A perfect blend of Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim. This was the first thing that crossed my mind after seeing Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor.
SoM’s protagonist, Talion, a ranger of Gondor and the guard on the Black Gate sets out on a bloody journey across the unfriendly lands of Mordor to take the battle to Sauron’s army in the name of revenge.
SoM takes place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. After coming to power, Sauron and his dark army takes over Mordor and like many others, Talon loses everything; even his own life.
Talon is resurrected from the dead by a mysterious wraith who grants him with unimaginable powers and the ability to roam around living and dead.
And thus our hero’s journey begins but reaching Sauron is not an easy task and players will come across a number of hurdles in the form of orcs and other monsters. The game molds itself to your decisions and creates a unique story that is no one else’ but yours!
Talon’s been granted an eagle vision to identify and prey his key targets in the middle of heated battleground. He can camouflage himself in overgrown grass to wait for his adversaries.
It’s not only about hiding and seeking as Talon can very well perform a killing chain, block, counter-attacks, and dodge. The killing chain works in an arcade-ish style and details about earned XP and combo count is displayed at the top of the screen.
Being both a ranger and someone with wraith powers, SoM allows players to upgrade the abilities for each of them individually. And it’s not only related to upgrading these skills, Talon can switch between these two modes at will; wraith mode to stalk your enemies or ranger view for a jumping into the fray.
The orcs provide perfect opposition to our protagonist and can be proven very useful at times.
The biggest highlight of SoM is that no two enemies are identical. They develop with the story and have ties with the players. Slashing them will not only help you level up but their behavior will let you gain various pieces of information.
Each orc in the game has its distinctive name, morphology, strong points, and weaknesses. The chief warlocks will dash for their life if you are dominating in a battle and should they successfully escape your grip; they will come out stronger than ever!
The game’s Nemesis System is worth mentioning. This system creates enemies based on players’ actions. Surviving enemies will remember your strike and will become more vindictive.
This shapes up the enemies depending upon your playstyle and as you, progress through the story. The idea is to create a world which is close to reality.
Speaking about the Nemesis System, De Plater said:
We wanted to make it feel like a dynamic society. We wanted it to feel alive, and to make it so that as you’re traveling, you’re really able to have an effect on that world.
We didn’t necessarily start with the idea of making it procedural. I think the starting idea was we wanted to do something new and next-gen with our enemies. There are villains in every game, but how do we make the player create their own personal villain?
The combat is not entirely taken up from Assassin’s Creed and Batman franchises but have something unique to offer. Talon can frighten his enemies by his wraith power, which can be used to interrogate them for various pieces of information such as location of chief orcs.
Talon can also use his blue fist to mark enemies and then control their minds, which can be used in a number of ways. Frightened enemies will not only tell you about their commanders’ locations but also their vulnerabilities and how to take them out.
If the orcs are such intelligent, imagine about their commanders!
When it comes to mind controlling, this skill is not limited to orcs but to various animals as well. This actually adds a fun factor to the game, and it’s always good to kick back and watch some orcs getting destroyed by the fierce creatures.
Other notable abilities of Talon include various magical spells that can slow down time or interact with the environment to help you in combat and climbing on tall towers to reveal the areas around him and then teleport at will.
The demonstration that we attended takes place at the beginning of the game where Talon embarks upon a journey to a village being captive by Sauron’s army. The target is a slave trader, Ratbag, who has subjugated everyone in the village.
Using our mind-control ability, we come to know that Ratbag serves as a guard to a chief warlock.
Dwelling his mind also divulges information related to his fellow orcs and other things. Instead of butchering Ratbag, Talon seizes him and makes him to do his bidding. This eventually leads Talon to the chief warlock and Ratbag fights alongside him.
Later in the game, mind controlling orcs and creating your very own army becomes an integral part of the game.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor certainly looks like a solid game with a lot of offer in every department but looks like De Plater has his own fears:
Are we going to keep every fan on the internet happy? No. Are people going to love it even if they aren’t fans of Lord of the Rings? I hope so.
May be because he believes the people will treat it like conventional RPGs. In order to get most out of the game, you are encouraged to take risks and offend orcs to their extremes.
There is a huge amount of attention to detail and authenticity, but the worst thing this game could be is boring.
If you go too safe and try not to offend anyone, that’s where you’re going to end up. Plus, if you’re not taking any chances and introducing anything new, to me that’s inauthentic to, as a massive fan, the experience I had reading Tolkien and watching the movies.
You want some wonder, you want some surprises and you want something that’s unexpected – otherwise you could watch a documentary.
Middle Earth: SoM is slated to launch somewhere in 2014 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.