Yes, there’s more than one problem.
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.
"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.
"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.