So not a lot was really known to us about the new Lord of The Rings RPG, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Thanks to GamesCom, we now know a lot more and does it look deep, stunning and exciting. Who knew that Sauron could be this cool?
Set before the famous book in three parts by J.J.R. Tolkein that we all know and love, but after the last stand of the evil Lord Sauron against the alliance of elves and men. You take the reins of Talion, a Ranger of Gondor who, despite being dead, seems pretty animated to find things out. He also shares his dead body with Celebrimbor, a wraith who is currently experiencing a bout of amnesia over who he is, what his past is and what role he had to play in a bigger plot.
The duo travel around Mordor from mount doom to the newer previously unknown places further south, to uncover the secrets of the wraith and the world around them. Especially when they come upon a strange creature who speaks simply and has recently lost possession of a shiny gold ring to an adventurous thieving Hobbit. Along the way you will find artefacts that trigger memories as well as give an ‘eye’ on Sauron and his descent into the darkness.
The face of it, which is a good looking third person RPG is actually hiding beneath it a deep word that is continuously evolving and, by using Mordor, is completely open to creating new areas outside of the Middle-earth we are so used to playing in. It plays very easily, much like a good hack and slash in places but that would be insulting to its rich and intriguing enemy mechanics.
Each enemy, from the Uruk grunt you hit to the to the commander of the troop, has a levelling system that remembers your battles. If you die, you are not reset to a point but placed further down the line in time so those individual soldiers gain more skill points and move up the pecking order of rank. They’ll also remember what you did that they didn’t like, especially if they have fears. Some are scared of fire and they will flee if that comes near them, or some might hate wild animals and do the same.
This chain of command structure, evolution and AI memory is indeed very clever and puts a nice spin into the gameplay of smashing as many orcs as you can. You feel you know these guys, that they have a place or character in the fiction of this world, without having any kind of impact on the games main plot. It’s this detail, despite how graphically impressive it is, that really immerses you in the the game. Each commander has a place in the world, whether they work the slaves, are the executioner or just have a reputation for death. Even down to each commanders bodyguard who will give you a quick pep talk before trying to kill you.
There’s quite a few cool things your duo can do. As a wraith you can possess people to stun them or make them fight for your side. Or explode their head. Your weapons can create an awesome combo barrage of slicing and dicing, especially the slow motion kill cams that appear. Firing arrows gives you the chance to slow down time so you can really hit six or seven Uruk in the face, Legolas style, before you need to start slashing away. The artefacts and weapons in game also contain vast amounts of lore so as with a lot of modern games, there’s good reason to go out and find all the things you can and learn more about the history of this time.
You will level up and develop as well of course and your characters have traits, such as Talion’s ranger skills allowing him to climb up big walls and our wraith being able to control others. There is a puzzle element to it too, when presented with the wild landscape of Mordor and how animals and monsters can be manipulated to let you pass whilst avoiding costly combat.
The open world itself is very immersive, from the slave driven farms of Nurn to the ashen landscape of Mount Doom, Tolkein’s fantasy environment has been brought to live vividly and imaginatively. And being Mordor and not being limited to the canon of what is established, it is also quite big. You could probably make a small comparison to Dark Souls in the way that it looks but for once we can truly say that it certainly is its own game.
Not long for this one in the big wait. The game comes out on September 30th on every platform, including PC. Of course that means it has quite the release schedule to go up against but keep your eye on it as it will definitely be worth your time, Lord of the Rings fan or otherwise.