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Since Peter Jackson brought The Lord of the Rings to the silver screen, the thought of a great game in the same vein was an exciting idea. Unfortunately, this has never come to pass and we’ve been stuck with mediocre to just plain bad games that have only teased us at the potential there is. To some of the games’ credit, I recall having a decent time with the second and third games based on the film which is an astounding achievement compared to most licensed titles. Still, these were just dipping their hairy feet into what a real, unhinged Lord of the Rings game could really be. Fortunately, Monolith, developers of the F.E.A.R series, are looking to set the record straight and bring us the game we have been longing for.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is not a movie tie in but rather based between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, giving them a bit of wiggle room story-wise. Along with the story, the setting is a complete open world with Assassin’s Creed-like traversal and Arkham City-like combat. You play as Talion, a Ranger of Gondor trying looking for vengeance after the dark lord murders all he cares about. Talion can strike in a variety of ways be it stealth or plunging his sword into the first group of nasty orcs he sees first. It’s large, ambitious, and it looks utterly fantastic. Sure, the comparisons that can be made to the previous games I mentioned are a bit more than obvious, but that’s not to say Monolith hasn’t come up with their own tricks.
In fact, the new “Nemesis” system sounds brilliant on paper, let’s just hope they can pull it off in game. “Nemesis” acts like a memory bank for specific ranked officers of the dark lords army, these completely, procedurally generated high ranking officers have relationships with other leaders that can affect how you play. If two orcs are in good standings with each other, you can use your wraith abilities to send one to assassinate the other and based on their relationship, the chances can range drastically. On top of this, these specific orcs will remember things Talion has done to them, whether it be searing half of their face off or nearly cutting a limb off, they will be sure not to forget what you done. During a demo with GameSpot, Michael De Plater, Director of Design said, “Those scars will mark and affect your enemies. They’re gonna remember them, they’re gonna hate you even more, they’re gonna come hunt at you more, even their personalities are gonna be affected. They’ll get hatreds or fears of the way you’ve taken them down.”
It’s hard not to get excited after watching the demo Monolith showed off even though history is heavily leveled against it considering previous titles under the Lord of the Rings license. The biggest concern for me is just how ambitious this system is and what if it doesn’t work as intended? Mixing this with an open world setting can be volatile and end up exploding in all our faces, but until that happens, I can’t wait to see what else Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor has to offer.