Middle-earth: Shadow of War announced [update]

Update: Following a little leak, Middle-earth: Shadow of War [official site] is now officially announced. It’s coming on August 22nd and yup, it sounds like more of the same but with an expanded Nemesis system. Check out the announcement trailer:

The press release says that Nemesis “is now applied to the entire world where the environments and characters are all shaped by player actions and decisions, creating a personal world unique to every gameplay experience.” WB continue:

“Middle-earth: Shadow of War expands this innovation with the introduction of Followers who bring about entirely new stories of loyalty, betrayal and revenge. The Nemesis System is also expanded to create a unique personal world through Nemesis Fortresses, which allows players to utilize different strategies to conquer dynamic strongholds and create personalized worlds with their unique Orc army.”

Nemesis Fortress!

And now, back to the original post.


It’s been long enough since Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor that I’d half-thought Warner Bros. had forgotten it. Seems not! The open-world stabfest will continue with Middle-earth: Shadow of War, according to a listing seemingly mistakenly added to the website of US shop Target – and since pulled. Unless Target have a mischievous work experience lad who’s bored enough to mock up box art and everything, it’s probably real (that said: never underestimate the power of bored teenagers). We only know a few minor details so I’ll ask: what would you want? RPS folks have been a bit divided on Shadows of Mordor’s legacy.

Shadow of Mordor, to refresh your memory, is an open-world action game with Batman: Arkham-ish combat and a fine ‘Nemesis’ system which turned minibosses into recurring nuisances. It came out in 2014, scooping glowing Wot-He-Thoughts from John and a golden Horace in our Bestest Best awards.

So what’s going on with the sequel? The now-pulled Target listing said:

“Go behind enemy lines to forge your army, conquer Fortresses, and dominate Mordor from within. Experience how the award-winning Nemesis System creates unique personal stories with every enemy and follower, and confront the full power of the Dark Lord Sauron and his Ringwraths in this epic new story of Middle-earth.

“In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, nothing will be forgotten.”

So more of the same? If you want to dig into rumourland, this Reddit post from months back has impressions from someone who said they’d playtested Shadow of War – long before Target leaked the name. That supposed NDA breaker also says it’s more of the same.

Though Target’s listing is gone, it lives on in screencaps. Also mentioned was a fancy Gold Edition with what sounds like a DLC season pass, covering expansions including a new Orc tribe, a new campaign, new playable characters and abilities, new missions, and so on. DLC stuff.

Target’s didn’t list a PC version but seeing as this evidently was premature, I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. It also gave the release date as August 22nd but retailers are so often incorrect with dates in early listings.

What would you want from more Shadow? More of the same doesn’t sound bad. In 2015, John has named Shadow of Mordor one of the very finest action games, using words like:

“Importantly, it does all this with meaty and satisfying combat, as well as a broad range of quests to complete in an ever-growing world.

“If everyone else doesn’t copy the nemesis system, then we will despair until our souls run dry. Monolith have shown a wonderful direction for action gaming, and we hope many will follow it.”

Though Alec has since cited it as one those action games we should celebrate as perfectly average. Said he, tongue in cheek:

“Oh come on, it’s a 7. Yes, yes, I know it’s got the nemesis system and a smashing melee combat system, but come on, the purest distilled essence of 7/10 beats through the veins of the delightfully dumb Lord of the Rings combat game. From Evil Ghost Elf advisor to mad psychic powers orcs’ WWE-style intros, it’s like a grimdark celebration of the solid killing and high concept twists of all the best seven-squadders. Between this and Mad Max, we have proof positive that the perfectly average 7/10 action game is still alive and well to this day, despite Assassin’s Creed’s best attempts to sap the life out of it. Long may it reign.”

What say you, murderchums?


  1. Artiforg says:

    The only thing I want from a sequel is a FOV slider so I don’t have to rely on widescreen fixer (the game would regularly crash on start with widescreen fixer enabled). Other than that I really enjoyed the game even if it just felt like a reskin of the Batman games.

  2. aircool says:

    More of the same please, but a lot more. The hunting Dwarf was annoying, I didn’t like that bit, but would have loved more than two areas.

    The game still lives on with the ‘Trials of War’ challenges which are great for short bursts of gaming (fifteen minute to an hour or two). The only downside is that my map is full of uncollected runes as they’re all inferior to the ones I have, and there’s nothing else to buy with the games currency.

    The Nemesis system scared the hell out of me at first. I kept running into this Goblin who would kick my arse, then get promoted to be even more powerful… It was almost like I was the cannon fodder and the Goblin was the main player. Constantly watching Orcs get promoted whenever you die made (eventually) killing them much more satisfying.

  3. Janichsan says:

    I had some sort of love-hate relationship with the predecessor: the controls were infuriating, the story weak and incoherent, many missions repetitive, most gameplay elements straightly ripped off other games, and the balancing terrible (frustratingly difficult at the beginning, too easy towards the end). It still captivated me enough to complete it to 100% (well, almost: the game cheated me and didn’t gave me two unmissable story achievements).

    • HeavyStorm says:

      I second the issue with difficult. I played the game without applying skills updates, because otherwise it gets so easy it’s almost boring.

      I had no problems with the controls and I *kind* liked the story. But I have no idea what their gonna write now, insisting in the same setting AND the characters.

  4. Captain Narol says:

    Sign me up for a sequel anytime ! I totally agree with John about the Nemesis system, it’s a pity it hasn’t started a trend yet as it was truely revolutionary !!

    • Aetylus says:

      Agreed. Nemesis is amazing. Its responsible for Pushkrimp Dwarf-Killer, the scummy little bastard who haunted me through the game. He was a product of my in-game weaknesses, grown stronger as I slaughtered his rivals. He remains to date the single best game enemy I’ve every faced, and the one game enemy whose demise required careful planning, practice and training over an extended period.

      • aircool says:

        I had this one guy, can’t remember his name but he basically shot exploding crossbow bolts and was immune to every damned special skill. If he saw you, you were almost certainly dead.

        The only way to take him out was to ‘convert’ and many orcs as possible and wait for them to wear him down. He was the hardest bastard I’ve ever come across in that game and was lvl 25 by the time I managed to take him down.

        • Xocrates says:

          For the most part I don’t recall my nemesis, except for this one guy that I think I’ve only met twice.

          This guy was bastard hard. I don’t recall all the details, but I know that among other things he had a poisoned weapon and was immune to stealth takedowns. First time I fought him (and this was very into late game btw) I had to run away and the second time around he did die… but not by me, another warlord or somesuch I controlled happened to walk by with a patrol and attacked him when him (and me) were very nearly dead.

          I never did engage that much with the nemesis system, but even so it still managed to create a couple interesting stories.

  5. dare says:

    I want to play as a dwarf in Balin’s reclamation party in Moria. Preferably I’d play the spirit of Durin the Deathless, who is summoned into a dwarven volunteer as a desperate measure in the war against orcs that’s been going all to hell.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Yep, I really enjoyed the first game and I’d be fine with more along those lines but I’d love a different setting, there’s so many interesting corners and times in Middle Earth sticking to the bit everyone knows seems such a waste of the setting.

  6. DuncUK says:

    I enjoyed the first game greatly and the nemesis system seems to me like it would benefit greatly from expansion. I want a more fleshed out first person war game, where the player character runs around building armies and helping train their own generals as part of the effort to win an overall war that you cannot win alone.

    I want to be able to give generals basic commands, to have to deal with bloodlust and infighting and to be able to step in to turn the tide of battle if an enemy general decides to invade. Enemies should get promoted not just for killing the PC but also for their own successes on the battlefield. Perhaps the PC could be more of an assassin and less of a one man army, unable to win the war alone. You can assassinate the powerful general but only your army can take their territory. Success weakens them as the general is replaced by an inexperienced recuit, failing the assassination makes them and their army more powerful and your adjoining territory more susceptible to invasion.

    There’s lots of scope to expand this, I just hope that the playtesters early impressions are not an indication of what we’ll get – i.e. more of the same and not an evolution of the ideas.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Dunc, have you tried Mount&Blade Warband ?

      Because it’s exactly that :

      “I want a more fleshed out first person war game, where the player character runs around building armies and helping train their own generals as part of the effort to win an overall war that you cannot win alone.”

      There is even an excellent Middle Earth Mod called “The Last Days”.

      Anyway, mixing the systems of Shadow of Mordor and those of M&B Warband would make for an amazing game for sure…

      • DuncUK says:

        I had the original M&B and you’re probably right that I should try Warband.

        If Warband is anything like M&B then it’s a somewhat more involved than I had envisioned for the SOM sequel. You’re right though, M&B:W-lite with the combat of Mordor would be a great game for sure.

  7. LinasKK says:

    Love you guys for having the balls to admit that it’s nothing more than a 7/10

  8. keefybabe says:

    I loved the original, but that was before I got oversaturated by the “map with a load of pretty much identical pieces of busywork in it” genre.

    I’d love to see a sequel, but I’ve had enough of tower climbing now, so it’s on the edge.

  9. SuddenSight says:

    It probably won’t happen, but I would love to see the game redesigned to give more emphasis to the nemesis system and information gathering, as well as being made overall more difficult (in the later missions).

    Basically by the time I got to the second map I was unkillable. And when I saw the big beasts (graugs or something) they looked scary but by the time I got the ability to ride them I already had the much more powerful ability to insta-brand any enemy so taking the time to dominate a graug felt like a waste.

    Removing some of the more powerful abilities, though it might be hard to do for story reasons, would force the player to rely more on the stealth+info gameplay. Figuring out how to take advantage of my opponent’s weaknesses was fun, even though it didn’t matter as much by the second map.

    Based on the comments from some in here who wanted an easier game, it looks like the game might benefit from a difficulty slider.

    • sub-program 32 says:

      I think they already have the story reason for getting rid of your powers – Celibimbor gets kidnapped or something the moment the new ring is forged, so losing all of the powers that he gave you makes sense. It’s likely that your new powerset will come from the Blue Ring directly now.

  10. DThor says:

    I must admit “more of the same” won’t do for me, since I never finished the last one. It’s definitely visceral and enjoyable to play, no question, until you’re about 20 hours in and you realize that’s sort of it. There *is* more story there, but frankly I got terribly bored with orcy murder. Hats off to the fine tuning that resulted in such hands-on combat, but 80 more hours of it? Gonna need a very good story to get me there, and based on the bored teenager that doesn’t seem like their focus.

  11. Frank says:

    More of the same sounds fine by me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the first good open-world game.

    That may only bring it up to a 7/10, but that’s simply because Far Cry 2+ are 6/10; Ass Creed and Arkham Knight, 4/10; Brutal Legend, GTA, Red Faction: Guerrilla 2/10; and Saints’ Row, -11/10.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Well that’s obviously because SoM was the only one of those games that had trolls.

      • Frank says:

        Probably true. I was enjoying it, but then the Citizen Kabuto-style troll navigation totally won me over.

  12. MuscleHorse says:

    Just the option to buff the difficulty would be nice. To anyone who’s played the Arkham games, it was laughably easy from the outset. The only times I had any trouble was when you had a warchief with some silly collection of immunities.

  13. LennyLeonardo says:

    Exactly. In my opinion the best way to up the combat difficultly in this/ the Arkham games is to increase the enemy variety, and have more varied enemies earlier. Arkham Knight went a step in the right direction, but for this to be a satisfying challenge, there need to be way more types.

  14. Crafty_Banana says:

    I’d be fine with more of the same (I still play Shadow of Mordor every so often, with various self-imposed restrictions on skills), but the DLC content for the original made me wonder if Monolith really understood why their game was good. The great thing about the Nemesis System was the fact that it gave the open world some room to breath – it felt like a place things happened in, rather than just a backdrop to a load of pre-defined missions. The DLC never built on that, instead scaling back on the interactions with the Orc power structure in favour of tightly constrained sets of objectives. If that’s the route they go down for the sequel, it’s going to be a big disappointment for me.

    • Freud says:

      The DLC were rubbish, especially the Bright Lord DLC. They removed the self sustain in fights so it was just frustrating because you had no way to stay in fights and there was no flow to it.

      Loved the main game though.

  15. Chaoslord AJ says:

    The nemesis system was pretty much the star of the game and I hope they improve on that but more of the exactly same?
    Black-grey Mordor, orcs, just a bigger area? Sounds boring. Here I was hoping for some of the other middle-earth areas. Maybe play the enemy. Maybe capture orcs and be able to play them in black ops missions to take out rangers of Anor.
    Maybe make it more strategic and tie in the ring war. Like I killed a thousand orcs but it never made a difference in the world overall.

  16. BockoPower says:

    There is an official Announcement trailer now:

    • Xocrates says:

      I really really wish they moved further away from the main storyline from the books/movies. The story of the first one never really gelled that well and if you’re now fighting Sauron while wielding a new ring of power it starts to sound like the worst kind of fanfic.

      Like, sure, have him faffing around Mordor during Sauron’s rise, but don’t have him fight enemies even Gandalf – who’s a literal demigod – is deathly afraid of.

      • Deviija says:

        I agree with that. I’m not interested in some alternative history fanfic of how the mighty rangerdude defeats Sauron in hand-to-hand combat with grimdark explosions. War in the North did excellent, I thought, with how they had the team running aid in the overall war campaign and fighting different big bads in order to investigate and help the war effort, gain intel, help allies, etc. It was side-adventures of other heroes doing what they could behind the scenes elsewhere during the LotR chronicles. I actually wish that game spawned more sequels. It was a fun co-op experience to boot.

  17. CartonofMilk says:

    SOM was definitely a firm 7. It was fun but shallow as hell and i played it non stop for like 4 or 5 days and then forgot all about it the day after i finished it. That doesn’t mean i want it to remain a 7 but realistically i’m not sure how they can change the sequel enough to make it feel deeper. It is at its core a dumb over the top action game and i’m not sure how you can make it be anything else, or even if you should try to make it be anything else. Improving the map would at least be something. It was built for function and nothing more.

    The annoying LOTR purist in me is annoyed the Tolkien universe has been turned into an action franchise but then again that all started when Peter Jackson got involved like 17 years ago anyway (ftr, i hate the movies)

  18. Jamesworkshop says:

    link to 49.media.tumblr.com

    On a more serious note, that release date is my birthday.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I just hope the game is a bit more organic feeling and less “instanced” than its predecessor. The best part of the first one was when one of your nemesis orc frenemies shows up while you’re in the middle of doing something else and fucks things up or just randomly stumbling across them when you’re up to something else. It was completely at odds with the way you then had to activate missions at designated places that suddenly cause the stuff that’s needed for the mission to spring into being on command so you can do it in a little sandbox isolated from everything else. I want the orcs to be randomly fucking up my missions more, not have them split out so completely from each other.

  20. Viral Frog says:

    I would love to see a Nemesis-style system implemented into a decent game. Shadows of Mordor felt too much like the Batman Arkham and Assassin’s Creed series’. For some reason, I find them to have quite possibly the most boring gameplay I’ve ever encountered in a game.

    I did actually get on better with Shadows of Mordor than I did with the Arkham or Assassin’s Creed games though. Got a good 12 hours or so out of it before I felt I’d seen all it had to offer. Once I realized how stupendously easy the game was and that the challenge did not increase, I put it down to rest.

  21. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Shadow of Wardor?


  22. Deviija says:

    A follower system to explore stories through them sounds like it could be interesting if they do something intriguing like they did for the Nemesis system. I’m interested in seeing what they might develop. And, yeah, I agree the game was mediocre hack and slash romp. It had the most tired and painful of story step ups/character history and thinned out excuses for plot. Cringe. But I am more interested in the kinds of systems and design this team can implement into the hack-and-slash/beat ’em up/AssCreed-y genre of games than I am the content at this point.

    That said, bigger question for me, I wonder: Will Lithariel also be returning (and as playable skin or more fully-fleshed out)? I hope so.

  23. Zombra says:

    Everybody pretty much agrees. The main quest of the first game was “who cares”. No one is interested in Talion or his fascinating and original story of “revenge against the bad guys who killed my family”. It’s all about the Nemesis System and procedural generation of enemies and relationships. Here’s hoping that they’ve truly expanded on those systems as the main focus and I won’t have to watch 20 hours of angsty Troy Baker cutscenes.

    • thatdude666 says:

      No no and no stop acting like your opinion is a fact… i want game that will have something more than just nemesis system and giant boring open world (most OW games are boring af). I love good cutscenes in game and interesting story and characters and i hope we will get this… 20 hours of cutscenes with interesting story and AWESOME troy baker would be the best option…

  24. racccoon says:

    I’m hoping its a windows game and not a steam one.

  25. Captain Narol says:

    Nemesis system extended to the whole world !

    Followers !!

    Dynamic strongholds to conquer !!!

    An orc army !!!!

    Seems my wish of a crossbreed of Mount&Blade Warband with Shadow of Mordor is about to get fulfilled…. If only I had 60 GB left on my PC !

  26. briangw says:

    I’ll buy is Dush makes a return! Lol