Lovers of Middle-earth only needed to hear “open world Lord of the Rings game” to get excited. That’s a big enough group that selling to all of them already ensures a strong market for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. After seeing more during San Diego Comic-Con, I think this title could even appeal to those who don’t know the one ring from an onion ring.
The story takes place between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings timelines, with an appearance by Gollum confirmed. Our main character here is Talion, a ranger moving through the wilds of Mordor. He and his family get killed by Sauron’s forces, but something tethers him to the world of the living. That turns out to be a wraith. The pair are bonded together, keeping Talion from joining his family in the afterlife. He’ll have Ranger and Wraith skill trees to level up, switching between abilities on the fly.
The ranger’s new supernatural powers include the ability to read minds and make former enemies his loyal minions. Fear becomes a great weapon, as you never know when a whole mess of orcs is going to attack. It will often be easier to make them break rank than try to defeat them all. The power of fear will also help you interfere from behind the scenes. Shadow of Mordor features the Nemesis System, a whole political and military structure for the orc armies. When not at your throat, they’re still out in the world tearing things up. After defeating some soldiers, you can bend them to your will. One of your puppets could be the bodyguard for a high-ranking warchief. You can get him to step aside, or better yet take an active role in his employer’s undoing.
According to developer Monolith Games, every orc you engage in combat has his own name and persona. Those that survive will grow, change and possibly come after you at a later date. If the Nemesis System delivers all that’s promised, it’s a thing other games will be implementing their own form of immediately afterwards.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordorarrives Sept. 30 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.