Shadow of Mordor's campaign digs into Middle-earth's past

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Origins of the rings

[Writers Note: The original story was amended because of number of factual inaccuracies. My sincerest apologies to anyone who was confused bythe original article.]

It won’t be long now until Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is released. Here at PAX Prime, we’ve been afforded one last look at the game, and while Alessandro and Dale covered the gameplay nitty gritty of the Nemesis system and Assassins Creed style traversal, we’ve finally been given a short, albeit sweet look at the game’s campaign mode.

Monolith is digging deep to tell thelesser knowntales of Tolkien’s universe. Get ready for a lot of nerd speak.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor(PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)Developer: MonolithPublisher: Warner Bros. GamesRelease Date: September 30, 2014

You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor who survives the first wake of Sauron’s attack on Middle-earth. While Sauron’s return has marked a return of evil, his presence also awakens the spirit of Celebrimbor, the master forger of the Second Age who helped Sauron forge the rings of power. Celebrimbor’s spirit ties itself to Talion, giving him powers similar to those of the ring wraiths, including mind control, mind reading, and enhanced tracking. More than a justification for game mechanics,Celebrombor is the vehicledriving Shadow of Mordor’s deep dive into Tolkien lore.

In our demo, Talion is on a mission that has him crossing paths with Gollum, the One Ring’s long time bearer. Because of the deep connection Gollum has with the ring, he notices the wraith spirit of Celebrimbor clinging to Talion. After recognizing the master forger, we’re treated to a flashback of a living Celebrimbor during the second ageas he’screating the rings. Celebrimbor’s spirit does not remember much of his mortal life, so the mystery surrounding his living days are a journey we’ll take with him. As a person who’s only real knowledge of Tolkien’s work comes from films, I findthere’s something very pleasing about seeing this history unfold in front of you. While this information does exist in wikis and lesser known works, it’snice to see this side explored on a bigger stage.

Our demo also included a look at Talion’s powers, watching a sequence where Talion needed to use his wraith form to track Gollum. While the wraith vision displays in the same smokey blackfilter as the films,the actualtrackingis similar to whatwe’ve seen inAssassins Creed’s eagle vision.The environment goes dark, while enemies and persons of interest are highlighted in bright colors.The combat also takes queues from the Batman Arkham series’ free flow system. You have a button to attack, a button to counter, and a button to dodge. There is also an equivalent to Batman’s cape stun, allowing you to hit an enemy with a flurry of attacks.

While some games do come around that lay the blueprint for how things will work in a genre, Shadow of Mordor errs on the side being samey. That’s not to say that the combat and traversal isn’t still fun. On the plus side, if you completely blow a stealth run like I did, you have a good combat system to fall back on. Traversal is functional, butwhen you hit the open parts of theworld, not being able to summon amount makesforlots of ploddingthrough grassy plains. It’s the story really that looks like the star of the show.