New Middle Earth: Shadows Of Mordor Trailer Is Zeitgeisty

By Graham Smith on August 19th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor grabs the current zeitgeist like only licensed games can, cobbling together a third-person action game from bits of Batman: Arkham Asylum, bits of Assassin’s Creed, bits of Michael Bay-derived editing and sound effects. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. I like some of those things! I also like punching orcs. This could be a pleasant game, and the new cutscenes-and-combat trailer (mostly cutscenes) below introduces i) some new villains ii) your motivation as the player (not-spoilers: your family are killed).

The new enemy are the Black Captains, servants of Sauron who seems intent on turning this poor main character into some sort of videogame protagonist, freed from responsibility but hellbent on revenge.

As per any ambitious licensed game, Middle Earth comes with a few back-of-the-box features to call its own. Things like the “Nemesis System”, where enemies you fight but let live may return later with the scars you gave them, along with some mates, to duff you up proper for what you said about their mums, etc. Will this affect the slashings and slappings of the game’s combat much? Probably not, but at least they’re making an effort.

If this post seems conflicted, it’s because that’s what my feelings are. Derision towards derivative-looking experience is easy – too easy – but dressing up a thing I know and like in new clothing is sometimes enough. To that end, I’ll reserve judgement till it’s out, which should be on October 2nd.

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36 Comments »

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  1. InfamousPotato says:

    I don’t think this game is for me. I dunno, usually I wouldn’t think a game being dark would bother me at all, but it sorta feels like they went a little far with making everything doom and gloom (mostly gloom). It just doesn’t feel like Lord of the Rings. Sure, LOtR wasn’t exactly happy all the time, and the game does have things like Mordor, Orcs, and Mount Doom, but something just feels… off.

    The game might be fantastic for all I know, and I look forward to reading the Wot I Think when it comes, but I don’t think I’ll purchase this one. I think ultra-grim-and-quite-dark has it’s place, but I don’t think I’d like a game that had that as it’s entirety (minus Spec Ops: The Line, I think that game earned it). Anywho, I hope it’s great for everyone who does get it (and y’know, great so the people who made it can feel proud).

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yeah, middle earth should be all contrasts.

    • mewse says:

      I don’t know.. I kind of feel like this has gone right through grimdark and out the other side.

      I mean, look at the official character portrait for the player character. How can that not be satire?

    • MobileAssaultDuck says:

      I’m of the firm belief that there is no amount of grimdark that is too much. Every setting I can think of would be better for my tastes if it was grimmer. Imagine a grimdark Star Wars, a grimdark Star Trek, a grimdark Dragonlance, a grimdark Harry Potter. To me, those all sound far better than the original incarnations.

      The most grimdark thing I’ve ever seen is a horror/fake-snuff film called A Serbian Film, and it was pretty much as grim as my tastes go. Any grimmer and I may have been more bothered. Even as it is I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch it a second time.

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        Harlander says:

        Isn’t grimdark a term meaning “exaggeratedly dark for comedy purposes a la early WH40K”?

        • DarkSaber2k says:

          Yep, the term is derived from WH40Ks tagline “In the Grim Darkness of the Future, there is only War”

        • MobileAssaultDuck says:

          Yes, but in many settings the humour itself is also black as night. Suicide jokes, rape jokes, etc.

          My parents used a VCR and an 80’s horror VHS collection as a baby sitter, hence my tastes in all things are particularly dark, but also infused with a love of grim humour like Freddy Krueger, Chucky, etc.

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    Okami says:

    The amount of women and children that have to be brutally murdered, because video game writers are stupid and lazy hacks that seem unable to come up with any other kind of motivation for player characters is staggering..

    • Pemptus says:

      What is your motivation, warrior? WHY DO *YOU* FIGHT?

      • Syra says:

        With no small amount of irony he seems to have started this battle for the women and children…

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      RedViv says:

      But that’s ALL the motivation a MAN needs because all MEN are good for is protecting FAMILY and maybe COUNTRY but that is also FAMILY like a nurturing thing that provides guns to shoot other lower MENS with!

      • Hypnotron says:

        Except it’s not all men are good for and neither are women only good for being killed in order to provide motivation for males. Feeding audiences these same lame cliched stories is lazy at best. In fact, these stories fly in the face of reality. When you hear the occasional rare real life story of a husband or father hunting down and then killing the man who attacked / murdered his wife or daughter, that real life husband/father very often resembles a crazy man and/or a broken man… not a hero.

        • Shieldmaiden says:

          I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Viv’s post wasn’t an accurate representation of her actual views on the subject.

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            RedViv says:

            What on EARTH did clue you IN on THIS? Is it my awkward Frank MILLER kind of emphasis ON words that robs THEM of most MEANING?

          • Shieldmaiden says:

            I’d like to think that it was a mix of feminine intuition and my masterful deductive skills. You were, after all, being incredibly subtle.

    • minstrelofmoria says:

      You have to admit, “they killed my wife” as the ever-present motivation is at least marginally less offensive than “they raped me.” (Though I prefer “they killed my parents”–it fits with how juvenile a life built around revenge is.)

  3. Niko says:

    Hey, remember how some people were outraged about Peter Jackson’s LotR movies being not very faithful adaptations?

    • Syra says:

      There’s about 50 middle earth books though, just grab some lore and get to work! LoTR just has the fanboy following.

      • Turkey says:

        Jeez. So how many Han Solo/Wolverines are there in the extended universe?

  4. FGRaptor says:

    The one thing I wonder about with the Nemesis System is… what if you kill every enemy the first time you meet them? Do you just break the system or is that simply not possible? What if you are that skilled or the game is actually that easy? It seems like it would be waste for such a hyped system, so I feel like they will implement some cheap tricks to make sure enemies survive for a while to actually make the system work – which could result in it being quite lame.

    • plugmonkey says:

      From what I’ve read the the more interesting part of the system is that you’re supposed to be able to play these guys off against each other by disguising yourself as one faction and attacking another. I think it’s more about that than the old Fable nonsense of them coming back later with a scar and a grudge.

      Either way, I’m keeping a curious eye on this one. It might have more to it that the silly AssCreed shoulder-dippy walk of the protagonist suggests.

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      Gypsy23 says:

      I’m just hoping the Nemesis System will actually allow me to WWE head butt an orc and sword attack a volcano.

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    slerbal says:

    Apart from Wormtongue (and that did not end well…), I don’t recall Aragorn letting any foe live? But it is early and my brain is not fully awake yet.

    I will also be awaiting a WIT before giving this any consideration – it really does look like grim soup.

    • Ephemerous says:

      Aragorn not killing Wormtongue turned out just fine. Wormtongue went to kill Saruman at the end of the book.

  6. mewse says:

    Are you a bad enough DÚNEDAIN to break into MORDOR and punch SAURON in the FACE?

  7. PearlChoco says:

    The game certainly has a lot of awards.

    Overall pretty bad trailer for a video game though.

    • abomb76 says:

      Care to enlighten us as to why this is a bad video game trailer Oh Wise One? Or is it much simpler to spew opinion without providing any critical thought or analysis to back up your bold statements?

      • PearlChoco says:

        Certainly.

        It shows no real gameplay, no game features, no story elements, no meaningful dialogue; it shows actually nothing except meaningless dialogue fragments and some bad action snippets. I couldn’t tell if this is a RPG, ARPG, 3rd person action slasher or open world FPS.
        Plus almost half of the video clip is about showing logos and awards.

  8. Shieldmaiden says:

    This does seem very much like a game I would enjoy, constructed from bits of things I have great fondness for. Unfortunately, it would mean looking past the fact that the whole concept, along with the grimdark, demonstrates a complete and utter lack of understanding or respect for Tolkien’s work.

    Can someone please just licence the lovely The One Ring pen ‘n’ paper RPG? It really nails the mood and themes of the books.

    • MadMattH says:

      I would play a Tom Bombadil simulation if I could, but nobody makes those. The game that lets you have second breakfast will be the one to rule them all. It should also contain fiddly poetry and lighthearted travel songs.
      On second thought maybe a god-game where you choose one of the Middle Earth deities and play them from the beginning of the whole universe to the defeat (or maybe victory) of the darkness.

  9. johncage says:

    the new zeitgeist=tolerance of poorly rehashed shit

  10. jonahcutter says:

    I think if I pretend this has nothing to do with Tolkien’s LotR I might enjoy it. It doesn’t fit LotR at all imo, so a-ignoring I’ll shall go! It’s now some ::other:: universe in which to battle evil, rampaging orc armies.

    It looks simple and likely shallow, but perhaps satisfying. And with a little mental gymnastics, its ill-fit with LotR might not grate.

  11. DOLBYdigital says:

    I just want to know if the combat is actually good and the enemy AI is able to actually attack the player at the same time. I am never able to enjoy the Ass games because the AI combat is just so boring

  12. jonahcutter says:

    ::meant to be a reply to DOLBYdigital::

    And AC has a great system to play off of if it had an actually challenging combat system. Parkour your ass out of situations where you get overwhelmed by numbers.

    But because the combat system is so painfully easy mode, there’s rarely a reason to run away unless a particular mission demands it. And to add insult to injury, running away is a intensely fun thing to do in games. Look at Mirrors Edge. Or any racing game.

    The AC series is one long missed opportunity for actually engaging, action gameplay.

    So yeah, here’s hoping Mordor’s combat actually challenges us.