Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a third-person action role-playing video game developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Games which takes place in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium. The game was released on September 30, 2014 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on November 18, 2014.
The game is set to fill the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is a story of revenge, slaughter, and mystery set entirely in Mordor, the Land of Shadows. At its centre is Talion, a ranger who loses everything, including his mortal life. Possessed by an immensely powerful wraith, Talion becomes a revenant, rising from the grave to avenge the murder of his family. Meanwhile, the wraith inside him, Celebrimbor, struggles to remember his forgotten past, which will allow him to increase in power.
The game is a significant departure from Tolkien's written works, with many characters and events written specifically for the game. It also incorporates several events from the legendarium, though heavily modified. Due to this, events and characters depicted in the game are not canon.
The game takes place between the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. The family of Talion (voiced and motion-captured by Troy Baker) , a ranger of Gondor responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor, is killed by Sauron's armies, but Talion is revived with "wraith-like abilities" and heads into Mordor to exact his revenge. Mordor is not yet a barren wasteland in this story. The player will encounter Gollum (voiced by Liam O'Brien) in the game, discovering that Talion and Gollum have a lot in common. Talion discovers that the wraith who revived him is Celebrimbor (voiced by Alastair Duncan), the greatest Elven smith-master of the Second Age and the maker of the Rings of Power, who also seeks revenge against Sauron.
The story involves the Rings of Power, but it is separate from Lord of the Rings canon. The Monolith team worked with Middle-earth Enterprises, Peter Jackson and the artists at the Weta Workshop to make sure that the portrayed settings, characters and story align within canon. (However, Tolkien had stated that, aside from Beren, dead men did not return to life in Middle-earth.) The beginning of the game is set during abandonment of the watch on the Black Gate, despite that watch ending around 1,300 years prior to the game's start date.
Talion, a ranger captain, is part of a Gondor garrison stationed at the Black Gate. The garrison is attacked by Sauron's Uruk forces led by three Black Númenórean captains; the Hammer of Sauron, the Tower of Sauron, and their leader the Black Hand of Sauron (Nolan North). Talion, his wife Ioreth, and his son Dirhael are captured and ritually sacrificed by the Black Hand in an attempt to summon the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor. However, Celebrimbor (who suffers from amnesia due to his status as a wraith) instead ends up merging with Talion, saving him from death. The two of them set out to uncover Celebrimbor's identity as well as to avenge the death of Talion's family.
Over the course of their travels, Talion and Celebrimbor have multiple encounters with Gollum, who has the ability to see and speak with Celebrimbor due to his prior contact with the One Ring. Hoping that Celebrimbor will lead him to the One Ring, Gollum leads Celebrimbor to relics of his past, each of which restore parts of his lost memories. Celebrimbor gradually recalls how he was deceived by Sauron, in his guise as Annatar the Lord of Gifts, into forging the rings of power. Celebrimbor ultimately assisted Sauron in forging the One Ring, but was able to steal it from him and use its power to raise an army of Orcs to fight Sauron. The Ring ultimately betrayed Celebrimbor and returned to Sauron. Sauron then punished Celebrimbor by executing his wife and daughter, then killing him.
In his search for the Black Hand, Talion allies himself with Hirgon, a ranger deserter who leads a community of Gondor outcasts who have settled in Mordor, and Ratbag the Coward, an Orc who offers to bring Talion closer to the Black Hand in exchange for his assistance in ascending the Orc military hierarchy. Talion helps Ratbag ascend the ranks to the level of warchief by killing each of his immediate superiors so Ratbag can take their position, while also assisting Hirgon in saving outcasts who have been enslaved by Sauron's forces, including Hirgon's wife Eryn. Talion ultimately leads the outcasts in destroying a monument to Sauron, a public act of defiance intended to draw out the Black Hand. The Hammer of Sauron is sent instead though; he executes Ratbag, battles Talion, and is ultimately killed by the ranger.
Talion is then sought out by the warrior Lithariel, the daughter of Queen Marwen, who claims to be able to assist Celebrimbor with his mission. Marwen is the ruler of Núrn, a kingdom of sea raiders located in the south of Mordor. She uses prophetic powers to guide Talion and Celebrimbor to another of Celebrimbor's relics. Later on, she advises them to use Celebrimbor's powers to take control of an army of Orcs, and use them to lead an assault against Sauron. Talion realizes that Marwen is being possessed by the wizard Saruman, and assists Lithariel in freeing her from his control. Talion still carries out Saruman's plan, and leads his army of mind-controlled Orcs in an assault against the Black Hand's stronghold at Ered Glamhoth. Instead of the Black Hand, Talion finds the Tower of Sauron waiting for him. The two battle each other with Talion emerging the victor.
Talion then travels to the Black Gate for a final confrontation with the Black Hand. However, the Black Hand incapacitates him with a spell that also restores the last of Celebrimbor's memories, then kills himself as part of a ritual that pulls Celebrimbor from Talion's body and forces him to merge with the Black Hand. This allows Sauron to possess the Black Hand's body and incarnate in physical form. Celebrimbor is ultimately able to briefly paralyze Sauron from within, allowing Talion to destroy his physical form. With the Black Hand dead, Celebrimbor wishes to depart for Valinor, but Talion convinces him to stay and attempt to overthrow Sauron. Gazing at Mount Doom, Talion declares his intention to forge a new Ring of Power.
Shadow of Mordor is set in a fully open world, and features various role-playing game elements such as experience-points and skills. As the player progresses in the game, Talion will grow stronger, yet so will his enemies.
Talion has various unique wraith-abilities which give him an edge on the battlefield. By stepping into the wraith world Talion can slow down time, teleport over distances and see targets from afar. These wraith abilities can all be leveled up separately, and the player can also unlock more powerful abilities.
There are various ways the player can complete their main objective. For instance, if the player has to kill a high ranking Uruk, he can choose to first focus on his lower ranking footmen, either killing them or turning them into sleeper agents using the domination ability. These agents will then attempt to eliminate their former leader, which may not always be successful. Aside from the main story line, there are various side quests and random events the player can complete within Mordor.
These quests can be completed in various ways. The player can choose to engage in regular melee combat, or instead stealthily move through the shadows, or perhaps use a bow to take out his targets from a distance. Every different play style will give the player different runes, which allows them to either upgrade their Ranger abilities through the Ranger skill tree, or their Wraith abilities through the Wraith skill tree.
When the player dies he will eventually re-spawn, time in the world will pass, and as such the game will change after dying. The enemy who killed you may have achieved a higher rank for killing you, or he may have perished himself.
According to studio head at Monolith, Kevin Stephens, the game will run at 1080p on the PS4.
The game's melee system is inspired by that of the Batman Arkham series. Getting into a good fighting rhythm, using both regular attacks and counter-attacks, will improve the player's combo multiplier.
Weapons in Talion's arsenal can be upgraded using runes, making them more effective. Adding runes to weapons gives them unique bonuses such as health regeneration upon killing enemies. These runes can be obtained by killing enemy captains.
An original feature of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is the Nemesis system. Every enemy players face is a unique individual, differentiated by their personality, strengths and weaknesses. These enemies are shaped by their encounters with the player to create personal arch-enemies who are unique to every game play session. Players must out think each distinctively different enemy they encounter to infiltrate the ranks and dominate within the dynamic world that remembers and adapts to their actions and choices.
Every enemy in the game has their own name, rank, and memory. These enemies will continue to do their own jobs and tasks even when they're off screen; the game progresses in real time even if you do not interfere, and as such an enemy you meet in one game play session may suddenly have achieved a higher rank the next time you meet him.
If the player does not kill an enemy in an encounter, this enemy will remember the player and change their tactics and conversations based on the encounter. The enemy will also grow more powerful and learn new immunities. Killing them will also net the player more experience points.
In August 2013, an artist working at Monolith Productions leaked Monolith was working on a new triple A-title. On Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 18:00 UTC the game was announced with the reveal of the official website, official Wikia community and GameInformer coverage.
The game will be running on Monolith's proprietary engine LithTech.
- ↑ GameInformer - December Cover
- ↑ Shadow of Mordor sounds like Arkham Batman games
- ↑ GameInformer - December issue, digital edition
- ↑ 
- ↑ GameInformer - December Cover
- ↑ Andy Salisbury's Twitter
- ↑ Steam store page
- ↑ Steam store page