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Interview: Forging the Rings of Power in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Posted on Friday, July 25 @ 15:30:00 Eastern by blake_peterson
He liked it, so he put a ring on it.
 
"Only you could accomplish such art, Celebrimbor," a beautiful figure says, speaking in the memories of the wraith in the new trailer for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor revealed today at San Diego Comic Con. This figure is Sauron, in his fair form, the one he used to deceive the elves—particularly Celebrimbor—who helped him forge the rings, and this piece of Tolkien lore makes up the backstory that sets up Shadow of Mordor.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and tells the story of Talion, a ranger who is murdered along with his family when Dark Lord Sauron's forces rise in the East. Talion survives by allying himself with a wraith, revealed in this trailer to be deceased Elven Lord Celebrimbor, the greatest smith of the Second Age who was murdered by Sauron himself. Along the way, the two encounter perennial riddler and trickster Gollum, who seeks "The Precious." The One Ring, in the lands where it was forged, Mordor.



How the rings fit into Shadow of Mordor has been a question on the minds of fans since the game was announced. In The Lord of the Rings, the only appearance by wraiths are The Nine, the kings of men bent to Sauron's will and led by the Witch King of Angmar as the Nazgûl,​ or Ring Wraiths. It's no great surprise then, that the wraith in the game has a connection to the rings; Celebrimbor, as an elf with an immortal soul, chooses not to return to the Undying Lands after being slain and instead seeks his revenge.

"The original concept for the game was 'What would happen if Boromir got a Ring of Power?'" said Michael de Plater, Director of Design for the title, in a closed-door meeting. Boromir, if you recall, is the noble member of the fellowship who betrays his companions after having been seduced by the lure of The One Ring at the end of Fellowship of the Ring, the first book of The Lord of the Rings:
With Talion, Celebrimbor does represent something very analogous to having power of one of the rings. And Talion, like Boromir, is gonna be a hero, but a tragic hero, who's trying to do the right thing but through the wrong means.

I feel like some people on the forums will think it's a big spoiler who the wraith is, but the spoiler would be if we revealed where we're going with it after that.
Discussion turned quickly to the nature of the corrupting influence of the rings and power in the overall saga. "Frodo—and I think this is something that gets misrepresented as a happy ending—but Frodo gets stabbed, he gets poisoned; he gets to the edge and he can't do it." On returning to the Shire, "he gets to the end and he can't resettle in. Effectively he has to accept death. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that for Talion, it's not going to be a happy ending."
 

I asked about the difficulty of creating a game set between two massive arcs, and De Plater said they were excited by the challenge: "As in The Hobbit, we really wanted to make sure the story worked on its own, that we establish these kind of epic stakes; and Celebrimbor was part of it. We have to find a way within this story, that the victory in this story is meaningful... If things in this story didn't happen, Lord of the Rings would have turned out... differently."

The production of the game and direction from the studio had an interesting leaping point:
Warner [Bros.] were great. The inspiration was [the Batman] Arkham series, where the model is, one, don't make a movie game, and two, make the best game you can. That was pretty much our brief, and we got a lot of support. That gave us the flexibility and the time and support to try and do something innovative and really respectful to Tolkien and the lore.

With the movies, the pace is different, so you have to have that action; and we have that, it's an action game. Players can control their own pace. We have a lot of lore and a lot of references as well, and you can sort of consume it how you want.


"In Tolkien one of the main things that power represents is stopping change, and keeping things as they are," De Plater said. When I asked about including other elements of Middle Earth history to future games, he didn't confirm, but our conversation ranged from stories from the epic battles of The First Age, to the Fall of Numenor, Middle Earth's version of Atlantis, "We didn't think too far ahead on this one, because we wanted to focus on this being the best game we could make... Well, they are these myths that repeat over and over. The archetypes occur, so in effect, we can."

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor releases on September 30th on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Does the thought of getting more background on The Lord of the Rings make you more excited for this game, or does it make you feel like running back to your Hobbit Hole? 
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