Shadow of Mordor Easy Mode Would Have "Fundamentally Broken" the Game, Director Says

Michael de Plater explains why Monolith decided against offering a novice difficulty option for the game.

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor developer Monolith Productions could have created an "Easy Mode" for the critically adored Lord of the Rings game, but this would have "fundamentally broken" the overall experience, according to design director Michael de Plater. Speaking with GameSpot, de Plater said it was always important to Monolith that players feel a certain level of challenge so they could understand the depths of the game's ambitious Nemesis System.

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"We could have had an Easy Mode," de Plater told us. "And if we did, the game would have fundamentally been broken. Because if you could just hack and slash your way through the game without having to stop and think, without getting killed, without seeing these guys level up, without the world evolving, people wouldn't have got to experience the Nemesis System."

Monolith's own tests bear this out.

"To be brutally honest, we saw that [in testing]," he said. "The people who were the very end of the bell curve in terms of their coordination and skill--the people who found the game most easy, were also the ones who also found the Nemesis System least engaging."

"Actually, a hard mode is probably what we needed even more in some ways than an easy mode" -- Michael de Plater

De Plater went on to say that Monolith's aim for Shadow of Mordor was to create enemies and scenarios that appeared challenging, but at the same time were easy to take down if you took the right approach and discovered your foe's weaknesses. As such, Shadow of Mordor doesn't need an easy mode, but maybe an even tougher difficulty option, de Plater said.

"Actually, a hard mode is probably what we needed even more in some ways than an easy mode," he said.

Also in our interview, we asked de Plater how Monolith was able to ship Shadow of Mordor with no major technical hiccups. After all, technical struggles have been something of a common occurrence this year with other-big name games, including Driveclub, Assassin's Creed Unity, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

"It's sort of a cliche, but making games is hard, obviously," he said. "I think partly it was the fact that it was our first go at this type of game, so we were so incredibly paranoid and so fearful that we did close things down early, our production was really diligent about closing things down. Our QA did just a phenomenal job. Having our own engine, and our tech team and having those guys on site was hugely integral to it."

"So it just really was a big goal of ours; it was a priority to do that because you don't get two chances," he added. "If we had come out and stumbled on our first go, we'd never be getting a second one, basically."

For more on Shadow of Mordor, which won GameSpot's overall 2014 Game of the Year, check out our review and full video interview with de Plater above.

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