Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor accessibility review

Josh Straub7 minute read

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a new IP by Monolith that makes Mordor from The Lord of the Rings come alive with the Nemesis system.

This review was conducted on the Xbox One. Let’s be clear. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor’sdisability accessibility, or lack thereof, reflects both that it’s a new IP and a third person action game.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is Talion’s, the protagonist, quest for revenge against those who brutally murdered him and his family. Talion lives on after death alongside an elven wraith. Both man and elf journey across Mordor looking for answers and revenge.

The game invites the player into Mordor and its orc army with the Nemesis system responding to the player’s actions. The Nemesis system consists of the Captains and War Chiefs who all have individual strengths, weaknesses, and personalities that the player must uncover in order to win the fight. A powerful Captain wielding a poisoned weapon and a band of followers may be nearly impossible to defeat in a frontal assault but dies instantly in a well-executed stealth kill.

Talion is already dead. A fatal hit only results in Talion resurrecting at a nearby Forge Tower and Talion is free to hunt down the orc who dealt the killing blow. However, the Uruk who killed Talion is promoted from a nameless orc to a Captain or to a more powerful Captain or even into a War Chief for their accomplishment. Mordor lives on after Talion’s death and incorporates his demise into the land. Travelling the open world always carries the threat that wandering into an enemy encampment or patrol could result in a sudden death. The game invites the player into Mordor and its orc army by using the Nemesis system to build a living world shaped by the player.

Disability accessibility pros and cons are centered on the layered gameplay. The visual information and the combat commands are loaded onto the screen and into the controller. While the variety of visual cues results in a game accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing, the same visual cues are a mixed bag of accessibility for players with low vision. For players with fine motor disabilities, combat maps multiple actions that are differentiated by a tap or hold of the button to nearly every button on the controller but only provides adjusting the aim or movement sensitivity as the customization options.

For deaf and hard of hearing players, the game is largely accessible. Subtitles are provided for almost all of the spoken dialogue with the exception of the orcs’ ambient speech. The subtitles even include notations for conversational sounds such as singing (Gollum’s song is a high point in the game) or yelling. Additionally, upon encountering a Captain or War Chief the game pauses and zooms on the enemy ensuring that the player knows the available information about the enemy who then shouts a taunt at the player. In a happy surprise, the enemy’s dialogue is subtitled. Yet, the subtitle text is small and white which is at times difficult to read.

The visual cues are initially overwhelming but ultimately provide the needed information. For example, in an enemy stronghold a single orc will run to sound the alarm for reinforcements and an icon above the orc’s head identifies the orc sounding the alarm as well as whether or not the alarm has been triggered. Learning the visual cues provides access to a wealth of information such as locations of nearby enemies, roaming monsters, and flora needed for health as well as combat information such as whether the player was spotted, the player’s last location when spotted, the locations of Uruk Captains, whether enemies are under the player’s control and more.

The vast amount of visual information has pros and cons for players with low vision. Talion can enter in a Wraith World due to his elven Wraith companion. In the Wraith World, all types of enemies are distinctly outlined in a light color against the stark black backdrop. Enemies are readily identifiable in the stark contrast and the mode shows not only enemies in the player’s line of sight but enemies behind walls, in foliage, and otherwise out of sight. Additionally, herbs are highlighted for a quick find in the middle of a battle in order to replenish health.

At the same time much of the visual information requires differentiation based on color. In the Wraith World stock enemies are blue, enemies with intel are green, player controlled enemies are blue, quest specific enemies are in yellow with a circle above their heads, Captains/War Chiefs are in red with an R signifying that pushing down the Right Analog Stick opens up the available strengths and weaknesses of the enemy.

The most difficult visuals are the mini map and menu text. The mini map has repeating icons that differ based on color with the small icons and text that are hard to read. The menu for the Nemesis system includes tiny icons such as a small white triangle for nearby enemies, a red triangle for the targeted enemy, a red X for enemies who’ve killed the player, and a blue glow for enemies branded by the player. The blue glow continues in-game and quickly identifying player controlled enemies during combat is challenging. Additionally, the menu isn’t voiced but a side quest for artifacts includes a story behind each artifact that are professionally voiced.

For fine motor disabilities, the third person action based gameplay combined with combat that requires mastering complex controls and no controller customization results in a largely inaccessible game.

There is no formal death, only resurrection, and the majority of fights includes a Last Chance option that lets the player survive the fatal blow by pushing the Left Analog Stick in a displayed direction then hitting the correct face button. Additionally, at the game’s midpoint players can “brand” all enemies and monsters which allows the player to build a personal army.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor requires two handed controls and the use of nearly every input option on the controller. Direct combat is oft compared to the Batman Arkham and Assassin’s Creed franchises with an attack, stun, counter, and dodge available on the face buttons while flicking the Left Analog Stick in the direction of the attack. Kill streaks open up two button combinations for an instant execution or crowd control blast but the combination must be successfully triggered before the kill streak is lost. The player can focus on the preferred gameplay of the sword, the dagger, or the bow. But mission types and boss battles often require a specific gameplay type.

The combat steadily increases in complexity throughout the course of the game. For example, simply firing charged shots from the bow requires toggling the Wraith World with the Left Bumper, aiming with the right joystick, holding the Left Trigger to charge the shot and firing with the Right Trigger. Time does slowdown in this mode with upgrade options to increase the length of time but the time slowdown remains limited. Additionally, special attacks that provide 15 seconds of a fully powered weapon must be triggered by pushing in both analog sticks.

Overall the game is accessible for deaf and hard of hearing gamers, somewhat accessible low vision, and inaccessible for players with fine motor disabilities. The variety of visual identifiers allows deaf and hard of hearing players to depend on their eyes rather than their ears. For low vision, the Wraith World shows the presence of all nearby enemies as lightly colored profiles against a black backdrop but the overall UI requires identifying small icons with many differentiated based on color. Gamers with fine motor disabilities are largely excluded from the game, even with the lack of finite death, due to complex combat with no layout customization. For the disabled players who can access the game, Midde-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is full of organic surprises as the world responds to the player’s actions.

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible

Visual Rating: Partially Accessible

Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible

Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Released For: Xbox One, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

ESRB Rating: M

GameInformer Score: 8.25


– Wraith World provides sharp contrast for locating all enemies, including those behind walls and in foliage. 

– Icons are small. 

– Icons are at times differentiated only by color. 

– In-game mini map and map accessed by menu difficult to read. 

Fine Motor

– No formal death. 

– Last Chance feature provides an option to survive a fatal blow.

– Branded enemies fight on the player’s behalf. 

– No controller customization.

– Combat requires complex controls that use both hands simultaneously as well as Quick Time Events.

– Last Chance feature doesn’t apply to all enemies and requires a Quick Time Event with the Left Analog Stick and a face button.


– Subtitles include conversational audio cues. 

– A lot of gameplay information is provided visually.

– The game slows down and identifies on screen Captains and War Chiefs.

Subtitles are small and at times difficult to read. 

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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