First Middle-earth: Shadow of War Gameplay Shows Dragon Mounts

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Last month, Middle-earth: Shadow of War was officially unveiled, serving as a squel to 2014's Shadow of Mordor. Now, sixteen minutes of gameplay from the upcoming title has been posted by its developer, Monolith Productions — and it seems that fans of the original have plenty to look forward to.

The gameplay footage on show is apparently from several hours into the game. A narrator states that it typifies the "epic, personal stories" that are made possible thanks to the next generation of the Nemesis system that was utilized to great effect in its predecessor.

The footage gets underway with a look at the world map screen, which allows players to choose their next battlefield. Locations are apparently distinct in terms of their environments, as well as the enemies and allies that can be found there.

The Nemesis system has apparently been expanded this time around to include events that are based around friendship and loyalty, rather than just revenge and betrayal. This is demonstrated in today's gameplay footage when a friendly spy ends an encounter with a sub-boss by removing its head with a well-placed arrow.

It seems that Shadow of War will attempt to forge relationships between the player and their troops, which can come to an end abruptly if those troops fall in battle. If the system is as dynamic and organic as Monolith Productions suggest it will be, this could be a very interesting addition to the sequel.

Despite the game's increased focus on armies, the player character is well equipped to take down enemy forces on their own. We see the protagonist leap from a tower — slowing down time to loose a few arrows on the way — before using a bonfire and his sword to dispatch scores of Sauron's troops.

The clip's narrator states that it's possible to claim enemy territory with a sneaky approach, as opposed to the all-out assault we see here. However, we only see a small amount of stealth actually employed, when the player assassinates a few archers without raising their attention beforehand.

As the battle takes a turn for the worse, the player decides to call upon a four-legged mount that's able to bound over burning embers with ease. After a matter of seconds, this mount is discarded for something with a bit more firepower — a dragon that the enemies had under their control.

We also see the protagonist use his newly forged ring of power to "dominate the mind" of an enemy and force them to change allegiances. This doesn't seem to be a particularly heroic action, given what we've learned about the potential for rings to corrupt, so it'll be interesting to see whether a morality system is at play.

The clip ends with a boss battle that's set in the Overlord's private quarters. It's mentioned that each Overlord's unique traits will be represented in their battle arena. It's perhaps worth noting that the footage begins and ends with Xbox imagery, which is likely part of the deal that prompted Play Anywhere status for the game.

This footage goes to great lengths to stress that Shadow of War will offer unique experiences to every player — but it remains to be seen how this will work in practice. If the game is as dynamic as it's being claimed to be, it's shaping up to be a worthy sequel to Shadow of Mordor, but that's difficult to say decisively without having hands-on experience.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is set to release on August 22, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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