Update: Alas, this was too good to be true and indeed an April Fool – I hate this bloody day – besides, as it was posted yesterday isn’t there something to say they are the fool?
In the UK, an April fool joke is revealed by shouting “April fool!” at the recipient, who becomes the “April fool”. A study in the 1950s, by folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, found that in the UK, and in countries whose traditions derived from the UK, the joking ceased at midday. A person playing a joke after midday is the “April fool” themselves
Original story: Fans of Lord of the Rings rejoice, theres a new Battle for Middle-Earth and it’s headed for Xbox One.
The real-time strategy game is set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth at the end of The Hobbit trilogy, and is due to march onto consoles in 2016.
Having secured the rights to this fabled franchise, we can finally bring The Battle for Middle-earth into the current generation of video games,
says Isaac Johnston, High King, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Utilizing the award-winning people behind 2014’s ‘Shadow of Mordor’, we are looking to both satisfy the existing The Battle for Middle-earth fanbase as well as evolve its concepts to attract new gamers to this franchise. This is going to be the Lord of the Rings RTS experience fans have been waiting for.
Monolith Productions are the American studio behind the terrifying F.E.A.R and Condemned series and are the masterminds behind Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The Lord of the Rings universe has huge potential for a truly incredible game because of the fantastic lore that Tolkien has created, dozens of titles have attempted to fill that void but failed over and over again, until now.
Shadow of Mordor takes place between The Hobbit and Lord of the Ring trilogies, you play as Tailon, a Gondor ranger set with the task of guarding the Black Gate. Within the first 60 seconds of the game, this poor chap has his entire family brutally sacrificed in front of him and then being killed himself. This then leads to an Elf Lord spirit being summoned, bringing Tailon back from death’s grasp and the pair go on an epic journey across Mordor, slaughtering everything in their way until they get their revenge on the Black Hand.
That’s about the story in a nutshell, not the most eventful and it’s not helped by the fact that Tailon is a fairly dull character. His facial expression barely seems to change between confusion and boredom, no matter what is happening in front of him. Thankfully, the quests that Tailon sets out on keeps the main story missions interesting, usually involving the player stalking an enemy, following a trail or defending a certain object/person in a variety of different locations across the map. You’ll stumble across characters that you love from the main books and movies such as Golem, who is possibly one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever witnessed in a video game.
The stand out feature in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the truly incredibly Nemesis enemy system. It’s hands down one of the best features to be introduced into a video game for a long time and it creates endless opportunities. The Nemesis system is an active, constant roster of enemies that refreshes and changes as you play the game. Shadow of Mordor revolves around Orc’s battling their way up the chain of command, eliminating higher ups and defending their positions as the top dogs in Sauron’s army, they could start out as a grunt patrolling a guard tower but could make their way up the chain by killing Tailon, becoming a captain and eventually a War chief if they survive long enough.
The player will constantly stumble across these enemies who have a variety of different weaknesses and strengths which the player can choose to take advantage of by carefully watching the area and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. They could be immune to stealthy takedowns but terrified of Caragors, so the easiest choice would be to tame one of these wild beasts and eat the Orc alive. This is just one of hundreds of different combinations that the enemy could have. Every time you battle one of these beasts, you’ll have the chance to use your Elf-wraith powers to interrogate them, learning intel about other commanders weaknesses and strengths which is always helpful.
Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system makes the game feel alive and completely unique every time you jump on to play, simply hitting Y to advance time after opening the menu could potentially completely change the battlefield as you know it. A lonely Orc could suddenly dominate the chain of command, brutally executing everyone above him or you could even manipulate the system and brand (control) a basic captain, help him become one of the most powerful creatures in the land by killing his superiors and then turning him against the rest from the inside, the possibilities are endless. I just can’t stop toying with the system and seeing what is capable next. You can’t help but feel slightly cruel at times but hey, they killed my family and deserve everything they have coming to them.
Developer Monolith Productions have created some extremely impressive visual games in the past and Shadow of Mordor certainly doesn’t disappoint in that area. The world is beautifully detailed from the tallest towers to the deepest, darkest Ghaul-filled caved, you’ll struggle to not be impressed. After a notable amount of time with this game, it’s still satisfying just watching the world go by, animals bouncing through fields while the Black Gate towers above in the background. It’s worth pointing out that there are a few frame rate hiccups here and there, especially when you’re battling dozens of enemies inside major strongholds, which is something you’ll want to avoid anyway.
The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies are well known for their stunning soundtracks and it’s continuing in video game form. The music is just brilliant from start to finish, it fits every moment exactly how you’d imagine it happening in the films and when the war chiefs enter the battle? Horrifying. The music alone manages to show the power of the enemies you’re about to battle or what you’re going to run into just around the corner.
Combat in Shadow of Mordor will be extremely familiar to players who’ve sunk time into the Batman Arkham series. It’s almost a like-for-like copy but that’s not exactly a bad thing, as it’s about as good as combat in video games is going to get. The player simple uses X, Y and A to attack, counter and dodge enemy blows but becomes increasingly more complicated the more skills that you unlock. Eventually, even the most powerful war chiefs will be a breeze, it’s just a matter of trying to remember the different button combinations and hitting the dodge or counter buttons once the button appears above the enemies heads.
The combat is pretty much spot on but the free running and general movement around Mordor can be painfully frustrating at times when it comes to exploring the world. Similar to the Assassin’s Creed games, you hold the right trigger to ‘activate’ the free running, then using A and B to jump and drop. It works quite well when jumping around rooftops but when it comes to navigating small areas, you’ll find yourself running into walls or just getting stuck in awkward rock placements in the middle of combat and leading to a certain death.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do in Mordor, the main story will keep you entertained for a good 10 hours at least and there are dozens of other events, missions and collectables. The player could participate in hunting for wildlife or collecting herbs, freeing slaves from the gruesome Orcs, attempt to battle waves of enemies with your bow and sword or even track down the 100 or so collectables scattered across the region. There’s plenty to keep you entertained for a good 20-30 hours, ignoring all the fun you can have with the Nemesis system.
All of these tasks above earn two types of experience; either ‘power’ from defeating powerful Orcs in the Nemesis system which eventually unlock higher tiers of abilities or experience from finishing missions and events which earn the player skill points when you level up, which can then be spent on some truly badass abilities which help Tailon go on some monumental killing sprees. The best part about this system is just how powerful Tailon becomes when you’re reaching the later stages of the game, everything has a use and worth unlocking.
As of right now, Shadow of Mordor is without a doubt the best Lord of the Rings title to date and easily my Game of the Year so far, it’ll take something truly special to take its place. It’s a damn enjoyable experience from beginning to end and tonnes of things to keep the player entertained for dozens of hours. Hell, even after collecting everything and finishing the main story, manipulating the Nemesis system is a game on its own. All that is missing is a slight bit of polish around the edges, I can’t wait to see what happens with this series in the future.
The Lord of the Rings is one of the most successful film franchises in history. Between the three films in the original trilogy and the first two movies based on The Hobbit Peter Jackson and company have grossed more than $1.5 billion while sparking increased interest in the source material.
Understandably, there have been attempts to capitalize on the success of the cinematic adventures in the the form of video games. Lord of the Rings games have come in every shape and size since the release of the first film, spanning every multiple console generations, handheld devices, smartphones, computer operating systems, and Gambling.com even has a review of a slot machine based on the series.
The first attempt at a LotR game on the newest console generation comes in the form of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The game was announced way back in November, but an October 7 release date was just announced earlier this month.
Developed by Monolith Productions, the company behind F.E.A.R., the game is an entirely original story set between the events of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In addition to an original story, players will be privy to some truly unique gameplay elements that the developers are hoping will set the game apart.
First and foremost is what the game makers are calling the “Nemesis system.” In an attempt to bring a different element to how users approach the title, a system wherein players can shape the very nature of their opponents was created. Instead of being forced to kill everything in sight like these games normally demand, players can encounter various enemies and choose to let them live or die. There are advantages to both approaches, as allowing them to live can supply gamers with extra information regarding future quests and enemies, but also allows those enemies to return later in the game leveled up and looking for revenge. It is an intriguing idea, letting players craft their own game narrative as they go. Unfortunately for those playing on the Xbox 360 it appears they may not get the full measure of the feature. The game’s director has stated that while the game will be playable with the Nemesis system on the 360, their focus has been on the newest console generation, and the technical differences between previous and current generations mean players on the Xbox One will experience a much richer experience throughout the game.
Another innovative feature to the game is their companion iPad app, called Miidle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Palantir, which can be downloaded now. The app will be constantly updated by community members with information, tips, and walkthroughs of the game, among other features.
Whether these features will help make Shadow of Mordor the first truly great Lord of the Rings game on the newest console generation is yet to be seen, but for now their ingenuity is enough to make it a game to keep an eye on as we creep closer to it’s release date.
I don’t know about you, but I love LEGO. No seriously, I actually do. Earlier this year when I went to San Diego for Comic Con 2012 (yes, I am a real geek!), I visited the local LEGO store and spent 3 hours in there. When I was younger I would sneak LEGO pieces home from my Grandparents house because I hadn’t quite finished the adventure I was having. I still now look at LEGO collections and want to buy them. It’s the lack of space in my apartment that stops me. It’s the fact LEGO inspires creativity and imagination – not mindless consumerism. Maybe you haven’t touched a brick since you were a kid but if you’re a gamer there’s a good chance you’re more than familiar with the virtual versions. Continue reading LEGO Lord of the Rings Review→
Delve into the epic Middle-earth fantasy world and experience the battle firsthand with the Launch Trailer for new MOBA Guardians of Middle-earth, released today by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Monolith Productions.