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Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor preview: Killer of orcs, controller of minds

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 1, 2014
Lords of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor doesn't truly feel like Lord of the Rings, but the lore is there and it's still a blast to play.

There are all sorts of hidden lore collectibles around the world that take advantage of this knowledge, if you're the type of person that likes to find that stuff. Since it's an open world, the order in which you discover these artifacts (if you find them at all) can vary, and supposedly your opinion of various characters will change entirely based on what you've found so far.

We also got a glimpse at a story mission that involved our old friend Gollum/Smeagol. Gollum's not the only A-lister to make an appearance, by the sound of it, and so we'll get a taste of what happened to these characters in the eighty years between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. That's a fascinating proposal, and one I'm intrigued by provided it's not a complete crock of garbage.

Enemy of my enemy

But it's while playing Shadow of Mordor it becomes hard to keep in mind that this thing is tied to the Lord of the Rings name. You're possessed by the ghost of Celebrimbor, who's infamous for forging the Rings of Power (including the series' favorite macguffin, the One Ring). He and Sauron have some unfinished business to attend to, obviously, like some sort of ghost-on-ghost jilted lover's quarrel.

To help Celebrimbor you'll scale entire walls, chop a million orcs into pieces, and use mind control?

The heart of Shadow of Mordor is the nemesis system. Orcs aren't just fodder enemies--occasionally the game promotes some to Captain status, which gives them a name and a "backstory" of sorts. The game then tracks where these Captains are at all times, as they interact with each other behind the scenes and play out power struggles.

At any time you can go and hunt down these Captains, either killing them or using your weird wraith mind control powers on them to make them yours. With the latter, you can send your dominated orcs out on your own missions, causing them to infiltrate a rival orc's power structure or assassinate a leader.

And if one of these Captains kills you or escapes from a battle, the game "remembers" what happened the last time you met up and tries to play it up the next time around. Dying, instead of resetting you at a save, causes a nebulous amount of time to pass in the game world, with Captains growing stronger and betraying each other in your absence.

It's a fascinating system, but also turns this into basically a hunt-the-orc action game, and in those moments the orcs could really be reskinned as any generic enemy without a problem. It's easy to forget you're playing a Lord of the Rings game when you're slicing and dicing an entire army of orcs and causing some of their heads to explode with the power of wraith energy or something?


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