While not essential, it’s highly recommended that you watch the trailer before reading this breakdown:
Just a day ago, gamers were treated by Monolith games to an alpha-gameplay showcase of their new addition to the Middle Earth franchise, Shadow of War. War seems to be slated as a sequel to their hit Shadow of Mordor, released back in 2014.
During this 15-minute breakdown, Monolith throws in as many well- established tropes of the first game, as well as highlighting the big differences and revamps game sequels are always expected to bring. Funnily enough, as a fan of the previous game myself, it wasn’t quite any one aspect of the game that managed to blow my mind, but rather the experience Monolith is endeavouring to provide through the culmination of these individual facets.
Yesterday, in an interview with GameSpot, Monolith’s design director was questioned on Shadow of War’s rendition of the “Nemesis system” made famous in the series’ first game, specifically regarding the system’s “key pillars”:
It’s this “pillar” de Plater is talking about that really jumped out at me during my first viewing of Monolith’s gameplay trailer. I’ve got to agree with the reports; this “experience” was a fantastic, surprisingly emotional by-product of Mordor’s Nemesis system. And in this interview, de Plater is promising Monolith’s move to capitalise on the system’s affect with gamers.
It happened to me late in my viewing; at around the 14-and-a-half-minute mark. After the player of the video takes down the Warlord of the tower he’s laying siege to, the narrator of the trailer – breaking down the individual elements of the gameplay – chimes in to explain the choices available to you after the successful conquest. First up, you must select one of your many minions to succeed the Warlord you took down. The narrator says:
“This War Chief is a necromancer. He will shroud the fort in sorcery to confuse and terrify attackers.
This War Chief is a beast master. He will allow us to turn the creatures of Mordor against our enemies.
But we’re going to promote Ragdug, the war chief who charged through that artillery assault and helped us bring down Ur-Hakon the Dragon Lord.”
Like the lovers of Mordor’s Nemesis system, the narrator makes a biased choice. Similar to the two other War Chiefs, Ragdug has a special attribute like necromancy and bestial control, but the narrator picks him because he assisted in the siege. If you want to see Ragdug’s input in all its glory, shuffle back to 12:50 of the trailer. It’s awesome. So much so that Monolith knows how much these individual moments will matter to a gamer when a system like Nemesis is properly put in place. These are the kind of moments that build relationships between you and your subjects and enemies.; the ability to personally cherish these moments and adhere to them like the character you’re playing might do themselves.
This is only one aspect of what appears to be a massive new entry to the Middle Earth: Shadow series. You’ve obviously seen for yourselves the other billion things War is promising in their trailer.
For starters, as the title implies, the game’s setting has been massively expanded from the map of the first game, taking place almost exclusively in Mordor, but seems to be split into multiple regions, or bases. During the actual battle of the trailer, the level itself seems to be filled to the brim with the new and the old. You can still use your ghostly arrows to zip across the map and execute an unsuspecting enemy – gore still aplenty, you can mount a warg to avoid a sudden eruption of flame at your feet, you can even highjack an enemy Drake and command it as its rider to set your enemies ablaze.
On full display in the trailer is the sheer spectacle of the last Shadow game. It’s alive and kicking, and invigorated to the extreme with Monolith’s new focus on larger scale battles. But the re-hauled Nemesis system, the heart beating at the centre of War, is where the game can really come into its own, and offer something even more unique than their previous offering back in 2014. Keep in mind, this is all alpha gameplay, and we all know it never represents the final product. Regardless, Monolith has tantalised us with a fantastic appetiser of things to come.