Still, you are able to roam freely and uncover hidden collectibles, side quests, and challenges. Expansive exploration was never the primary goal of SoM, and it shows.
Skyrim’s map is clearly bigger, with more things to explore. Due to that, the point goes to Skyrim.
Shadow of Mordor 1: Skyrim 2
Both Skyrim and Shadow of Mordor have truly detailed lore, but only Shadow of Mordor is inspired by the great works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
You play Shadow of Mordor as Talion, a ranger stationed at the Black Gate of Mordor. The game is set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Talion’s peaceful life is ruined when Sauron’s forces attack the Black Gate, led by the Black Hand of Sauron and a group of powerful captains known as the Black Captains. Talion is brutally murdered along with his family but is mysteriously resurrected by a wraith named Celebrimbor, a long-dead Elf Lord.
Throughout the game, you will encounter various factions, including Uruk captains and war chiefs who serve as Sauron’s commanders. The Nemesis System plays a central role in the story, as Talion’s actions shape the hierarchy and dynamics among these enemies, leading to personal vendettas and rivalries. It’s an overall great story made even better if you’re a fan of the books behind the game.
Skyrim, on the other hand, has a story, but most players criticized it for its lack of depth and length. In Skyrim, you take on the role of the prophecized Dragonborn, who is supposed to stop an ancient evil from resurrecting and quite literally devouring the world. However, the main story is only a fraction of Skyrim’s quest as you will be able to work with various factions, you will be able to take part in the Civil War and take part in treasure hunts that involve malevolent Daedric Lords.
Skyrim’s main story is short and shallow overall, offering little excitement compared to the previous installments in the franchise. This is a shame since Skyrim has enough lore to cover dozens of installments.
Due to a better story and more focus on it, Shadow of Mordor gets the point here.
Shadow of Mordor 2: Skyrim 2
Combat & Difficulty
Skyrim has open-ended combat, which means that you are not limited to a single class. Instead, you level skills that you deem important. A vast combination of builds is available with three major archetypes, such as in other similar games, mage, warrior, and stealth archer. Players can choose from a wide range of weapons, including swords, axes, bows, and magic staves, each with its own unique feel and playstyle.
Different weapon types offer varied attack speeds, damage outputs, and special abilities. Magic spells cover a broad spectrum of elements and effects, enabling players to unleash destructive fireballs, summon creatures, heal themselves, or utilize utility spells.
Still, Skyrim’s combat is criticized for being flat, as there are no combos that you can build upon, as in other action RPGs. In terms of difficulty, you can adjust it at any time choosing from 5 major settings ranging from very easy to legendary. The overall difficulty of combat encounters in Skyrim can vary depending on several factors, such as the player’s character build, equipment, and enemy scaling.
Shadow of Mordor’s combat is fast-paced, action-oriented, and heavily focused on melee combat with a variety of weapons, including swords, daggers, and bows. One of the standout features of Shadow of Mordor’s combat is the so-called “Freeflow” system, which draws inspiration from games like the Batman: Arkham series. It allows you to seamlessly move between enemies, unleashing a flurry of attacks, counters, and dodges.
One more important system that needs to be mentioned is Nemesis System. The game generates a hierarchy of enemy captains and war chiefs, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits requiring players to learn their individual weaknesses, exploit their vulnerabilities, and strategize their approach to defeat them successfully.
In terms of combat difficulty, it’s adjustable and can depend on several factors, including your own skills and your build. It can be challenging at times. Luckily there are plenty of leveling options available, so you can always be on equal grounds.
I’m certain that while Skyrim’s combat system offers more freedom, many players enjoy fact-paced actions with combos more, so this point goes to Shadow of Mordor.
Shadow of Mordor 3: Skyrim 2
Replayability and mods
This is a category where Skyrim will objectively always be an absolute winner. It has among the biggest and most active modding communities in the world, offering a variety of mods suited to change, modify & improve almost any aspect of the game. From quests to mechanics to items and graphics, there are no limits. This is what extended Skyrim’s lifespan for so long, and the game is still actively played almost 12 years after it was released.
Shadow of Mordor does have a modding community too, but it’s much smaller in scale with limited mods. It has great replayability but is nowhere near that of Skyrim.
Shadow of Mordor vs. Skyrim: What to Choose?
It’s simple, if you’re looking for an immersive action RPG oriented toward exploration with absolute freedom on how to play and what to play, go for Skyrim. Especially if the story is not important to you, if you’re looking for fast-paced action with several refined combat systems, go for Shadow Of Mordor.