Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an upcoming open-world RPG developed by Monolith Productions, a division of Warner Bros. games. The title is based on author J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, and it bridges the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Director of design Michael de Plater and lead designer Bob Roberts developed a creative, next-gen experience that fits seamlessly into the lore of Middle-earth. The team even met with Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop to maintain consistency with the environments, characters, and storylines established in Jackson’s films.
Players will take on the role of Talion (voiced by Troy Baker), a ranger of Gondor tasked with guarding Mordor’s Black Gate. After witnessing the murder of his family by Sauron’s armies, he embarks on a quest for revenge, but is killed only moments later. Brought back to life by a mysterious spirit, Talion now possesses superhuman wraith-like powers and his drive to avenge his family has never burned brighter. As he sets out to obliterate all those who have wronged him, he discovers the truth about his resurrection, and about the origin of the legendary Rings of Power.
Powered by LithTech, an engine designed by Monolith and Microsoft, this third-person action title will feature some of the best graphics around – even though Mordor is basically a barren wasteland. Art director Phil Straub and lead animator Camille Chu brought the game’s visuals to life, with Matthew Titelbaum leading the AI software engineering. The game will run in full 1080p on PS4, but not on Xbox One, according to Monolith’s studio head Kevin Stephens.
In a Game Informer interview, sound designer Brian Pamintuan and composer Nathan Grigg describes Shadow of Mordor’s unique fusion of sound effects and music. “We’re applying pools of musical sound design, you might say. They work in lockstep with the animations of the player and of the impacts on the enemies,” Grigg explained. The team used tones from unusual musical instruments, like the waterphone and springdrum, to convey the ominous atmosphere of Mordor.
A key element of combat gameplay is the game’s innovative “Nemesis system,” an adaptive feature that can turn any cookie-cutter henchman into a supervillain. Ordinary enemies will find themselves “promoted” in the evil hierarchy of the game, depending on the outcome of the battles. If an orc kills an opponent in a skirmish, he gains prestige and acknowledgement within his ranks, becoming stronger and more powerful with each victory. Enemies are even affected by the attacks they survived. Remember the orc you stabbed but couldn’t kill because he ran off? He’ll be back, stronger than ever, and he’ll definitely remember. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will be available for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC, and hits shelves September 30th, 2014.