The Lord Of The Rings franchise has had several games released on the PC and older console generations, both good and bad. However, there’s never quite been one that blew all the previous entries out of the water. Middle-Earth: The Shadow of Mordor looks like it might just set the standard for next-gen franchise games everywhere. Combining the intense combat of Batman Arkham, the traversal style of Assassin’s Creed and a brand new compelling gameplay mechanic that certainly stands out as next-gen, Middle-Earth: The Shadow of Mordor is one of Only SP’s Most Anticipated of 2014.

The Vision

In August 2013, F.E.A.R. and Guardians Of Middle-Earth developers Monolith Studios revealed that they were working on a brand new triple A title that was completely separate from Guardians Of Middle-Earth. Later in November, that game was revealed to be Middle-Earth: The Shadow of Mordor, a brand new LOTR game set between the trilogy and the Hobbit. Monolith Studios is working closely with Weta Workshop (the prop company behind the films), Middle-Earth Enterprises (the company who owns the rights to the Lord Of The Rings/The Hobbit), and Peter Jackson to make sure the game remains as authentic and as canon as possible. There’s a lot of weight behind this project and it seems Monolith Studios is trying their very best to make this game something that both gamers and Lord Of The Rings enthusiasts will absolutely love.

The Gameplay

Shadow of Mordor has taken a strong cue from Batman Arkham, as they are both from the same publisher – WB Games. The main character Talion attacks his enemies with his sword in a combo focused manner, using counters for incoming attacks and powerful special attacks for when his combo increases. One special attack allows Talion to focus on a body part of an enemy with his bow before firing a fatal arrow, resulting in a graphic and bloody injury. The game features an element of choice as the main villains of the game can be used to your advantage as a spy or just let go to spread the word of your brutal nature. By allowing the main villains to run away means that future enemies will be terrified of Talion, based on the stories the villains will tell. Using the villain as a spy will allow for you to have more information on an upcoming encounter. Talion’s wraith powers can also be used in a more “support” fashion. It can allow Talion to take control of spared enemies and make them take down their boss later on. Also a “shadow strike” move can be used to cause “death from anywhere”, which can be useful to take down enemies quickly from any point.

One of the biggest parts of Shadow of Mordor is the new Nemesis system. The Nemesis system allows the main player to actively create unique enemies based on encounters between Talion and said enemy. If Talion pushes an Orc boss into a fire, the Orc might survive for a later encounter, stronger than ever but with a terrifying phobia of fire. Alternatively, if Talion lets an Orc go, the Orc will return with a sense of superiority over Talion, mocking him for his sense of mercy as a sign of weakness. The fact that you can actively alter the enemy’s attributes based on combat encounters is something that is incredibly refreshing and a feature that certainly feels next-gen. This feature will be limited slightly on the old gen system but the main mechanics of sneaking, fighting and traversal will remain the same.

Talion’s weapons are a sword for main attacks, a dagger for sneak attacks and bow for ranged attacks. When a main enemy is defeated, a “rune” is given to Talion. The rune allows Talion to add attributes to his weapons and make them stronger. Stronger enemies wield stronger runes so it can be beneficial to allow main villains to escape. The game will have a skill tree based on the main 3 weapons and another for the wraith powers.


The Story

The Shadow of Mordor takes place between the end of Bilbo Baggins’s adventures in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and the beginning of Frodo’s in “The Fellowship Of The Ring” and will feature the writing of Red Dead Redemption’s lead writer and designer Christian Cantamessa. The game is said to be heavily influenced by both Tolkien’s work and the visual cues from Peter Jackson’s films. The main character is a ranger called Talion who was murdered alongside his family during Sauron’s return to search for The One Ring. However, Talion is brought back to life and becomes bonded to a wraith who works alongside him to find retribution and redemption for Sauron and his army’s crimes. This bond to a wraith allows Talion to travel to the “wraith world”; a grey, windblown landscape seen in the films whenever Frodo wear the Ring.

During the game, Talion will learn more about his bond with this strange wraith and his past life. The story of Shadow of Mordor will have some player manipulation as the use of the complex Nemesis system, which will allow the player to craft the make-up of the landscape as well as the individual tale for each villain in the game. It is also noted that Talion will encounter Gollum, who apparently has a lot in common with the main character.

Middle-Earth: The Shadow of Mordor is a very ambitious project. Both the Nemesis system and close association with the Lord Of The Rings production team looks to combine to deliver an exciting Lord Of The Rings experience that will offer a lot of dynamic choices that have not been seen at this level in an RPG before. Could the Nemesis system be the next-gen mechanic we’ve been waiting for? Middle-Earth: The Shadow of Mordor is due out for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One later this year.

Nathan Hughes
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