Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor Could Be The Lord Of The Rings Game You Didn’t Know You Wanted
It would appear that we gamers are addicted to the prospect of successful licensed games, like a crack addict to, well, crack. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, from Monolith Productions, is a Lord of the Rings game with certain potential, even if it did originally reveal itself in controversy, as it appeared startlingly similar to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise in terms of gameplay. Nevertheless, the game shall be upon us in a little over six weeks, and it’s time to see whether or not we should actually care about that.
Name: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Genre: Action RPG
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Developers: Monolith Productions
Publishers: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 30 September 2014, 2 October 2014 (PC)
Price: PC – $50 (R500), PS3, Xbox 360 – $60 (R699); PS4, Xbox One – $60 (R755)
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will take place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will be separate to The Lord of the Rings canon. However, Warner Bros maintains that the stories will match up, so we’ll have to see how that works out. Either way, the game is a revenge plot that sees Talion seeking to make things even after the untimely death of his family. The family of Talion, who is a ranger of Gondor tasked with guarding the Black Gates of Mordor, are all killed by Sauron’s armies, including Talion himself. However, the ranger, who just so happens to be voiced by the omnipresent Troy Baker, is revived with “wraith-like abilities” by a Spirit of vengeance, and thus charges into Mordor to carry out his revenge. The story of the game involves the Rings of Power and their origins, and a Mordor that is not yet a barren wasteland. It will also feature a number of cameos, including Gollum and Bilbo Baggins. Apparently Talion and Gollum might just have a fair bit in common.
For some additional bit of information concerning the background of Shadow of Mordor, Monolith’s development team is apparently working with Middle-earth Enterprises, Peter Jackson and the artists at the Weta Workshop to make sure that the settings, characters and the story align with the canon of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It’s a little weird that it’s not canon, yet will align with the official canon, so let’s not question it too much at this point, for fear of eradicating what little brain matter we have left. Shadow of Mordor is being written by Christian Cantamessa, who featured as the lead writer and lead designer on Rockstar San Diego’s Red Dead Redemption, so there’s definitely some quality behind this game. Lastly, despite the similarities to Assassin’s Creed, the game is being created with Monolith’s LithTech engine, which has been used not only by the developers themselves but numerous others for various first person shooter games, as it acted as an alternative to other popular choices such as the Quake and Unreal engines.
Shadow of Mordor is an action RPG set in a massive open world, which should be quite the playground for fans of The Lord of the Rings, who will no doubt scour the land in search of easter eggs or simply to revel in the fantasy. Players will be allowed to hit up side quests or simply explore at their leisure. The game plays like a cross between Rocksteady’s Batman and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, as far as combat and exploration goes respectively. But what will separate Shadow of Mordor is of course Talion’s wrath-like abilities, which won’t only be used to kill people awesomely. You’ll be able to level up the abilities of Talion both as a ranger and as a Wraith through two distinct skill trees. While Ranger abilities will allow Talion to be extra stealthy in movement and attack, Wraith abilities will enable him to impose his will on enemies and control them for information or to spread fear of Talion throughout the land to decrease enemy morale or even cause assassinations of their leaders.
This ties into the game’s unique Nemesis System. Shadow of Mordor will let players create new characters in game and customise Talion with this system, which effectively tracks player’s interactions with specific types of characters they encounter and constantly adjusts and makes changes to the world and these characters as the player acts. You’ll be able to essentially create archenemies who remember that they hate you. On paper it sounds like a good open world, in that it’s organic and responsive to the player’s actions, but we’ll have to see how it turns out in game. An example of it in effect is the development of enemies as Talion interacts with them. For instance, an enemy Talion bested and humiliated in a fight may want revenge at a later stage. The system certainly has potential, and one would hope that it isn’t gimmicky or obvious in its outcomes.
However, despite the Nemesis System being a selling point, the largeness of it means that players on PS3 and Xbox 360 will get reduced versions of it, as Monolith is “focusing on the next-gen platforms.” However, the developer also stated that it is “going to do whatever we can to get as much as possible on current-gen.” Monolith has also gone on record to say that “some of the stuff,” like the “core mechanics,” which are, “combat, stealth, ranged and movements; the basic control and gameplay,” will be the same on both current and last generation platforms. The most significant differences will probably just be with the Nemesis System, graphics and loading times.
Perhaps one of the more exciting features of the game is its focus on Sauron as well. A big part of this will be the player’s encounters with Sauron’s Servants, who are three menacing figures which act as avatars of Saruon’s power in the world. There’s The Tower, a Black Numenorean who is a torturer in Barad Dur, The Black Hand, who is the leader of the Black Captains who controls Sauron’s agents in Mordor, and lastly The Hammer, who is a former human soldier seduced by Sauron’s power in battle. The Hammer is a prominent character, as he discovered Sauron’s hammer and was transformed into a dark warrior after picking it up. Talion will come up against all three of these servants of Sauron in Shadow of Mordor, and if done right these could certainly make for awesome boss fights and key moments of the game. As we can see, however, the game certainly offers plenty of opportunity for Lord of the Rings fans to complement their enjoyment of the lore and world.
With all that information out of the way, let’s take a peek at what could make or break Shadow of Mordor.
Suspected Selling Points
- The gameplay similarities to Rocksteady’s Batman and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed could surely turn out to be a winning combination.
- The Nemesis System could inject a lot of freshness into the experience.
- The powers of a Wraith, obviously!
- The cameos and attention to detail within the Lord of the Rings lore.
- The Nemesis System unfortunately could also turn out to be gimmicky and largely insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
- It may fall victim to common problems with interquels and their predictive or safe narratives that don’t really bring anything new to the table.
- It has a lot of competition to deal with around the time of its release.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor absolutely has the potential to be another great licensed game, as it has the right kind of quality and love behind it. Unfortunately, licensed games in general are kind of an unpredictable science, and anything could happen really. Even if doesn’t turn out to be a great game, however, the least it can do is offer some good memories to The Lord of the Rings fans, and complement their enjoyment of the lore. To that end, we will just have to see how Monolith Productions performs when the game releases on PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360 on September 30, with the PC version due to drop in on October 2.