The Lord of the Rings is one of those properties that continues to print money no matter what you do with it. While the quality of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films have certainly left more than a few J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts grumbling, that’s not to say everything Lord of the Rings related is generating a similar response. In fact, one of the most highly anticipated video games of the year is supposedly set to explore the history of Middle Earth untouched by the film adaptations of Tolkien’s work.
Shadow of Mordor, developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, is a new game that puts players in the role of a Gondorian ranger who must fight against Sauron’s armies alone while uncovering the mysteries of Mordor. The game is said to borrow many of its characters from Tolkien’s Silmarillion, and will attempt to present the many histories of those characters to gamers unfamiliar with the material outside of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. If anything, this offers a great opportunity to expand Tolkien’s audience to those who were intimidated by the Silmarillion’s hundreds of characters and complicated structure.
Players will take control of Talion (Troy Baker), a Gondorian ranger tasked with guarding the Black Gate, and preventing the evils from the Land of Mordor from pouring out into realm of Men. With Sauron’s power growing stronger, Talion eventually fails in his task and watches as his entire family is murdered before him by the Dark Lord’s greatest servant, The Black Hand (Nolan North). Seemingly killed, Talion is reborn anew, only this time his body is playing host to an angry vengeful wraith wanting to lay waste to all of Sauron’s minions. Possessing great powers of influence and manipulation, Talion learns that he can control the most savage of Sauron’s Orc warriors and chieftains. Using this gift, Talion wages a one-man guerilla war against the armies of Mordor.
Revealed in past promotional material for Shadow of Mordor, the warrior-wraith that has fused itself to Talion’s soul is named Celebrimbor (Alastair Duncan). Celebrimbor, a name that is probably not well-known to casual readers of The Lord of the Rings, was the greatest Elvian smith of the Second Age. Deceived by the Dark Lord Sauron, Celebrimbor was the one to create the 16 Rings of Power. However, unbeknownst to even Sauron, Celebrimbor secretly forged three more rings for the Elves, which were said to be greatest and fairest of the Great Rings. Angered by Celebrimbor’s deception, Sauron waged war against the Elves of Middle Earth and eventually captured the Elvian smith. Even after countless tortures at the hands of Sauron and his lieutenants, Celebrimbor refused to reveal where the rings were sent. While Sauron would eventually learn the location of the rings given to the Human Kings and Dwarf Lords, he would never learn the location of the Elvian rings. Celebrimbor would finally succumb to his brutal injuries, and his body was left to rot in the unforgiving lands of Mordor. While the Silmarillion does not mention Celebrimbor’s family, Shadow of Mordor’s story will deal with the angry wraith seeking vengeance against Sauron for the death of his wife and child.
Even though many Lord of the Rings fans know the great evil and horrible atrocities of Sauron, so few seem to know anything about him. Who was he before he wanted to conquer all of Middle Earth? Why does he wish to bring about the enslavement and destruction of the races? What exactly is he? Well, Shadow of Mordor will not only explore Sauron’s past even before the First Age, but also why he eventually became the most feared being in all of Middle Earth.
As a member of the angelic race called the Maiar (the same race of Gandalf the Grey and Saruman the White), Sauron, who called himself Mairon thousands of years ago, had a love of all manner of craftsmanship and forging. Serving the Valar, the superior race residing in the world, Sauron was revered for his scientific knowledge, and was well-respected among his kind. However, open rebellion among the Maiar was stirring, and a Maiar named Melkor was its chief agitator. Eventually taking the name Morgoth, Melkor appealed to the Maiar to join his cause against the Valar. Believing that Morgoth could bring about an era of reformation and creativity, Sauron joined Morgoth and was corrupted by the fallen Maiar’s influence.
Shadow of Mordor, even when it’s exploring the dense history of Tolkien’s world, will offer plenty of fun activities for players to mess around with. Whether it’s burning orcs alive or using Talion’s wraith powers to convince man-eating creatures to viciously tear apart your enemies, they’ll be more than enough to do in Monolith’s highly anticipated action game. Who knew learning could be so brutally violent?
Shadow of Mordor will be released on September 30, 2014 for PS4 and Xbox One, and November 18, 2014 for PS3 and Xbox 360.
What do you think of Shadow of Mordor’s efforts to include so much history and lore about Middle Earth? Excited about the game? Let us know in the comments below!