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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Preview

blake_peterson By:
Blake_Peterson
06/16/14
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Action 
PLAYERS
PUBLISHER Warner Bros. Interactive 
DEVELOPER Monolith 
RELEASE DATE 09/30/2014
RP What do these ratings mean?

Ain't no party like a RIng Wraith party, cuz a Ring Wraith party don't stop!

In Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor you play as a dead Ranger, Talion, who is resurrected as a wraith. Set as Sauron's power grows between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, your goal is to travel 'round Mordor and do whatever you can to disrupt the growth of Sauron's army and claim revenge for your family, slain shortly before your own demise. 

Mordor, as it appears in Shadow, is surprisingly lush though this may be because the area shown was the lands from which feed and provisions were being provided—by human slaves captured and forced to toil by orc slave drivers. It looks a bit like an updated version of the tranquil and beautiful planes and broken ruins of Shadow of the Colossus, overrun with orcs, of course, but no place is perfect.

Talion was given the mission by what appeared to be an undead witch queen—whose own motives seemed not to coincide with his—to take command of a legion of orcs by dominating their commanders. However, each of these commanders has moved up the ranks of the hoard through killing, pillaging, and forming relationships with strong bodyguards. This relationship system makes fighting the enemy directly a potential suicide mission, so it's better to take down or dominate the bodyguards first, in order to make combat easier.


As part of the game's Nemesis System, the orc enemies remember you from prior encounters and form vendettas against you and against other orcs. Prime time to attack an orc is while they are having a duel with another orc, allowing you to take advantage of their weakened state. This makes them easier to kill or dominate. The combat was so fast and furious (with a lot of finishing moves) that it was hard to get a bead on exactly how it worked, but it did seem to have a counter system with visual indicators a la the Batman Arkham games. 

At one point during the live demo (where the developers let the audience choose which of the five orc captains to dominate) Talion was killed. This made the orc captain stronger, but also changed the relationships between the captain and his minions, and the other orc captains. This system of influence is a big part of the game and you can do things like take down a minion and dominate them and force them to either betray their master, or issue a warning that you're coming for them. 

Talion's wraith abilities were very developed. He could transform into a wraith (entering the same view of the world that Frodo and Bilbo see when they put on the ring) and draw back an arrow on a ghastly white bow, but instead of an arrow fire himself. At one point in combat with orcs he transformed and phased through an orc, finishing the execution on the other side. He could also force enemies and mounts to his will. His powers seemed pretty far along for someone who would spend the bulk of the game learning how to be a wraith.
 

I'm pretty certain that Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor could be retitled "Middle Earth: The Making of a Ring Wraith", since it seems to me like your ultimate fate will be, like the Orcish masters before you, to force others into the service of Sauron's awesome and terrible will. What a badass struggle it looks like it will be, going into the fray!

I knew nothing about Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor going into my Warner Bros appointment, I wasn't even aware it existed. It emerged as one of my top games to watch coming out of E3. It releases on PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, and Xbox One on October 7th, 2014.
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