e3 2014
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Hands-On - Update

The Escapist Staff | 12 Jun 2014 06:05
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Lord of the Rings for Batman Fans
Update: Josh Engen

What I'm about to say is probably going to sound a little sacrilegious, depending on your level of nerdiness. So, buckle up.

I'm not a Lord of the Rings fan.

It's not that I have a particular dislike for the franchise, but I do have some well-reasoned arguments against its superiority. But that's a topic for a different article.

The point is, I wasn't exactly looking forward to playing Monolith Productions' Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. But a few short minutes spent battling orcs in Middle-earth made me question my stance on Tolkien-inspired media.

Actually, after reading Greg Tito's take on the game, part of me wonders if my distaste for Tolkien is what allowed me to connect with Shadow of Mordor. I wasn't tempted to measure the game against Tolkien's literature or Peter Jackson's films. For me, it was just an action RPG that plays fast and loose with combat mechanics. It's Assassin's Creed meets Skyrim. It's Arkham City meets Far Cry 3...but with orcs.

In fact, it would have been easy to blur my eyes and pretend that I was playing a particularly strange side quest for Batman: Arkham City. The button-mashing skills that were honed during my time in Arkham City transferred perfectly to Middle-earth, and they're every bit as intuitive and responsive as they were with Batman at the helm.

But let's not talk about the controls. They're good and everything, but they're not what make Shadow of Mordor interesting. Monolith's Nemesis system does that.

Nemesis is a procedurally generated mission system in which players attempt to overthrow a handful of warlords using a combination of social engineering and violence. It's weirdly similar to House of Cards...but with orcs.

In Shadow of Mordor, killing a warlord isn't enough, because he's just going to be replaced by another warlord. If you want to win, you'll need to turn your enemies against one another, and slyly work the system until one of your own orcs is installed into power. But the orcan political system is constantly in flux, which means that your orc's head could easily end up on the floor.

Watching my plans fall to pieces while I attempted to control the reins was depressingly common, but I never wanted to throw the controller. I just wanted to find more clever ways to outsmart the baddies.

Shadow of Mordor is a game for Tolkien fans who have nefarious political ambitions. None of the things that make the game compelling are specifically drawn from Tolkien's lore, but they fit rather snugly into the universe. And that makes me wonder if my anti-Tolkien stance is a little misguided.


Andrea Rene went hands-on Shadow of Mordor and talked to the Lead Designer.

Original Story: Combat, quests, "Wraith Abilities", the Nemesis System, mounts. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is sounding cooler and cooler as we get closer to its October 7th release. Our own Andrea Rene got a chance to play it at E3 and spent some time talking to Lead Game Designer Bob Roberts afterwards.

According to the interview, play testers have found themselves getting caught up in side-quests, open-world exploration, and the Nemesis System, which can cause any enemy to grow in significance and ability through the game. The combat was influenced but the Batman: Arkham games, but with more death and decapitation. Still the gameplay allows for stealthy or ranged options if you prefer that over tearing through your enemies. Andrea also discussed the Wraith Abilities players will unlock through the game and some of the mounts Talion will use.

The developers are focusing on a high-quality single player experience, but there are some unique social components, such as leaderboards and Vendetta missions. With Vendetta missions, if a special nemesis kills you in your game, they will be sent into your friends games, who can get bonuses for killing those enemies.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor hits on October 7th for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, XB360, and PC.

Want more Shadow of Mordor? Our Greg Tito also went hands on with the game.

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