Friday, January 24, 2014

On the Radar - Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor

As much as it pains me to admit this, since I'm sure some circles would call for my head and/or my nerd card, I'm just not really a fan of Lord of the Rings.  I've tried several times over with the movies and the games and perhaps that's the problem, in that I've never tried the books, but it has just never worked out.  I tried watching Fellowship three times and fell asleep all three times, twice for Two Towers and I saw Return of the King in the theater, so I didn't fall asleep then.  The film, however, did stop about 2/3rds of the way through for about 10-15 minutes, though, so maybe it's a sign.  Perhaps it's just not for me, as they say.  It's a thing that happens sometimes.  So when I heard tell of a new Lord of the Rings game coming out, I didn't pay it much mind, even when there was a bit of controversy over some of the animations used in the alpha footage.

All that said, however, it wasn't until I saw a post by Chance on the subject that I decided to give it a look-see and boy am I glad I did.  While I can definitely see where the concerns lay insofar as the Assassin's Creed comparisons, I don't care.  That is because what I see looks astoundingly good, especially for a franchise that I have no particular affection towards.  Of course, it's hard to -not- look good when it cribs from the Darksiders school of thought, by being a Locke's Socks amalgamation of Lord of the Rings and these fantastic games.  Intentional or not, you can pick out the Assassin's Creed, the Arkham Asylum/City, the Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and the Hitman bits and inspect them on their own merits, and you can possibly try to determine whether or not it's cool that they are so clearly those bits placed into the stew that is Shadows of Mordor, but it's an easy decision.

When it looks like that?  Yes.  Yes it's cool.

Of course, Shadows of Mordor does bring something incredibly interesting and new to the table in the Nemesis system, which I for one am wary to believe is as fantastic as it's made out to be.  Simply because I cannot comprehend a world in which is does work as flawlessly as indicated just yet.  The Nemesis system claims to be able to randomly create a Nemesis for you that will serve as a major figure in your world that you ultimately want to kill as well as henchmen for that figure.  Not only that, but the Nemesis system promises, much like so many other games do, that all your actions and decisions matter and change the course of your story, causing your Nemesis (Nemeses?) to act accordingly.  The example used is that the player encountered two of the figures in the game early on, left the major figure to burn to death in a fire, but he survived, leaving him with a rather nasty burn, and a mean grudge.  It promises a wealth of opportunities and scenarios unique to every player and it sounds, in a word, amazing.

The cynic in me just cannot believe this is possible.  The cynic in me understands that, if you're using voiced lines, there can only really be so many instances of situations possible, since the lines have to be recorded for them all.  And the cynic in me believes that it's something that will offer less 'endless possibilities' and more 'scenarios created by creative gating' which is merely a series of binary yes/no options that are little more than littered along a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style path.  On the path in the trailer, there was a choice where the player apparently did -something- that left his Nemesis with a massive burn on his face.  That choice is a gate that takes you to a certain path in which X and Y happens.  While it gets a bit more impressive when X and Y are influenced by A, B and C or what have you, it's all something that you can see the workings of.  Depending on how many 'paths' and 'gates' they actually include in the's quite possible that this 'unique experience' will not be that at all for most, which would be unfortunate and the exact thing I -don't- hope for.

I don't really like the cynic in me.  While I can see all that logic and such, I don't want to, because 'player choice affecting world-building' is something that I'm always a fan of, though few games pull it off as well as some shining examples which is an absolute shame.  It's a hard thing to pull off, I'm aware, because it's stacking variable upon variable, but it's so worth it if it actually works.  It's for that reason alone (well, the genre-blending helps) that I'm looking forward to Shadows of Mordor now, and I eagerly await some more trailers that show off the Nemesis system more - hopefully showing different ways entire scenarios can carry out or something along those lines.  Mostly just because I want to believe they can pull this off.

really, I'm just drooling at the potential to do a fictionalization of my playthrough of the game because it would be so good

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