J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle-Earth has captured the hearts and mind of millions since the author initially published his The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. The unforgettable locations featured in the books as well as the brilliant and diverse creatures have ensured that Tolkien’s work has enjoyed lasting popularity in global popular culture.
Monolith Productions, developers of the upcoming Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, have been hard at work creating the next big entry into Tolkien’s storied world. Their efforts on the project have not been in vain, as the press presentation of Shadow of Mordor at this year’s E3 was truly impressive on multiple levels.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is set between the events of The Hobbit and the start of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This became clear during the beginning of the E3 presentation as the demo opened with a cinematic prologue that was reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s films, setting the scene for the game. In Shadow of Mordor, Sauron has returned to Middle-Earth, bringing with him evil forces and an appetite for destruction.
The demo presentation of Shadow of Mordor took place about halfway into the game and was certainly reflective of a near-finished product. Visually, Shadow of Mordor looks great and captures the essence of Middle-Earth perfectly. Talion, Shadow of Mordor’s protagonist, boasted an impressive model, complete with astounding cloth and cape physics that billowed in the wind.
Similar to the level of detail seen in Talion, the orcs featured in the demo were equally well modeled. Virtually all of the orcs seen in the presentation had their own unique look, adding a sense of believability and scope to Shadow of Mordor. Orcs feel like a true race in the game, not simple enemies with repeating, stagnating textures.
In the Shadow of Mordor presentation, Talion was tasked with taking down five Orc Warchiefs, each of whom was surrounded by their own group of soldiers. In order to reach the chiefs, Talion must first get through the soldiers, and this is where the gameplay of Shadow of Mordor truly starts to shine.
Talion has the unique ability to dominate the minds of his foes. In doing so, the Ranger is able to take over the brain of his enemies, learning the strengths and weaknesses of his foes in order to gain an extra advantage, among other things. This mechanic is interesting, engaging and adds a nice dynamic feel to the Shadow of Mordor experience, ensuring that players will never know what might come from their next domination.
Similar to how the player will never know what to expect while dominating the minds of lowly orc soldiers, the Orc Warchiefs are equally as dynamic, each with unique personalities and traits to keep gameplay fresh. The five Chiefs featured in the demo: Zog the Elder, Malmug the Brother, Ukrom the Corruptor, Dharg the Fearful and Muggrish Bone-Snapper, all have their own abilities and traits specific only to them. For example, some will only engage in ranged combat, as it is their specialty while others prefer melee all while each having their own personal backstory and looks.
This dedication to a diverse and constantly evolving gameplay experience rings true largely in part due to Shadow of Mordor’s ‘Nemesis System’, a mechanic that ensures no two playthroughs – between any number of gamers – will ever be alike. The Nemesis System tracks and remembers Talion’s interactions with specific characters, constantly changing and adjusting how they will react.
Combat in Shadow of Mordor will surely be a hit with gamers when the game is released, as it blends fluid action with near-cinematic angles, adding a sense of intensity with every strike. Every killing blow is highlighted, allowing the player to see their handiwork before chaining moves into the next unlucky enemy. This style of combat works perfectly in Shadow of Mordor with Talion frantically fighting multiple foes as a given time, keeping the player firmly rooted in the action.
Outside of the ability to dominate the minds of his foes and prowess in combat, Talion also has additional skills that make him a deadly force, specifically his wraith vision that is useful for sneaking about and spotting foes.
During the demo, Talion’s domination skills were put on full display. When he uses domination, Talion essentially teleports towards his enemy, and takes over their mind quickly and efficiently. This was shown perfectly as Talion mind controlled a sent, ultimately capturing him and holding him captive, which caused the Warchief to come out into the open.
After an impressive introduction to the Warchief, Shadow of Mordor’s combat took center stage once more. Talion battled against the Warchief’s captains, all of whom looked markedly different from every other Orc seen so far in the demo. While fighting, Talion’s hare-like movement was showcased, as well as his ability to brand Orcs, which makes them fight for the Ranger.
Upon defeating the captains, the demo showed off what can happen when Talion dominates the mind of a Warchief. After doing so, the Warchiefs are fully under the command of Talion’s will and during the demo, some of the numerous ways to utilize this were seen.
At one point, Talion commanded the Warchief to incite a riot against a nearby Orc tribe, creating chaos and breaking up the enemy ranks. In doing so, Talion can thin the ranks of his enemies in order to get to the Warchief faster.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor places a huge emphasis on approaching any given situation in numerous different ways. Thanks to the ability to dominate the minds of foes and the staggering amount of ways to take advantage of this, Shadow of Mordor offers plenty of replayability that is sure to keep players coming back to Middle-Earth time after time.
Editor’s Note:Editor’s Note: This post was written by Raymond Porreca using meeting notes taken by Matt Heywood
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