Expectations are high for the forthcoming release from Monolith Productions, developers of F.E.A.R and Condemned. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a third-person action RPG set in an open world; in this case, the expansive and beloved universe of J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Taking place between the events in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the developers have designed a stand-alone story that will draw on the existing lore but also introduce new characters in the centre of the game.
The player will be taking on the role of Talion, defender of Gondor, who is forced to witness his family being executed, only for Talion himself to immediately follow their fate, into his own demise. It is after the main protagonist has been brought back to life by a mysterious wraith that the player will assume control and initiate Talion’s quest for retaliation. Talion’s journey aside, it is the innovative game mechanics introduced by the Nemesis System that makes the game a true contestant among the releases this year.
So what does the Nemesis System mean? Depending on a multitude of aspects, generated both by the player and an adapting world, each enemy has the potential to become a minion or, depending on the course of events, the ultimate nemesis. Opponents will remember and adapt to their confrontation with Talion, giving each fight a personal edge.
A distinguished function of the dynamic world is how the effect of Talion’s death can cause an antagonist to gain respect and influence among his peers. In extension, this might lead to a promotion for this particular enemy, opening up several pathways for them to move forward in the progressive and interactive world that lies at the very core of the game. The Nemesis System will efficiently affect the construction of the challenges and combat in the game, as well as the face-to-face interaction with Talion’s enemies.
An effective way of directly influencing the game is by using the power to dominate, courtesy of the wraith inhabiting Talion. By dominating enemies, Talion can send them to spy on or assassinate other war leaders, and they can also be commanded to gather followers and aim to overthrow their superiors. The combat design is a mixture of the free-flow used in the Batman Arkham series, and the option to shift into wraith mode enables a stealth approach similar to that of Assassin’s Creed. The game encourages the player to assess the situation and choose tactics accordingly. Advantages can be gained through a range of features such as weather conditions, Talion’s range of skills, and enemy layout.
The key theme to the game is the array of possibilities generated by the player and the Nemesis System in order to customize a game that will be unique on each playthrough. The question is, if a game that emphasizes several replays will translate efficiently into the investment of time and dedication that such an initiative would demand. This may especially be true when the game is set in an open world, indicating that an initial playthrough will take its due time. Not much has been revealed about the story or its importance for the game. Attention has, so far, revolved around the Nemesis System. However, if the story falls short, the player may not feel compelled to repeat the game, no matter how personal things might get with Talion’s enemies.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor promises a lot of side quests, exploration, and an overall innovative experience. With a release date that initially coincided with Bioware’s giant Dragon Age: Inquistion, the initial sales might have been at risk, but seeing as Inquisition has now been moved forward, the response so far has been positive and many fans are eager to bite into the Nemesis System. Shadow of Mordor just might be a success.
The game is released on 7th October 2014 and will be available on PC, XONE, X360, PS3 and PS4. Pre-orders will include the “The Dark Ranger” bonus pack, which gives access to an exclusive character skin, the “Test of Power” challenge mode and leaderboard access.