One of the highly-anticipated titles coming to the PS4 and Xbox One (among other consoles) this October is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which despite being a licensed game has the potential to be an intense fantasy adventure that appeals to Lord of the Rings fans and non-fans alike, with innovative gameplay elements such as the Nemesis System.
Although Mordor is, in some ways, the iconic location of Lord of the Rings, the novels and movies don’t really spend a lot of time there. Additionally, Shadows of Mordor takes place long before Sauron’s reign, so the Mordor we’ll see in this game isn’t exactly the same as the one we’re familiar with. This should open up great atmospheric and exploration opportunities, as the developers craft this dark landscape.
In an interview with Examiner, Director of Design Michael de Plater discussed some of the locations visited in the game, mentioning the Black Gates, Barad-Dur, and Mount Doom, although they aren’t quite “the blasted hell-scape seen by Sam and Frodo.”
It’s true, we all tend to think of Mordor as a “blasted hell-scape,” but it couldn’t have always been that way. De Plater addressed this issue in further depth, saying:
“Additionally we get to travel deeper into Mordor to locations that have never been seen before in games. This lets us explore Mordor as a real ecosystem and living world, answering questions such as how Sauron could feed his massive armies in a land where we have previously only seen arid plains of ash.”
If you’re one of the many LotR fans who is concerned about how this game will fit into the series canon, de Plater also touched upon that, as he explained the team is “directly inspired by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings literature,” and Shadows of Mordor falls in “the decades between the Battle of Five Armies and the War of the Ring.” The game will “[combine] creative freedom with authenticity to the established canon.”
While he didn’t directly address the issue of the wraith powers, a core element of the game and the part that seems to conflict the most with canon, it sounds as though they’re taking care to remain true to the universe. What we find more interesting is de Plater’s emphasis on literature, as Shadow of Mordor draws from the original novels, rather than Peter Jackson’s movies.
Share your thoughts on Lord of the Rings, Shadows of Mordor, and the balance between creativity and canon when it comes to licensed video games, in the comments below.