The Placing Of Products: Middle Earth – Shadows Of Mordor

While watching the latest trailer for Middle Earth: God of War-dor, I realised that I’d started to think of the Lord of the Rings references as a sort of product placement. There’s a splatter of blood, a decapitation, a roaring of monsters, and then the narrator mentions something about Sauron. It’s branded decapitation, y’see. In the latest video, a ranger uses ‘wraith’ powers to see into the minds of his enemies, seeking their weaknesses and fears. It seems like a perfect opportunity for more product placement, which is something I’d like to encourage in games as in films. The industry needs a new pair of shoes, after all.

If you’re going to slap the Tolkien brand on those orcs, why not take things a step further by monetising their hopes, dreams and fears? It’s a simple enough process. The wraith pops into Ian the Axe Chief’s bonce and finds that he is feeling grumpy because he hasn’t had his morning coffee. Pass him a cup of Ken’cko to soothe the savagery and pass by safely. And what of that Balrog over yonder? Dig through the smoke and mirrors of his brainpipe and you might find that he ‘might be mad at the whole of Middle Earth (TM) but he’s completely crazy for the taste of new Lonely Mountain Dew’. Toss him a can and see if you can’t become chums.

A wasted opportunity, says I. Monetise that Middle Earth.


  1. ran93r says:

    Assassin’s Creed: Mordor

    Still getting it.

  2. Lars Westergren says:

    I read some article on PC Gamer or Kotaku were they talked about how carefully the writers had woven this story into the lore of Tolkien – the main character is mentioned in a few places Silmarillion and they managed to find good reasons why this elf can be a ghost, why he has his powers, and so on.

    That may be, but the way it is presented to us, the reasons they suggest we should be excited about this looks so incredibly off to the world of Tolkien to me. (I’m not a big fanboy by the way – parts of the books I find incredibly dreary.) But I can’t find many more tone-deaf examples of jamming modern game trends into a setting where they don’t belong. Heroes may be flawed and tragic in Tolkien, but they aren’t morally gray or grimdark. Or? Do I misremember?

    • Universal Quitter says:

      No, you pretty much hit the nail on the head, at the end there.

    • JFS says:

      You don’t misremember. I wonder if the Tolkien estate took all the money and built themselves a spaceship out of said money, and then went on a century-long space road trip, because they really should’ve intervened here. I know they were restrictive in the past, so what’s up now?

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        IIRC The LoTR films and the LoTR books (and wider legendarium) have a different licence. This game is, I believe, licensed to adapt the latter while still (APPARENTLY) paying lip service to the former. Tolkien himself famously let the film rights go for a song because he was convinced his writing couldn’t be filmed.

        As an aside, on the evidence of Jackson’s output he was right, although I suspect that this has more to do with the failings of Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens than any inherent flaw in the medium. I will never understand how LoTR is considered one of the best films ever on IMDB, one of the most cack-handed high-budget book adaptations in recent years in my opinion. Don’t even get me started on The Hobbit.

        • rpsKman says:

          I liked the movies a lot when they came out because there was no way they were going to be better than that. I doubt I could watch them again.

    • Bradamantium says:

      No, you remember right. They’re also not often stealth inflected one man armies with magical powers, either, outside of The Silmarillion’s biblical-level wonders. It technically “fits” canon, but in an oozing-between-the-cracks kind of way instead of falling neatly in place. No excuses for its thematic mismatching, though.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        The worst canon offence for me is an important aspect of the plot: Gondorians colonising Mordor as Sauron returns from Dol Guldur.

        U wot m8? Gondor can barely manage to repopulate Osgiliath, let alone retake Minas Ithil or Cirith Ungol, and yet settlers are somehow making forays beyond the Morannon to settle a totally desolate and resource-poor patch of land? It just seems wilfully dumb.

        • Universal Quitter says:

          Now, if this was Dwarf Fortress, colonizing a volcanic, blighted land of unfettered evil would make perfect sense.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          That’s part of the game? It sounds supremely stupid and is making my Tolkien gland flare up.

          • Eggman says:

            This is why I read RPS comments. I’m finding out about organs I didn’t even know I had.

    • Turkey says:

      If this was 10 years ago there would have been so much chugga chugga metal in that trailer.

      • rpsKman says:

        Hero turns to the camera:

        I feel so aliiiiiive!
        For the very first time!

    • fdisk says:

      I am a big Tolkien fanboy; but I have a different opinion on this and all other LOTR games.

      I’m OK with them doing this and even bastardizing the story and canon. The problem is that Tolkien wrote 4 amazing books and a reference manual/bible or whatever you want to call The Silmarillion. Unless you keep adapting the same 4 books over and over again this is the type of stuff you have to pull in order to make a LOTR game.

      I love those books, I also love the movies even with all the differences and omissions that were necessary to be made in order to be released as 3 hour films, I love the world of Middle-Earth, period. As a gamer, I want to play LOTR games, and I realize that in order to do that I have to ignore that their canon and story tramples all over Tolkien’s. The reason I’m fine with that is because the existence of this game or any other LOTR game that comes out in the future doing the same thing doesn’t automatically make the books disappear from existence.

      If I want pure Tolkien I can read the books over and over; in the meantime, I’ll happily turn-off my brain and play this game where the story and world may differ but the feel is still there and I love it. I think us fans need to stop treating this book like people treat the bible before we start a war on whether Tom Bobadill is the one true God or not…

      • Universal Quitter says:

        The Silmarillion alone, though not without its shortcomings, offers enough material for dozens and dozens of games without changing much of anything. You may not mind bastardization, but it’s certainly not necessary with this source material.

        Yeah, if they keep making games based around the War of the Ring, you get the Star Wars EU effect where they keep piling more crap onto the same part of the story, but Tolkein’s works offer much more detail and scope than Star Wars.

        • Cinek says:

          “Tolkein’s works offer much more detail and scope than Star Wars.” – clearly you have no slightest idea what are you talking about.

          • The Godzilla Hunter says:

            He is probably talking about the source material, as in the six movies.

          • Bull0 says:

            Very little knowledge of the Star Wars EU, anyway.

          • Volcanu says:

            Yeah I think he means in terms of work produced by the original creator i.e. JRRT and George Lucas. Lucas didn’t do quite as much world building and back story creation as Tolkien himself.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            And you clearly haven’t read enough Tolkien.

          • Bull0 says:

            Should he start with the children’s book or the impractically large living history textbook?

            Tolkien fanboys are a drag. And *scope*? Star Wars has less scope than Tolkien? It’s set in space ffs!

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Bull0, at least Tolkien fanboys don’t have the bizarre inferiority complex most of you Star Wars people exhibit whenever the two subjects come up in topic.

          • Bull0 says:

            Yeah, because defending something I like against totally baseless knocks is the same as having an “inferiority complex” about it. Good point, there.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            It was referring more to your facile “Tolkien fanboys are a drag” comment, but whatevs.

        • bill says:

          The Silmarillion has a dozen stories that could make decent games.

          That said, I’m going to do the ‘i wish it was open world’ thing again.
          I don’t know if modern tech is up to it, but bascially all they need to do is recreate Middle Earth and let me make a character and run around in it.
          If any franchise is perfectly suited for an “Elder Scrolls version”, it is Middle Earth.

          Not only that, they could do it in several different time periods. Each more epic than the last.

      • Livebythesword says:

        This might seem like nitpicking but I think it should be pointed out that Tolkien didn’t write the Silmarillion, it was put together by his son Cristopher based on Tolkien’s various writings, notes etc. Also Christopher Tolkien himself doesn’t consider the Silmarillion to be canon because he felt he wasn’t able to convey his father’s vision as accurately as he’d wanted.

        • fdisk says:

          That’s why I didn’t include it in calling it an amazing book; I personally can’t stand The Silmarillion; it’s a rough read.

    • Volcanu says:

      Yeah that’s pretty much my feeling too. No matter the effort they’ve gone to in order to justify the premise in the lore, it’s just so tonally discordant with Tolkien.

      I’m not spewing bile over it, and I actually really enjoy the Peter Jackson films which are inevitably somewhat more ‘action focussed’ than three hefty books would be.

      What I find a touch sad is that what is often popularly referred to as ‘Tolkienesque’ is usually nothing of the sort, and is actually more high fantasy D&D (Forgotten Realms). There is a real beauty and pathos in the worlds and works of Tolkien, and something sparse and pretty minimalist about his approach to many things. I love his subtle take on ‘magic’, which is something more passive and much less flashy than the luminous green beams and fireballs of much of fantasy. That seems to be getting increasingly lost as the huge success of the LOTR has morphed it into an all encompassing commercial juggernaut, something seemingly owned by popular culture and open to anyone and everyone’s interpretation.

      This game just looks like so many other ‘dark fantasy’ tales – the LOTR element is just window dressing.

    • bill says:

      I’m a big fan of the first 3 movies, despite their flaws and slight variation in tone in places.

      But the Hobbit movies are totally tone deaf to the source material and world, and since this seems to be wrapped into the same “franchise” it’s not that surprising that it also has gone all Grrr.
      I think the 2nd Hobbit movie has more decapitations than any horror movie I’ve watched.. it’s basically become an orc murderer movie, which plays out a lot like watching someone play a video game… so I guess we’ve come full circle.

  3. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Gee whiz, that’s a lot of awards. How come pretty much every game at E3 seemed to come away with a million awards?

    Given the emphasis on dominating enemies to your will and seemingly amassing an army of your own I can’t help thinking this game would be better if you played as an orc warlord who’s building up his power. The bits where you have a human just standing in the middle of these encampments just look weird.

    • LTK says:

      Because that is the purpose of E3: marketing.

    • Frank says:

      It’s like a car show and television ads. If the car hasn’t won anything at all, that means trouble.

  4. DrScuttles says:

    Oh, you know what Adam’s doing, he’s going for that Middle Earth dollar. That’s a good market, he’s very smart. We’ve done research. Huge market.

    • Bull0 says:

      Ooh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Giant market, Adam’s very bright to do that.

  5. trjp says:

    Is it somehow bad to brand powers with Tolkien-influences but not with – say – Warhammer ones then?

    If so – is that just because books>wargames or what?

    • JFS says:

      Actually, when I read the article, I felt that this whole thing would be so much more at home in the Warhammer setting…

      • Thurgret says:

        Yeah, but what are the chances of Games Workshop releasing the rights to that? They’re really haphazard with giving out rights to make games based on their stuff, and seem fixated on getting bad games made lately, to boot. Some big budget thing like this? Not a hope, with the way they tend to go.

  6. sinister agent says:

    DEV A: “Guys I have a great idea. Let’s make a game based on Tolkien!”
    DEV B: “Wow! That’s literally never been done before!”
    DEV C: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a fantasy game copying Lord of the Rings!”
    DEV D: “Et cetera!”

    • bill says:

      DEV A: Hey guys, great idea, lets make a game based on Tolkien’s Middle Earth!
      DEV B: Yeah, and we can base it on the recent movies franchise so we can chop off lots of heads in gory ways
      DEV C: Yeah, and wouldn’t it be cool if the hero could become a ghost!
      DEV D: Yeah, and how cool would it be if he could read people’s minds?!!
      DEV B: Yeah, and let’s make it all dark and gritty, kids love that!
      DEV D: Yeah, I wonder if we can get Godsmack to do the music??!!!

      DEV A: *cries*

  7. Leb says:

    Looking at the comments I’m glad I never really immersed myself in Tolkien, or any other universes. It seems to turn something fun into something miserable

    • friik says:

      Honestly, that’s a great loss on your behalf. The Hobbit and the three books of Lord of the Rings are marvelous.
      Silmarillion, however, is nothing like the others and to me, acts more as a confusing encyclopedia than several stories.

      If you liked the movies in the slightest, go do some reading and you really won’t be sorry.

    • sinister agent says:

      The stories are good. The storytelling is terrible.

    • bill says:

      “It seems to turn something fun into something miserable”

      That’s exactly what people are complaining about.

  8. Geebs says:

    I always take my Lonely Mountain Dew with Derry Dol-ritos. Hey, ring a dong!