E3 2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is the Assassin's Creed Game I Always Wanted

Tuning Orcs.

I have a difficult task ahead of me. I need to try to convey why, after just the first day of E3, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is quite likely my personal game of the show. This open world stealth-action game, which sees you become a supernatural entity called a wraith and sow chaos amongst the ranks of Orc warlords, is the sum of many parts. Like Assassin's Creed, you can freely climb almost any surface. Like Batman: Arkham Asylum, combat is about mashing attack and occasionally responding to counters or special moves. Like Far Cry 3, you can pit hostile wildlife and opposing factions against each other to accomplish your objectives for you. But it's that Assassin's Creed influence--one that sparked developer accusations of identical code--that is strongest.

Assassin's Creed began a series of games that seemed full of possibility. Ubisoft's original intention to explore social stealth and artificial intelligence that reacted to your behaviour, not just your presence, implied whole new kinds of interactions in an open world game. And though the Assassin's Creed series has delivered surprises, I have been unable to shake the sense that its games have iterated too slowly on a now well-established formula. Shadow of Mordor takes that formula and does something seriously impressive with it that doesn't involve adding pirate ships. The game focuses on the consequences of your acts of assassination, and how they ripple through the ranks of the remaining Orc horde.

The significance of finding and killing a target has been greatly expanded over that of Assassin's Creed. Both Orc captains, and more powerful Orc warlords, have individual levels of power, unique strengths and weaknesses, and important relationships to one another. In Assassin's Creed, you locate and murder a target, then move on to the next scripted chunk of story. In Shadow of Mordor, assassinating a target causes dynamic shifts in power amongst his subordinates. They will fight to be his replacement; possibly even kill each other for the opportunity, completely of their own accord. The strategic side of choosing who to assassinate, and when, is just as important as the skill required to physically close in on a target and take them out.

In Shadow of Mordor, assassinating a target causes dynamic shifts in power amongst his subordinates.

However, as a wraith, you aren't confined to the physical realm. Your supernatural powers allow you to teleport to enemies and perform ghostly takedowns, or to make them serve your own purpose. This domination mechanic is key to how Shadow of Mordor goes well beyond Assassin's Creed. Removing a target from play isn't the end of that enemy. Dominated Orc captains can be ordered to betray their warlord masters, bringing them out in the open for an easier kill. If a warlord is then dominated, he and his army can be sent to cause a riot with another warlord, creating a power struggle that changes the entire setup of your next assassination mission.

What appears to make Shadow of Mordor even deeper is the fact that your choices in dominating Orcs and sending them against their brethren don't result in immediate, scripted consequences. They simply change the landscape of the next major encounter. Once that encounter begins, who lives and who dies is still entirely governed by the systems that determine an enemy NPC's strengths, weaknesses, and combat aptitude. An Orc captain who is scared of fire will still flee from a major battle, regardless of whether you intervene. A warlord who is vulnerable to attacks from aggressive wildlife will still be gored by roaming fauna, even if you did not set up the attack. In my hands-on time with the game, I experienced instances in which significant characters were killed off-screen and entirely without my intervention. The result is a highly ambitious twist on the open-world stealth-action formula established by Assassin's Creed; a twist that makes the act of assassination significant through systems that appear to always be given preference over scripted plot.

It seems like everything I've been wanting from an Assassin's Creed game is at the core of Shadow of Mordor. In the time I played, I was repeatedly flabbergasted by the continual layering of deep systems and large-scale consequences that I never expected. Though it may be comprised of familiar parts, I think Shadow of Mordor has earned the right to own such blatant copying, for the game brings those parts together in ways that make for an entirely fresh open world experience.

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Discussion

200 comments
mark_unix
mark_unix

Paid 30 euro's for it with the season pass, sorta proves why consoles suck.

yoda101280
yoda101280

Assassin's Creed is dead to me until they do a game in the Feudal Japan time period, I've said it many times. Everyone seemed to love the whole ships and pirates thing but I didn't care for that at all, I hate their shift to time periods with firearms in general.  I prefer the more swords and throwing knives type deal, I don't understand their reluctance to not do a game in Feudal Japan though.  Plenty of rich story and political intrigue in that time period and you have actual ninjas, franchise is basically made for that time period and they won't do it.


Of all the big titles at E3 AC Unity was the least interesting to me as expected, looked like a slightly prettier iteration of all the things they've done already but now with co-op.

deathstream
deathstream

Sounds awesome.  Assassin's Creed stopped being about assassinations a LONG time ago.  The perfect setup for a series has been squandered and turned into a series of mini-games made by different companies and that feel like different games.

smooth77
smooth77

is that like the worst way to start an interview or what?

Koudai2008
Koudai2008

Is this the same Monolith that is working on Xenoblade Chronicles X for Wii U?


If so, then does this mean that we could see this game for the Wii U?

S4vagecabbage
S4vagecabbage

I'll give this a shot, I always did enjoy Tolkien's stories and thus far I've enjoyed the AC games a ton. Especially Black Flag, which I perceived to be more of a pirate game with a great deal of AC abilities. Don't get me wrong, I doubt this will be anywhere near as well made of a game but it certainly could be very good in it's own right. Cheers to the Fellowship of the Gamerz! 

oflow
oflow

I wont be playing this.  Too much AC too much lore trampling.

fmobliv06
fmobliv06

This is what I was afraid of, though. Even before that Ubisoft guy Tweeted about how similar the two games looked, this pretty much looked like LotR Assassin's Creed. When a developer puts out a new franchise I want it to FEEL new, and I'm just not getting that here.

Baelath
Baelath

But why in Middle Earth. Why with such an absurd premise, and plot. Why with some gameplay mechanics that don't make any sense in Tolkien's Legendarium. Why must it attach itself to LOTR?

I'd only be hyped for this game if it was some original IP. It's piggybacking on a well-established and beloved setting; and arguably, this game worsens itself and Tolkien's world in the process.

Xmus942
Xmus942

Good, I never liked Assassin's Creed.

blackothh
blackothh

If they deliver on what they are trying to do then this will be such an awesome game! Im not going to rush out and get it, because ive been burned by hype before, but im very optimistic about this one.

tommynj
tommynj

Very skeptical because it seems no matter who makes a LotR game it turns out to be craptastic. 

CrackDima
CrackDima

the act that the interviewer's mic and ear piece was on the wrong side of his face kept bothering me. That's a big no-no when you are on camera. Your mic needs to be behind your profile

Kavorklestein
Kavorklestein

Is it just me, or does this seem more interesting than Batman AND  Assassin's Creed?

I know the batman games are great, I love them, and I also LOVE the Assasin's Creed games, but THIS.... this seems to be one of a kind ,and seems a lot more action packed and diverse than either of those two.


I'm super stoked to see more impression and gameplay of this baby

sammoth
sammoth

Terrible Article on what seems to be a great game. Why did you even post this rubbish you call journalism you're just as bad as the T/r/o/l/l/s on the forums. Do you go around comparing every game to another or are you feeding off of the wrong rumors about this game.

Trev9421
Trev9421

I really like Assassin' Creed (Ass Creed as the creative among us call it), but I'm pretty darn pumped for this game.

dialtech
dialtech

I'm glad this game is really focusing on the single player experience, it's looks fantastic! Title should say…      Middle-Earth Shadow of Mordor is the Lord of the Rings game I always wanted. I will probably have much more fun with this than Unity (which I will also being getting).

daviz88
daviz88

the title of this article made me sick to my stomach

do you why DANTE INFERNO (not a fan of that game) failed because its was a GOD OF WAR clone. but this game gets a free pass because its LORD OF THE RING franchise, that's just wrong.

not saying the game is bad though

dpclark
dpclark

This looks better than Kingdoms of Amalur

sebferrari88
sebferrari88

I was not excited about Shadows of Mordor when I first heard about it. I am sure I would eventually get the game, but now after E3 it has jumped to one of my most anticipated game for this year, right next to Evolve. The combat looks fluid and engaging, the Nemesis System sounds amazingly detailed and thought out. I hope that the Nemesis System inspires other developers to come up with similar systems for their own IPs, especially with the current power of PCs and consoles.

Carton_of_milk
Carton_of_milk

Not sure how that's a AC clone...all i'm seeing from the video is loads of fighting and non stop killing and barely any stealth.... I hope you don't have to play this way.

yumyumnomnom
yumyumnomnom

This game looks great! Can't wait to play it.

leimonides
leimonides

Hm, I largely ignored the whole Assassin Creed accusations-articles (as I thought it was rather lame issue); was it really compared that deeply that the article had to get that deep and serious into jabbing at it? 


Aside from that, while I agree the iterations after AC2 are not as big as the jump from AC1 to AC2 was (probably will never really see that again), the two games universe-wise are very different; so some of these comparisons are unfitting. 


But anyway, I'm very much liking what is being shown of this game and how everything is working; what they are attempting to do with it. I am big on story however, so I am wondering how much is honestly here and how engaging, and how deep, the story is actually going to be. it is Lord of the Rings, so this is rather important to me. The game will have a bit of a 'black mark' for me if the story isn't up to par like the game play (presumably, hopefully) is. 

X-RS
X-RS

While I'd much prefer to see new IP's, I'll be looking forward to news on this tittle now that I know it's Monolith.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

Sounds conceptually pretty neat. How that translates to an actual gaming experience remains to be seen.

TroyTrojanGamer
TroyTrojanGamer

Eh, it looks okay but I would have to see this on the market for a few weeks.

chris120379
chris120379

I dunno about this game, I'll,probably wait a few weeks and compare some reviews, it looks interesting though.

Gooeykat
Gooeykat

Yeah, but it's Monolith...if it were Monolith from 10 years ago, I'd be more optimistic.

ghost140
ghost140

So open world game with Assassin Creed and Batman mechanics....I am intrigued will definitely keep an eye on it

kvan33
kvan33

@Baelath Because it's hard for original IP's to get a AAA budget unfortunately. You're right, this should be it's own new IP, but publishers are too scared to risk the investment.


kave1793
kave1793

Totally. The Assassins and Arkham mesh of gameplay mechanics really seems like it could amazing.

Plus.. Who doesn't love Lord of the Rings?

Gladestone1
Gladestone1

@Kavorklestein

Think its a new ip for one..Batman an assasins creed been around for the last five six years..So this is some thing new looks fun an game-play looks addictive..Just hope you get more perks..Other than chopping there heads off an grabbing there heads..

SythisTaru
SythisTaru

@sammoth The article does nothing but praise the game. Maybe try reading it. 

AtomicBaconBits
AtomicBaconBits

@Gooeykat Yeah too bad those guys are all pretty much gone. F.E.A.R. 1 and Condemned 1 are some of my favorite games of all time. F.E.A.R. was so way ahead of it's time. Too bad the sequels just downgraded dramatically on every release.

Fire_Wa11
Fire_Wa11

@Gooeykat Dunno' much about Monolith outside of (their) Gotham City Impostors (game.)  But Gotham City Impostors is excellent, very underrated game.  You're gonna need a high tolerance for teabag jokes though, because it is frickin' LADEN with 'em.

Gooeykat
Gooeykat

@Fire_Wa11 @Gooeykat The last great games they made were FEAR and Condemned: Criminal Origins...and FEAR 2 which was just okay.  They used to make great games on the PC.  But that was a while ago.

kvan33
kvan33

The name of the piece is "E3 2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is the Assassin's Creed Game I Always Wanted".

How did you think it would be anything other than an opinion? Go ask your journalism professor to explain the difference.

sammoth
sammoth

@kvan33  This is a professional website.  Not a class project. You're supposed to keep your PERSONAL opinions out of it. It's not the fact that he mentioned AC it's the fact that he kept comparing it to it.


BTW: This is not a person opinion piece.


It's : "News & Features"