Shadow of Mordor is Nothing But Infantile Revenge Porn

Kilo24

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EternallyBored said:
Kilo24 said:
I had some hopes about the narrative being a story about Talion getting corrupted into service of Sauron; even though people invariably getting corrupted by inherently evil power isn't a theme I like in stories, it does fit with the themes of Middle Earth and would be at least an interesting alternative to the stereotypical revenge flick we got. There was an interesting line Talion said in the ending (something to the effect of "I'll create another ring of power") that hints towards that theme, but that's all that exists (beyond some very throwaway dialogue with Celebrimbor). Which is a pity, because a story about Talion and Celebrimbor getting corrupted into either service or a betrayal of what they once believed in could have been a great story that kept with both Tolkien's themes and let you go mad with flashy and gory combat powers.
I'm not sure if you missed it, but they do add more than that:

At the end, celebrimbor and talion are glowing with the same color power in their eyes that set Sauron apart from everyone else in the flashback scenes. They pretty much out and out show it in visual cues that they are basically setting off to be another Sauron.

This is sort of why I disagree with Shamus's analysis of the game, they pretty clearly show that the revenge and power fantasy, while fun for the player, is only going to end in tears for the actual characters...
That end bit is was what I was referring to. The issue was that the rest of the game didn't really feel like it led up to that - no actions by Talion showed negative consequences for anyone who wasn't an orc - so it was a "twist" ending that felt like it was a half-embarrassed apology to the source material moreso than a serious statement. Themes like that need to be built up over the course of the work, and it wasn't.

Now, there is a similar theme that I would say that the game does arguably build up: the idea that power is corrupting could indeed be argued from the narrative. Talion gets all the humans to leave Mordor to protect them in a way that could be construed as protecting them from himself. He brutally slaughters the Tower and the Hammer to comments by Celebrimbor. It comes out that Celebrimbor lied to Talion, suggesting that (along with Celebrimbor's cutscene activities of stealing the ring) Celebrimbor is already doing ethically shaky things in pursuit of power. And Talion actively dominates orcs, sowing discord through fear like Sauron historically did through temptation.

But the critical issue here is that none of those examples distinguish the Tolkien theme of "some power is too dangerous to wield" from the standard video game theme of "power is always okay to use on bad guys" - the tragic hero who sacrifices himself for power is self-defeating in Tolkien's work, but is a stereotypical dark, edgy, and angsty hero in other media. And in that other media, it's usually a cheap way out to let the protagonist be a hero but still do awesome things.

I'm not that fond of Tolkien's theme, but such a central theme should have been carried through. It may be played straight or it may have been subverted (I'd personally prefer the latter), but it shouldn't have been only referred to in a half-assed acknowledgement in an ending cutscene.
 

ZippyDSMlee

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And its the best infantile revenge porn game there is. Its more a rouge like game if you stop and think about it than something that dose everything around its setting/story, its more about finding random targets and eliminating them, its also like a reverse pokemon game IE you try and kill targets just to see what they evolve too.

I find the game a bit boring because I am more stalk/snipe/remove target while being fed a decent story type, Batman and Dishonored are better games but SOM is not that bad just mostly different as its billed as a straight up LOTR action title.
 

spartan231490

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I know you're a reviewer, but are you really going to call something "infantile revenge porn" based on subjective dislike? Why not be an adult and just say "I didn't like it. It felt overly violent and undeveloped." Is that really so hard?
 
Sep 13, 2009
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Shamus Young said:
For the record, I'd forgotten that "Revenge Porn" now meant "posting pornographic pictures of someone to get revenge on them". I was using it in the old-fashion sense, like "food porn".
I think you're in the clear, given the context it's pretty obvious that's what you meant.

I haven't played the game yet, but I've heard next to nothing about the story. The impression I got was that most of the game was supposed to be about the "nemesis" system, and I've yet to see anyone call that bad. Still, it's interesting to see someone talk about the game from a different perspective
 

Azahul

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As others have said, and as a big fan of Tolkein, I absolutely agree with everything you said. In theme and in execution, the story is terrible. I can't defend it. It's something I play through long enough to reach the point where you can really dig into the Nemesis system, and at that point I just try enjoying the legitimately interesting game mechanics while divorcing them from the story as much as possible.

That said, I've always wanted a game exploring politics in brutal societies and... Shadow of Mordor very nearly lets me do that. I've always loved Tolkein's Orcs as a distillation of the worst elements of humanity. A game about rising through the ranks of a culture where violence is the only thing that wins you respect is actually something I've wanted to run for my tabletop group for a long time now. The Nemesis system is, basically, one of my most innermost dream games come to life.

It's just sad that, in getting the game mechanics I always wanted, I had to put up with a story that made me wince at every turn.

spartan231490 said:
I know you're a reviewer, but are you really going to call something "infantile revenge porn" based on subjective dislike? Why not be an adult and just say "I didn't like it. It felt overly violent and undeveloped." Is that really so hard?
Probably because this isn't a review. It's an opinion piece. Having Shamus state his opinion in as subjective way as possible is pretty much the point of paying him to write this column
 

wizzy555

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I've not got to the end of the main story but I've noticed them doing the exact opposite of what LOTR tells you to do with dark powers. It's almost like it's deliberately hitting you with the "HEY REMEMBER WHAT BORIMIER WANTED" stick

I was expecting the end to be
Celebrimbor was tricked into doing evil all over again
 

Fasckira

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Speaking of the Orc dialogue, I've got one dude I've been keeping alive on purpose - hes mute. Everytime we encounter each other, when our weapons clash for example he just goes "Mmmph.... mmmph." or similar. His weapon appears to be a branding poker too, I really just feel sorry for the dude.
 

Kahani

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Shamus Young said:
some messy retcons and edits are probably unavoidable when you're adding something new to a work that was fully complete
To be fair, that doesn't apply in any way to Middle Earth, which was constantly being rewritten right up until Tolkien died. Even just looking at The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which can stand on their own perfectly well as self-contained stories, there's a huge amount of extra detail hinted at around the edges which constantly reminds you that while you don't need anything extra to enjoy that story, they're far from complete on their own. And just try asking anyone how many balrogs there are and what they are exactly (the answer is that anyone who gives a definitive answer is wrong because Tolkien himself kept changing his mind). The situation is actually very similar to Star Wars - the messy retcons and edits are only necessary because people insist on tying everything directly to the few stories that have already been told. Knights of the Old Republic, for example, wasn't good simply because it was well written, but because it deliberately chose a time that had previously not been written about, allowing itself the freedom to tell the story it wanted without worrying about how it might conflict with the films. The prequel films, on the other hand, suffered in large part because they tried to tie everything to the originals and often ended up with massive (and messy) retcons as a result.

Middle Earth has thousands of years of history, along with geography that has shifted around and been reshaped, most of which has barely been mentioned other than to note that Morgoth was the bad guy and various elves, humans and dwarfs were fighting against him and his minions as well as amongst each other. As long as a game is set a decent time before The Hobbit and not at the same time as one of the few major events actually recounted in other books, you have virtually free rein to do whatever you like without any fear of contradicting any of Tolkien's work.
 

FredTheUndead

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I think the Nemesis System is such a fantastic creation that frankly it overrides the issue of what this game does to Tolkien, who frankly has taken plenty of beatings in the past as far as video games are concerned.
 

Xerosch

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FredTheUndead said:
I think the Nemesis System is such a fantastic creation that frankly it overrides the issue of what this game does to Tolkien, who frankly has taken plenty of beatings in the past as far as video games are concerned.
I'm with you on this. I like the books (and love the movies), but the original source doesn't factor into enjoying 'Shadows of Mordor' for me. In my opinion the game is surprisingly good and the Nemesis system an innovation that (action) games have lacked for years. And while I mostly pay little attention to gameplay and choose my games for atmosphere and story, this is one of the rare occasions I can ignore the predicable plot.

On the other hand I don't know how I would react to a bastardization of something I love dearly, so I can understand some reactions from fans of Tolien's work.


Captcha: I'm blessed
 

Mr Cwtchy

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To be quite frank I don't give a damn.

Like, really. I don't care that SoM's theme is a stark contrast to Tolkien's. Being set in Middle-earth does not give the game an obligation to copy Tolkien's themes to the letter. The desire for revenge, while very, very common, is not an inherently 'bad' thing. Indeed, I'd say it's a perfectly understandable motivation and IMO the game portrayed it quite well.

At the risk of being blunt, if this opinion piece has made me think anything is 'infantile', it's not Shadow of Mordor...
 

Aggieknight

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TheMadJack said:
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.
I didn't; having played 80% of SoM, I can't think of a more descriptive term for what it is.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/masturbatory
"excessively self-absorbed or self-indulgent"

The entire game is a 12 year old's power trip with the background of LoTR.


I also agree with Shamus' assessment, however, I have a feeling that the ending of the game (which I haven't seen yet) isn't the end of the journey, but a midpoint. As boring angry ranger archetype #148 wasn't around for the actual LotR events, I suspect his demise will come in the form of some DLC.

Or, I should say "hope.
 

happyninja42

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I do find it funny that the article gives an example of how it would be more insulting if Batman ran around shooting people and torturing them for information. Considering the new Arkham game has a batmobile with mounted turrets on it that shoot high powered rounds like a hose, in the middle of the streets of Gotham. And I don't know how "torturing" isn't what batman does. He will beat people for information, and terrify them with threats of pain/death for information all the time. Fear is his #1 weapon. So yeah, we've got that already going around. Slightly offtopic I know, I just find it kind of funny that his example of a betrayal is actually out there, and yet I don't hear anyone really complaining about it


As to his points about it not being a Tolkien true work, I can agree mostly. I didn't feel like I was playing anything Tolkien related honestly. It felt like an Assassin's Creed/Batman Arkham game with a Tolkien paintjob, and I've described the game as such to other people. But honestly I don't really care if it doesn't follow the true Tolkien-verse or not. Unlike the OP, and a lot of people, I don't really find Tolkien's work to be all that wonderfully fantastic. I find most of the books incredibly boring, and in fact it took me several attempts to get through the Fellowship book, because I just kept getting so mind-numbingly bored with Hobbiton. I get it Tolkien, you've established the Hobbit's as being quaint folk with an idealic, rustic culture, and they're all "down to earth" and "salt of the earth" and I FREAKING GET IT!! CAN WE HAVE SOMETHING HAPPEN ALREADY?!? No? ....more chapters of the Hobbits and their stupid stuff? *sigh*

So yeah, I don't really care that they took huge liberties with the source material, the game is fun for what it is, which really doesn't have anything to do with Tolkien's work at all.

Personally I would've preferred the game devs make the premise of the game entirely new, but I understand the marketing reason for slapping a Tolkien paintjob on the product. It certainly got them a lot of press and hype. Thankfully the game's mechanics make up for the lame plot, and I had a great deal of fun playing it. I didn't really expect a huge story from the game, and I didn't get one, and that's ok. I had more fun creating my own stories with my struggles with the Uruk captains.
 

VoidWanderer

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I will admit to be playing the game not for the story, but the Nemesis system. It is an intriguing concept which works well, and I hope other developers pick it up and expand on it. I am having more fun going after the random Uruks and their captains, than the 'story'.
 

Falling_v1legacy

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The discrepency in themes is actually what stood out to me first and the most. I've been immersed in several university lecture series by the Tolkien Professor (Corey Olsen), so some things were very jolting. The mind control for information that you get at the beginning of the game, I was oh, wait. wut. I guess we're playing the bad guy here. In Tolkien's world, domination is THE big red flag, THE indicator of bad magic. Good magic is sub-creative, domination intrinsically bad. So I basically ignored any time the game tried to tell me I was the 'good' guy, anti-hero or no. As far as I was concerned, I was on the path to become the next dark lord with an army of mind controlled orcs. Plot and good intentions be damned.

It was a lot easier for me to ignore the jarring tone discrepency (and thereby allowing me to enjoy the game) if I was the assassin version of Saruman. Saruman is pretty much the trailblazer for our 'anti-heroe's' path to victory via the ends justify the means.
 

BrotherRool

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The_Darkness said:
On topic... Well, I'm avoiding spoilers, but I'd guess it would be appropriate in the ending if Talion's quest for revenge was successful, but ultimately destroyed him.
I'm guessing that's not what happens, however, judging by the tone of this article.
Even then, the gameplay wouldn't feel right for Lord of the Rings. A tale about someone getting destroyed by their lust for power could work, but not one where they were ultra gory and cool whilst doing it. Talion doesn't look or move like someone in the LOTR universe.

It is a great game though, just not a great Lord of the Rings game

FredTheUndead said:
I think the Nemesis System is such a fantastic creation that frankly it overrides the issue of what this game does to Tolkien, who frankly has taken plenty of beatings in the past as far as video games are concerned.
The thing is though, why give it a Lord of the Rings IP if you can't enjoy it in terms of being a LOTR fan? This game would have been incredible under someone else's name. It's like some took FIFA and called it Medal of Honour and replaced the players character models with soldiers. I'm still having a lot of fun, but it's really confusing that someone designed it like that and it's actively discouraging me from thinking about whats going on.
 

ForumSafari

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I notice a lot of people are calling Talion angsty. I didn't get that at all, in fact at several points through the story he's about ready to either pack it in or go on a significant diversion and it's Celebrimbor that cracks the whip over their vengeance.

To be honest Talion struck me as being rather dour but that's about it, he keeps complaints to a minimum and cracks witticisms back and forth. Celebrimbor, by contrast, is obsessed with revenge.

Fasckira said:
Speaking of the Orc dialogue, I've got one dude I've been keeping alive on purpose - hes mute. Everytime we encounter each other, when our weapons clash for example he just goes "Mmmph.... mmmph." or similar. His weapon appears to be a branding poker too, I really just feel sorry for the dude.
I've done something similar. I started off interrogating mooks, learning who bodyguards were and turning them on their warchief but I've found out you can also play the game as a sponsor-an-orc simulator and that that's far more fun. Take a particularly humorous captain, brand him, sponsor his career and make him into your warchief.

Off topic slightly but this is about the most fun I've had with a hack 'n' slash in ages, the only wrinkle in my funtime is that everyone and their uncle is invulnerable to ranged.
 

Coruptin

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Jul 9, 2009
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Just imagine that the game is an alternate offshoot of the main tolkien universe. One with new rules and same characters with new personalities.
Your favorite franchises will iterate and change sometimes into the opposite of what they started as and so will your favorite characters in said franchises.
Sometimes Batman is a methodical sane individual usually he is a psychopath, sometimes Superman is a benevolent god amongst men sometimes he is a pompous naive brute, sometimes Optimus Prime is actually Jesus sometimes he is robot murderhobo king, such is life.
 

EternallyBored

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Falling said:
The discrepency in themes is actually what stood out to me first and the most. I've been immersed in several university lecture series by the Tolkien Professor (Corey Olsen), so some things were very jolting. The mind control for information that you get at the beginning of the game, I was oh, wait. wut. I guess we're playing the bad guy here. In Tolkien's world, domination is THE big red flag, THE indicator of bad magic. Good magic is sub-creative, domination intrinsically bad. So I basically ignored any time the game tried to tell me I was the 'good' guy, anti-hero or no. As far as I was concerned, I was on the path to become the next dark lord with an army of mind controlled orcs. Plot and good intentions be damned.

It was a lot easier for me to ignore the jarring tone discrepency (and thereby allowing me to enjoy the game) if I was the assassin version of Saruman. Saruman is pretty much the trailblazer for our 'anti-heroe's' path to victory via the ends justify the means.
But you aren't ignoring the themes, the game pretty clearly shows you are basically a more direct action version of Saruman, you even have the actual Saruman trying to steal the wraith midway through the game, and by the end the wraith is basically talking like Saruman from the actual trilogy. the good intentions are meant to ring hollow and empty by the end of the game, domination is still pretty much the path to corruption, and I didn't get the impression that the game wanted you to think talion was going to end up as a good guy or uncorrupted at the end, hence the whole eyes glowing exactly like Sauron at the end, the game does everything except come out and explicitly say, "You're going to end up just as bad as Sauron, oh yeah and Celebrimbor I basically ripping off Saruman and he's going to end up corrupted or betraying you too"
 

Saviordd1

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Game is still fun as hell to play, and even though I've been a Tolkein fan since I could read I'm still more interested in the game being fun than anything else.

And it is.

Oh dear lord it is.