I Don’t Know Why I’m Excited For Shadow Of Mordor
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was revealed at the end of last month with an eight minute gameplay trailer. Right now, it’s a game that is set between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, it’s open world and it looks suspiciously familiar to Assassin’s Creed and Batman.
It does sound good on paper though.
Watching the gameplay, however, didn’t exactly blow my mind. It looked cool, but nothing that screamed “buy this now.” Actually, aside from the fact that the protagonist Talion is half-human and half-wraith, and the Nemesis System, there isn’t a whole lot to be quaking in your boots for.
Yet watching the gameplay demonstration just got me excited for the game. And I’m not quite sure why, since excitement for games is a thing I keep in constant check, and barely ever get hyped until I’ve actually played something.
That’s the cynical road of a critic and someone who plays too many games, isn’t it?
If I have to venture a guess, I would say that what I like about Shadow of Mordor derives from the fact that I’m somewhat of a sucker for licensed games with potential. I think to some degree many fans are.
I think we’re all so sick of the cash grab, movie-knock off, low quality tripe that you wouldn’t even give a kid to play, that when something comes along that genuinely looks playable and decent things tend to be a little overly positive. I think that’s part of what I’m experiencing here.
But going further I thought of another reason. We so often like to compare games and swap back and forth between innovation or refinement, that it can get a bit confusing as to what is actually required of a game. I’d say a general rule of thumb is that either is fine as long as the quality is good and there is some evidence of freshness or unique identity. After all, if you can’t create something that is yours, then what’s the point?
That got me thinking. Shadow of Mordor looks like it was heavily inspired by Assassin’s Creed and Batman. Initially a lot of us saw that in a negative way, and still do. But on paper isn’t that a kick-ass combination? If a licensed game is genuinely making the effort, wouldn’t you want it to take inspiration from actually great games? Barring Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Assassin’s Creed III from that equation.
As long as Shadow of Mordor can be its own game of course, and not actually just copy what it’s been inspired by. Having actually written my first novel, which was inspired (in premise) by one of my favourite video game stories, Max Payne 1 and 2, I know how difficult it can be to walk the line between copying or being inspired.
Most successful authors will tell you that there is nothing wrong with imitation. That ‘copying’ is overused in a negative way. It’s where most beginners actually start out. There is a lack of confidence and a need to resonate with some familiarity. These are all things that slip away as you become your own person or entity and obtain your own identity. It’s about confidence. It really is.
But what I feel is vital is being able to actually establish your own identity and freshness. And I believe Shadow of Mordor has that opportunity not just with its license, but with some of the gameplay it has opened up with its protagonist and open world. There are so many opportunities for exciting Lord of the Rings Easter eggs and fan service, a great open world or unique moments with the wraith powers and Nemesis System that I can’t help but feel Shadow of Mordor has a decent chance.
Am I counting the seconds until its release? No. Am I over the moon about it? No, that’s not really how I am. But am I genuinely intrigued to play it? Definitely. I’m happy to give it a chance. I would like to see what else it offers that’s unique to it, but I’m pleased that right now it actually looks like it has decent ideas and genuine effort behind it. It of course has convincing to do, but it at least looks like it wants to do it. And that beats the hell out of a cash crab licensed game any day.
Maybe that’s part of the problem: the bar is just set low. Call me a sucker for a promising licensed title, but I’m genuinely feeling excited to play Shadow of Mordor.