Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – Or, How Ripping Off Other Games Isn’t Your Most Ridiculous Problem

Yes, there’s more than one problem.

Posted By | On 30th, Jan. 2014 Under Article, Editorials

The question that’s been asked recently – yes, even more so then “Daniel Bryan wasn’t really in Rumble? And Batista won?! And CM Punk is GONE?!?” – has been “Have you seen Shadow of Mordor?” Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a third person RPG action game that takes place before The Lord of the Rings but after The Hobbit, as a ranger Talion fights the dark forces of Sauron. Of course, given the popularity of Aragorn, it only makes sense to make Talion tall, dark and brooding with a troubled past. Developer Monolith’s pedigree of amazing strategy titles (Battle for Middle- Earth) and MOBA games (Guardians of Middle Earth) created the illusion that we would see a third person title where you commanded armies while fighting beside them.

Then the controversy over its animations being stolen from Assassin’s Creed 2 erupted. Talion’s walk, his climbing, even the way he runs will more than remind you of a certain Florentine assassin. So finally, one sat down to watch the footage that had so many people buzzing.

Middle Earth_Shadow of Mordor (3)

"That being said, if you’re going to steal, why not steal from the best? Innovation is great and all but if you have a very simple system that mirrors Assassin’s Creed closely, you’re better off straight up ripping that system off."

One would be honestly surprised if Monolith didn’t steal from Assassin’s Creed 2 in terms of animations and mechanics. The stealth kills, the combat and counters, the ability to dive off your perch and aerial assassinate someone – these are all copied straight out of Ubisoft’s game. Heck, even Talion’s little leap upwards on a wall is similar to Ezio’s. It’s distracting at times, even if you didn’t know about the whole controversy.

That being said, if you’re going to steal, why not steal from the best? Innovation is great and all but if you have a very simple system that mirrors Assassin’s Creed closely, you’re better off straight up ripping that system off. It’s not as though Shadow of Mordor is without innovation – the Nemesis system purports to make encounters dynamic and events dynamic. It was particularly enthralling to know that you could recruit an Orc as an assassin and then pick up the scrapings when he’s been disposed of. Talion’s overall abilities and movement are also more akin to a supernatural being at times than that of Ezio’s.

The hilarious part? Hearing that Talion was a combination of Ranger and Wraith. In The Lord of the Rings, the Wraiths – more commonly known as the Army of the Dead of the Dead Men of Dunharrow – had a greenish tinge to their experience and could attack in a corporeal fashion. It’s because they were ghosts, you see. Hence, “Dead Men”. Talion is hence alive and dead at the same time. Sure, there are many things that defy logic in Middle Earth and the stories themselves, but to just arbitrarily mash two contradictory classes together like this feels odd.

Middle Earth_Shadow of Mordor (5)

"Those looking for the next Skyrim or Assassin’s Creed may be disappointed – but at this stage, Shadow of Mordor purports to give us a twist on the usual assassinations and fantasy combat."

Heck, the Dead Men of Dunharrow only stayed dead because of their unfulfilled oath. How does a human just pick up a Wraith’s abilities? For the service of looking uber-cool, one could just toss the logic aside but it baffles me that Monolith would put so much thought into something like the Nemesis system and mire Talion’s abilities in the realm of contradiction to begin with.

Other elements added include Batman: Arkham Asylum’s use of the hit counter, which multiplies with critical strikes and successful hits. You can also toss your enemies into environmental objects like fire as in Sleeping Dogs (no word yet on whether fish tanks full of piranhas or meat grinders have made the cut). Eagle Vision (or Detective Mode) is also present to help weed out important objectives. Did we mention portions where you must chase down a target after they fail to defeat you, avoiding foot soldiers along the way? Don’t even get us started on the hood either.

Shadow of Mordor is a “wait and watch” title. When you consider that elements like Gollum are being randomly thrown in, as if mandated to get movie-goers hyped for the final Hobbit film, while the writer is the same pen behind Red Dead Redemption, it’s easy to be excited yet skeptical about the game. Those looking for the next Skyrim or Assassin’s Creed may be disappointed – but at this stage, Shadow of Mordor purports to give us a twist on the usual assassinations and fantasy combat. Even if that means the Tolkien landscape and literature being reduced to little more than a collection of elements and set pieces for the purpose of mass murder.

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  • d0x360

    I’m sorry but copying an atheistic is different from stealing and they did not steal. That guy and this article implies they took code and animation frames. They didn’t. They wrote their own that mimics assassins creed. Watch them frame by frame. They are similar but different.

    • panatha tube

      Former AC II programmer: Seriously, can someone tell me how Assassin’s Creed 2 code and assets are in this Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor game?
      — Charles Randall (@charlesrandall)

    • d0x360

      Yes I know I saw that like everyone else. The guy is insane. They didn’t take code. Why would you open yourself up to a massive lawsuit when you could EASILY just make the same animation yourself. It’s not difficult.

  • Surgeon Man

    Wraiths(http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Wraith) are not “the Army of the Dead of the Dead Men of Dunharrow” (http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Army_of_the_Dead), they are more like the Nazgul (http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Ringwraith)

  • KP

    I apologize in advance for the essay. Please double check your sources before you write your article. The part about wraiths being the same as the Army of the Dead is not correct. In fact, a quick Google search shows that:

    “When Frodo is stabbed by the Witch-King of Angmar in the first book he is infected by the evil magic from a Morgul blade; if Glorfindel had not saved Frodo, he would have eventually become a Wraith himself.” – http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Wraith

    Wraiths have more to do with evil magic and nothing to do with the Army of the Dead, who simply couldn’t die because of their unfulfilled oath. I may be iffy on some details but this sort of thing is not necessarily contradictory in the obviously complex Lord of the Rings universe.

    Also, I think logic would suggest that a developer such as Monolith and a publisher such as Warner Bros., with the same writer that wrote Red Dead Redemption, working in conjunction with Peter Jackson to ensure consistency with the movies, wouldn’t risk a lawsuit by copying code. While I do admit that the “wraith-vision” looks very similar to eagle vision, I also think its noteworthy to mention that it is consistent with the Peter Jackson movie interpretation of the wraith world (the world Frodo enters when he wears the One Ring). The similarities to Assassins Creed 2 in the free roaming and climbing mechanics are understandable, as well as the similarities with the combat system in the Batman games, but it is not the same and I generally feel that Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor seems to offer so much more that it is a separate game entirely. Saying it is just a rip-off of other games is narrow-minded and nitpicky, and overlooks a potentially Game of the Year level game.

  • coydog

    I think its great. The former ACII programmer in my mind probably is the missing link from all the rest of the AC games.. Not one has been as good as ACII. This game looks great.. cant wait..

  • MtlJohn

    This article is the epitome of what’s wrong in journalism. You’re blatantly misrepresenting the Twitter events, in which the former Ubi dev later clarified that he never claimed the code was stolen, and only meant that the game draws on similar game mechanics. As does the Batman Arkham franchise, one of the best in recent years, as does Dishonored, another action/stealth success.

    Have you seen Shadow of Mordor first hand? Did you reach out to Warner, Monolith, Ubisoft, or anyone else to clarify the false accusations that this article is based upon? Or does your own opinion of, “even the way he runs will more than remind you of a certain Florentine assassin,” suffice enough to tear down someone else’s work with absolutely no factual ground to stand on?

    Personally, I think SOM is taking the best of established mechanics from great action games like AC and Batman and innovating on top of it with the Nemesis System and unique take on the events between the Hobbit and LOTR. I can’t wait to play this. Regardless of whether you’re into or not, articles like this that spread rumor as fact just leave a bad taste in my mouth. Be a journalist: do your research and report objectively. If you’re writing opinion, at least attempt to be informed on the subject.

  • Antony

    Really, a game with some parkour is by default an AC rip-off?! Tell me more how we should have considered Mafia a GTA 3 rip-off back in the day. Similarities to AC and Batman are here but a rip-off, breach please..

  • Themostunclean

    This “article” is filled with so many assumptions and inaccuracies. The most annoying part is the author actually trying to sound like he knows anything about Lord of the Rings. I haven’t even read the books and I know that Wraiths are completely different than the dead men.

  • Collin

    I agree that this article is poorly done. Also, how else is a company going to do parcour? It is not like they can make some new system that makes it look completely unrealistic. So maybe it looks like AC, but there is not another way to make good parcour.

  • fantasywind

    In some ways the game retains info from canon of Lotr lore. Talion appears to be the ,,elvish wight” or something like a Barrow Wight (the glowing eyes are their features, also Barrow Wights are capable of using spells, but those haunting the Barrow Downs/Tyrn Gorthad are posessed corpses of long dead men so they have more decomposed bodies and their original inhabitants are gone, though it appears that Wights have certain access to memories of those buried in the barrows 🙂 but other elements are differentiating from canon a bit (like Rangers stationing at Black Gate, it happened much earlier in timeline when gondorian garrisons were keeping watch over Mordor). Rangers in lore indeed have stealth abilities (which makes them great for espionage, sabotage and infiltration, special forces for regular army 🙂 in fact Aragorn in books does a bit of acrobatic stuff, jumping, climbing over the wall and gate of Bree behind the back of a gate-keeper, sneaking around (he even sneaked into hobbits room at the inn in Bree when they were inside, without notice :).

  • Snowskeeper

    They’ve already explained how he got the Wraith powers. It’s in his article on the Wikia, which they’re helping with and monitoring. Whether or not it’s a good explanation is up to you to decide.


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