Shadow of Mordor is Nothing But Infantile Revenge Porn

Shamus Young

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Shadow of Mordor is Nothing But Infantile Revenge Porn

J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is a literary classic. It's a shame that Shadow of Mordor takes the setting and turns it into nothing more than a vengeful killing field.

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PunkRex

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Pretty much, this is particularly true for the ending...

After a joke of a fight with the Tower, which involves creeping up on him a few times, Talion decides not to pass on and instead to forge a new ring.

Talion is beyond boring, just another grizzled, family man with a dark past out for revenge, basically Bender the Offender.

Campster had a vid quite similar to this article, peeps should give it a watch if they liked what was said here.

 

BrotherRool

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Batman Arkham Asylum was a developer carefully crafting a brilliant game from the ground up to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of being Batman.

Shadow of Mordor was a developer carefully crafting a great game from the ground up* to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of being a 90's comicbook anti-hero. And then they called it a Lord of the Rings game


I really want to have a sequel, but one that isn't set in the Lord of the Rings universe. The gameplay feel is prefect for something like Prototype, Lord of the Rings less so. I don't think Tolkien would have ever wrote 'and then the bad guy disembowelled someone. But in a totally cool gory way!'

*Well out of bits and pieces of other games.
 

Ash3taka

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I hadn't thought about any of this while playing the game. Except that I didn't enjoy the story at all and that the ending dialogue was some of the worst ideas for a LotR story ever.

This is a great article and I would like to see a longer version of this even if you don't consider yourself the "Tolkien guy".
 

Agayek

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I agree on pretty much all points except one: I never saw Revenge as any kind of motivator for Talion.

I always got the impression that Talion was desperately chasing a death wish. That's why he was so gung-ho about fighting and especially killing the Black Hand: because it would finally allow him to die. He always struck me as incredibly fatalistic and desperate for join his family in death.

Of course, then the ending ruined that particular take, but I chalk that up to it being a sandbox video game and the developer needing an excuse to shoehorn in a post-credits "Now go explore!" bit.
 

Erttheking

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...Well that was brutal.

I have to say I didn't play the game, but I have seen nothing positive said about the story. Everything good said about the game has been about the gameplay (Well that's not true, people do like how the orcs are characterized, but the well tends to get poisoned when the murder happy orcs are said to have more personality than Talion) basically he's just grim angsty man model #532980. I long for the day where we can get more video game characters that can crack a fucking smile every once in awhile. You know, ones that are a little fucking charismatic?

Even though I only watched the movies (Which commonly get smacked by Tolken fans) even I know this about Lord of the Rings. War is a necessary evil in Lord of the Rings and shouldn't be indulged in more than is necessary. Christ, even the Hobbit movies managed to capture this when Bilbo kills that spider. The look on his face when he realizes what he just did is one of the best parts of the movie for me. Yeah it would've grown up to be a man eater, but it was still only a baby, and he just did it because of a selfish impulse. (Oh yeah by the way, the characters in the Hobbit could actually crack a fucking joke other than witty one liners too. Minus Thorin but it was actually in character for him and he was outnumbered thirteen to one)

There's nothing wrong with a good power fantasy game, but even I can admit to feeling a bit of disappointment when it completely misses the point of the source material. I'll probably still play the game when I get it on the PS4, but I'm just gonna block out the story whenever it comes up. Or when it does I'll just pretend it's a Warhammer game. That way it'll actually fit the fucking tone.

At the end of the day, I think we need more gameplay mechanics that don't revolve around killing people. We need more Papers Please.
 

Robyrt

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The central power fantasy is a shame because a lot of the incidental world building is totally Tolkien. Visions of ruined castles? Orcs with petty squabbles and coarse mouths? Combat where our hero is forced to flee from enemy archers (at least at low levels)? All that stuff would fit in very well. It's just that Middle-earth was to some degree a reaction against the concept of Batman, so putting him in there goes against the spirit of the franchise.
 

EternallyBored

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erttheking said:
...Well that was brutal.

I have to say I didn't play the game, but I have seen nothing positive said about the story. Everything good said about the game has been about the gameplay (Well that's not true, people do like how the orcs are characterized, but the well tends to get poisoned when the murder happy orcs are said to have more personality than Talion) basically he's just grim angsty man model #532980. I long for the day where we can get more video game characters that can crack a fucking smile every once in awhile. You know, ones that are a little fucking charismatic?

Even though I only watched the movies (Which commonly get smacked by Tolken fans) even I know this about Lord of the Rings. War is a necessary evil in Lord of the Rings and shouldn't be indulged in more than is necessary. Christ, even the Hobbit movies managed to capture this when Bilbo kills that spider. The look on his face when he realizes what he just did is one of the best parts of the movie for me. Yeah it would've grown up to be a man eater, but it was still only a baby, and he just did it because of a selfish impulse. (Oh yeah by the way, the characters in the Hobbit could actually crack a fucking joke other than witty one liners too. Minus Thorin but it was actually in character for him and he was outnumbered thirteen to one)

There's nothing wrong with a good power fantasy game, but even I can admit to feeling a bit of disappointment when it completely misses the point of the source material. I'll probably still play the game when I get it on the PS4, but I'm just gonna block out the story whenever it comes up. Or when it does I'll just pretend it's a Warhammer game. That way it'll actually fit the fucking tone.

At the end of the day, I think we need more gameplay mechanics that don't revolve around killing people. We need more Papers Please.
To be fair, depending on DLC and/or sequels, they could just very well be setting up the hero for a tragic fall, we already know that unless this goes into AU territory then the protagonist fails and Sauron conquers Mordor before going on to be beaten by the protagonists from LOTR, so there is very little chance that the protagonist is coming out of this with anything other than a bittersweet reunion with his family in the afterlife after failing to stop Sauron.

While the themes certainly take a more positive outlook on violence and conflict than Tolkien's works, we don't actually know yet that Talion will actually succeed, or if, like Boromir, he is struck down and shown the ultimate folly of his actions. Whilst the writing so far would suggest they aren't going to pull anything too subtle, I do fully expect that they are setting up the wraith as a sort of twisted reflection of Sauron.

The characters are written as generically gruff, but as the game goes on you can pretty much see that the protagonists are falling to a sort of corruption, and given that the wraith starts pretty much spouting the same rhetoric as Saruman, I don't see this ending with the same ends justify the means morality that its starting with. The wraith spends the whole second half of the game basically acting like a ghostly saruman mixed with the warnings of what Galadriel would have become if she took the ring.

The whole glowing white hand that appears on orcs faces after possessing them seems to be a direct nod to this corruption as it is suspiciously similar to the white hand marking that Saruman uses for his Uruk-hai. The wraith in the game even calls it a white hand or mark at some point I believe.
 

Barbas

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Yep, that was...candid. Brought up good points. I was a little annoyed by points where I thought the game got it wrong, but I wasn't as put off by it as you appear to be here, Shamus. A lot of the things you've mentioned passed right over my head while I was playing. The mechanics of the Nemesis system were well done to be that absorbing. The voice acting could have used more variety, but I thought the ones they went with were strong choices. Speaking in poetry, though? I think that sort of thing would have mixed about as well with the game as I can imagine Tom Bombadil fitting into Peter Jackson's films.

I'm glad for the lore details we got in the collectibles, because at least scattering those crafted items and accompanying snippets of conversation throughout the world meant you had something that was compelling to track down and uncover. I think that's how you do collectibles right.

The tone, though...I think you're spot-on there. It's difficult to imagine the events of the game occurring in the same world in which Gandalf said this:


But at the end of the day, I suppose you have to strike a balance between what the author would have approved of and what is likely to sell to people. Which is a shame, because when that's the case I think you should be working on a different project entirely.

erttheking said:
As for the idea of pretending it's Warhammer...not bad at all.
 

Barbas

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Wolyo said:
I'm sorry but "masterbatory"?
Simultaneously self-indulgent and unproductive, I suppose the meaning is. I think he means that this kind of gratuitous violence is particularly senseless when viewed alongside its source material. It's really pretty OTT anyway.
 

ZZoMBiE13

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As I've been saying to anyone who'll listen, as much as I like Shadow of Mordor it's a game crying out for a different license.

Star Wars. It's a game begging to be a Star Wars game. The revenge as motivation would work fine in a game about a Sith lead character, or a rogue Jedi fighting against a colony world of Mandalorian Bounty Hunters who threaten the Republic.

ME: SoM is great fun. But I honestly don't feel like the license adds much to the game. And Talion (as much as I like Troy Baker) is just a boring lead to play. I have no problems with the voice over work they did for Talion, but they just did not make me care for him at all. He's just an empty vessel to me. I dunno, maybe that's the point?
 

TheMadJack

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Wolyo said:
I'm sorry but "masterbatory"?
I cringed hard at that one.

And although I agree with Shamus' article, the game is still enjoyable. It's somehow a pity they didn't weave it differently.
 

DaWaffledude

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ZZoMBiE13 said:
As I've been saying to anyone who'll listen, as much as I like Shadow of Mordor it's a game crying out for a different license.

Star Wars. It's a game begging to be a Star Wars game. The revenge as motivation would work fine in a game about a Sith lead character, or a rogue Jedi fighting against a colony world of Mandalorian Bounty Hunters who threaten the Republic.
The Dark Side is literally everything Shamus was saying shouldn't be celebrated (but is) in SoM.

The Dark Side should not be celebrated in Star Wars.

I mean Jesus, at least LotR was subtle about it. Star Wars has it built directly into the mythology.
 

BrotherRool

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EternallyBored said:
While the themes certainly take a more positive outlook on violence and conflict than Tolkien's works, we don't actually know yet that Talion will actually succeed, or if, like Boromir, he is struck down and shown the ultimate folly of his actions. Whilst the writing so far would suggest they aren't going to pull anything too subtle, I do fully expect that they are setting up the wraith as a sort of twisted reflection of Sauron.

The characters are written as generically gruff, but as the game goes on you can pretty much see that the protagonists are falling to a sort of corruption, and given that the wraith starts pretty much spouting the same rhetoric as Saruman, I don't see this ending with the same ends justify the means morality that its starting with. The wraith spends the whole second half of the game basically acting like a ghostly saruman mixed with the warnings of what Galadriel would have become if she took the ring.

The whole glowing white hand that appears on orcs faces after possessing them seems to be a direct nod to this corruption as it is suspiciously similar to the white hand marking that Saruman uses for his Uruk-hai. The wraith in the game even calls it a white hand or mark at some point I believe.
The thing is even if they do get that right (which to be fair, I think they were going for at some point in the design), the actual gameplay feel and the way they tell the story is still completely un-Tolkien. All the animations are 'look how badass this is' and the central character even swaggers like he's straight out of Assassins Creed (incidentally all of the AC protagonists move like they're from the 21s century. Sometimes I wonder if it's deliberate). There's a big focus on gore and looking stylish.

Even a story about a Boromir character falling out of grace, wouldn't feel like that in the Lord of the Rings world.

In a slightly more nitpicky sense too, the stronger you are in the Lord of the Rings world, the less you get involved with the physical nitty gritty stuff. There aren't really people running around with superpowers, because once you get to that level it's more about a battle of wills then anything. Even with the Nazgul, they don't win battles because they show up and kill everyone, they win battles because their sheer presence strikes terror into the minds of their foes. Their very touch is poisonous to the world.


I really wish Shadows of Mordor were an original IP. You could make a badass gory Song of Ice and Fire style fantasy world, or even a really cool sci-fi one, out of the gameplay here.

DaWaffledude said:
ZZoMBiE13 said:
As I've been saying to anyone who'll listen, as much as I like Shadow of Mordor it's a game crying out for a different license.

Star Wars. It's a game begging to be a Star Wars game. The revenge as motivation would work fine in a game about a Sith lead character, or a rogue Jedi fighting against a colony world of Mandalorian Bounty Hunters who threaten the Republic.
The Dark Side is literally everything Shamus was saying shouldn't be celebrated (but is) in SoM.

The Dark Side should not be celebrated in Star Wars.

I mean Jesus, at least LotR was subtle about it. Star Wars has it built directly into the mythology.
The Force Unleased (in tone) is to Star Wars what Shadows of Mordor is to Lord of the Rings. Both protagonists even have the same modern day strut going on.
 

immortalfrieza

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ZZoMBiE13 said:
As I've been saying to anyone who'll listen, as much as I like Shadow of Mordor it's a game crying out for a different license.

Star Wars. It's a game begging to be a Star Wars game. The revenge as motivation would work fine in a game about a Sith lead character, or a rogue Jedi fighting against a colony world of Mandalorian Bounty Hunters who threaten the Republic.
I too think this kind of system would work well in Star Wars, but I doubt that will happen. Ooh! Now that I think about it, bounty hunters would work particularly well with this sort of system. The Nemesis system in particular is something I think I wouldn't mind if a bunch of games tried to copy from this point on, I think a lot of games in the future would benefit from it.
ME: SoM is great fun. But I honestly don't feel like the license adds much to the game. And Talion (as much as I like Troy Baker) is just a boring lead to play. I have no problems with the voice over work they did for Talion, but they just did not make me care for him at all. He's just an empty vessel to me. I dunno, maybe that's the point?
Probably, Talion is one of those generic characters that's designed for the player to step into the shoes of, the wraith seems more like he has an actual personality.

OT: I don't know about everybody else, but I don't particularly care if SoM doesn't follow the same themes as the LOTR, as long as it tells a good story, in fact the themes in Tolkien's works are far too restricting in terms of story and gameplay potential for my taste. The main story of SoM works, but isn't particularly good at all, and that's where it counts. Besides, as EternallyBored mentioned, they have the time to make things fit into Tolkien's themes as the game goes on. The side stuff and the gameplay more than makes up for this though, I wish other companies would put as much effort into the characterization of their generic NPCs and enemies and especially varying the lines as this game did, and not only is the gameplay addicting but it keeps getting added to as the game goes on. Some might say that it's a negative that the more interesting aspects don't really get started until halfway through but I see that as a positive, it helps keep the game from getting repetitive.
 

danielcofour

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I agree with this. And it's also the reason why we can't have proper Lord of the Rings games. With most games' central mechanic being stabbing people, it's really hard to see how you can ever reconcile that with the Tolkien universe.
 

rembrandtqeinstein

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I agree with your article but I just don't care. I'll keep recommending this game to everyone as the best entertainment experience in the last 10 years. The amount of FUN that is packed in to game is astounding.

Grand Theft Orc works great on its own. The hero kills stuff in cool ways to keep the player entertained while looking at the same takedown mini cutscene for 100 times.

It has the same level of fun as Blood Dragon where you can tell the developers were really into the thing they are making.

If it helps think of ME:SOM not like LOTR and more like 300 (or Starship Troopers before it). They can be looked at as both serious and satire. The mark of their quality is that they work simultaneously as both without one contradicting the other. And can be equally enjoyed on both levels.
 

Promethax

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That was a good article and I agree with it, but the anger could've definitely been toned down a bit. Thematically speaking, the game definitely could've benefited from having a different IP, but that's not that big of a mistake in my opinion. A little revenge fantasy simply isn't worth the butthurt.
 

oldtaku

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I guess nobody noticed that it is NOT a Lord of the Rings game? That name is very conspicuously not on it. Normally that would just be splitting hairs (it IS a Middle Earth game) but in this case I suspect it's because it does take Tolkien's setting and then then it rejects a lot of his themes. And takes a closer look at some things Tolkien was too squeamish to think about the consequences of (the Uruks).