6 Reasons why you should be excited for Shadow of Mordor
1: It's by Monolith and they have a huge pedigree in the game industry, making some of my favourite games such as FEAR and creating the Lithtech Engine. If you want to find out more about Monolith you can tag their page right through this link here: http://www.lith.com/
Monolith have a commitment to quality and innovation with Shadow of Mordor that's shone through in every presentation, video and communication about the game so far. Their team has gone the extra mile to showcase aspects of the game in an open and frank way, not hiding it behind a veil of secrecy.
2: The combat system is reactive, brutal and effective. Built on a similar system to Batman:Arkham the battles in Shadow of Mordor are dynamic and evolving as scores of enemies can push against Talion's (and the player's) skill in the game, and more and more bad guys can show up as they hear the sounds of combat and come running to help their fellows. The higher the combo you generate the more powerful your attacks, combat finishers and counters can become.
In several of the videos we've seen some pretty high combo multipliers and some really great moves, proving that various systems like animation and AI are combined nigh-on-flawlessly with each other to present a superbly visceral combat that evokes the brutality of Talion's style.
The animation alone looks stellar and talking to people who had hands on with the game, it sounds like it lives up to the visual hype and then some.
With lots of unlockable skills and perks, as well as runes for Talion's 3 weapons to pile into the mix, the combat gets more and more impressive the further you go into the game.
3: It looks pretty damn gorgeous. Shadow of Mordor is a great looking game and whilst this might not be a reason for a lot of people to get excited, the sheer level of detail on the orc enemies in the game is enough to melt your eyeballs at times. What's really great about it though is that all these orcs are procedurally generated, you're never going to see the same bunch of orcs twice when you start a new game.
Also, the orcs change their appearance as they rank up and it often reflects their personality. I've seen some fantastic designs with flaming helmets, spikes and everything that would make a blood crazed orc uber-happy!
4: Stellar cast of voice actors and good writers. I believe that Dan Abnett was involved with Shadow of Mordor's dialogues to lend the orcs some dark humour and the writer of Red Dead Redemption (one of my previous gen favourite games) did the story: Christian Cantamessa. Add to this the veteran vocal talents of Jennifer Hale (as Galadriel), Nolan North (one of the Black Captains), Troy Baker (Talion), Claudia Black (Lady Mawen) and Alistair Duncan (as the wraith/Celebrimbor) you have to be pretty excited for the game to be honest. That's one heck of a team of professional voice actors there.
If the story is as good as the various bits of video have made it out to be, I'm in for a treat and to hear this cast performing their lines is something akin to voice actor Nirvana.
5: The Nemesis System - We save the best till last and showcase what I think will be a true next-gen AI system and game changer. There are no canned bad guys in Shadow of Mordor, none whatsoever. Nemesis creates a living-breathing open-world orc society that does its own thing even when you're not sowing chaos amongst the ranks of Sauron's army. Player actions tie into this system in a mind-bending kind of way, allowing us, for the first time in any game to directly influence the way our enemies turn out with their individual strengths/weakness/likes/hates built from player interaction.
Orcs are notoriously hard to kill and some of them can even come back from being stabbed to death, beheading is the only way to truly kill an orc in Shadow of Mordor. Otherwise, say you lop off the hand of Raktagu Blooddrinker? Well, he's likely going to come back and return with a missing hand (perhaps replaced with a spike) and a serious hate of Talion. He'll have a bunch of strengths/weaknesses that you can learn over the course of play and most importantly, he'll REALLY hate Talion.
I'm only scratching the surface of Nemesis here and it's even more complex under the hood than that, since it controls the hierarchy's interactions with each other as well. The system can be used to create a chess-board of power that the player can actually influence, changing the way the orcs interact with each other, pitting them against one another and ultimately building an army worthy of taking down Sauron's Black Captains. Because of course you can dominate the orcs into working for you/the wraith and that's one of the most exciting things I've seen so far.
Of course, death can come swift and fast in Mordor for Talion too...and this is where Nemesis gets really interesting. Any time Talion dies (or you choose to fast travel/advance time) the Nemesis System evolves the world around you - orcs will vie for power, go on beast hunts, have feasts and do lots of other things. Those who survived your wrath will rank up, your killer might have been a lowly grunt, and now he'll enter the chess-board and attempt to make a name for himself.
We've actually seen an orc slay Talion, jump into the board, duel a more powerful orc and end up dead himself. Poor orc...
6: Death is not the end. Many games punish the player for dying and since Shadow of Mordor is a brutal combat system, death is going to happen. Talion will die and that will only feed back into the game world making things much more interesting. When Talion comes back he'll have a chance for revenge and to gain power doing so, you'll never be left in a situation where the game world is too hard for you to battle Sauron's army and to face down your ultimate enemies created by your own playstyle.
If you're interested in Shadow of Mordor, well, it's out in the US now and in the UK on the 3rd of Oct (this Friday). Drop a preorder for the badass Dark Ranger skin and Challenge Mode perhaps and you might even think about swinging for the season pass (which I am definitely buying) at £19.99 over here.
I'll leave you with the following two videos, the Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor 101 and the Season Pass video.
Just remember though, one cannot simply Hodor into Mordor!