As J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world once again hits the international box office, the next video game adventure set within it is already in development, set to take thee franchise in a darker direction with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
To give a sense of the visual style and character design – as well as the unique abilities (and lethality) players can look forward to in the game’s hero – a new batch of screenshots and concept art has been released. The central mystery at the heart of Shadow of Mordor may not be the focus, but the new images give a clear sense of what next-gen gamers can expect.
For those Lord of the Rings fans who may have missed the announcement of Shadow of Mordor, the game follows the hero Talion, a Ranger from the North occupying a garrison on Mordor’s borders whose entire family is killed on the night of Sauron’s return. When Talion is also killed, he is summoned back to the world of the living by a Spirit of vengeance and sets off on a quest to find his killers.
The reasons for Talion’s resurrection are a mystery even to him, as is the amount of potential packed into the game, currently being developed for current and next-gen consoles. The project comes from F.E.A.R. and Condemned developer Monolith, a studio known for producing some solid titles with mature themes. So although the images show enemies and an art style familiar to the fantasy genre (and an intriguing peek at Talion’s Wraith abilities), the developers promise something new:
From a gameplay perspective, the screenshots paint a fairly clear picture of what to expect from Shadow of Mordor: a third-person action game emphasizing combat and stealth. Much emphasis has been placed on the studio’s new Nemesis System, giving players the ability to shape not only their own experience and story, but that of the enemies they face.
Talion’s quest will largely center on tracking down and eliminating a number of Sauron’s ‘Black Captains,’ requiring the player to navigate the ranks of Sauron’s army. With the player able to choose their path through Mordor (and their impact on Sauron’s forces along the way), it takes little imagination to see how the enemies can be shaped and influenced by the player’s actions before ever meeting them.
With dynamic missions and progression the tentpoles of the gameplay/story blend – as seems to be the goal for several next-gen games – the game’s entire sandbox environment seems designed to hand control over to the player. But while players will likely wish to see a bit more actual gameplay before deciding how weight to put into the open world, the prescribed story elements of the game are promising in their own right.
Any adventure set within Tolkien’s Middle-earth has to place emphasis on story and characters, but Monolith has made it clear that they are intending to deliver their own take on the material, not an imitation of that seen first in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and again in The Hobbit. Calling on the talents of lead writer Christian Cantamessa, a writer for Rockstar’s western Red Dead Redemption is intriguing enough, but the fact that Cantamessa was supplied with written accounts from World War I soldiers and Russian Gulag inmates to shape his take on the war-torn Mordor is even more so.
Only time will tell if those influences can help distinguish Shadow of Mordor from an increasingly-crowded genre on this generation of consoles or the next, but consider this one a game to watch.
What do you think of the game so far? Is it the writing influences and direction that has you interested, or is gameplay where your judgement will begin and end? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will release for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
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