After Monolith’s 2014 hit Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, it is exciting to have a glimpse at what is to come in the new Middle-earth: Shadow of War (great name, I know!). With the announcement trailer and following gameplay trailer, it is safe to say that plenty of LOTR fans will be getting aboard the hype train. Even if you aren’t a massive fan of the LOTR books or movies, Shadow of War looks like a game that will get you hooked, be you a casual or hard-core gamer. With the game launch date being August 22nd in the US and August 25th in Europe, it looks like we aren’t going to have that long to wait before we will be slaying orcs and trolls as everyone’s favourite banished from death duo.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch the Shadow of War announcement and gameplay trailers, have a look at the videos below.
One of the biggest story elements of the new game is revealed in the last line spoken by Talion in Shadow of Mordor, “The Time has come for a new Ring.” The reveal trailer opens as Celebrimbor and Talion forge a new ring of power in Mount Doom. This new Ring is likely to open up new abilities throughout the game as well as play an important role within the narrative. There appears to be an increased range of abilities displayed by Talion in the gameplay trailer, such as the use of Celebrimbor’s hammer in combat, and the ability to freeze time around the player without the use of the bow, Azkar. Though it isn’t clear whether these new powers are a result of the Ring or simply Celebrimbor’s growing power. Speaking of Celebrimbor, it looks like he has been captured in the reveal trailer, as he is engulfed in black smoke before vanishing, with Talion relying on the new Ring to keep him alive. But in the gameplay trailer, it looks like Talion and Celebrimbor are one again, meaning that in the beginning of the game players may not have the wraith powers of the previous game until they can find Celebrimbor and free him from Sauron’s grasp.
The Nemesis system from the original game has also been expanded, the gameplay trailer making it clear that not only will you have the rivalries experienced in Shadow of Mordor but “your followers can create entirely new stories of loyalty, betrayal, rivalry and even friendship.” Meaning that we will be treated to some unique displays of orc heroism and maybe even some slightly weird, orc-human bromances.
The roster of enemies has also been expanded upon, with the original array of orc captains and war chiefs now including the hulking Olog-hai. One of these creatures that can bee seen in the gameplay trailer is Az-Laar the Demolisher.
“true Trolls in size and strength but Sauron made them cunning and unafraid of the light that was deadly to most of the Troll race.” – Tolkien, A Dictionary by David Day.
However, it doesn’t look like the inclusion of the Olog-Hai will be the only new addition to Sauron’s hordes. With the trailers featuring a quick look at a Balrog, a drake, Ringwraiths, the Witch-King and Sauron himself in physical form. Hopefully this time, Sauron will put up more of a fight and not be beat-down in a quick time event like he was in Shadow of Mordor.
The landscape itself has also been improved, with a much larger setting than the previous game and at least some aspect of the story taking place in Gondor, as well as more territories within Mordor being added. Each of these territories is controlled by a fortress, which can be taken in a large-scale battle similar to the assault on the Black Hand’s Fortress in the original game. They appear to be a critical component of the sequel, while making the domination of strong orcs even more crucial in order to stage the large-scale battles that will be a core element in the war for the land of shadow.
Each of Sauron’s strongholds is managed by an Overlord who has subordinate Warchiefs to protect them and presumably Captains below them. As each Overlord is unique, their individual preferences impact their stronghold and the land around it, with a beast master Overlord increasing the number of tamed beasts in their territory, whereas a necromancer Overlord will give their stronghold magical defences and a darker aesthetic.
Another addition to the character traits of the orcs are the inclusion of tribes, orcs belong to different tribes which dictate their behaviour and appearance. With each tribe having a different impact upon the world around them, such as the marauder tribe looting the territory under their control. The tribes’ influence over a region affects not only the appearance of the area but the creatures that inhabit it as well as the missions available there.
One thing we didn’t see in either of the trailers were any familiar faces, other than those of the two titular characters. With no sign of Torvin, Lithariel or Hirgon, the reveal trailer instead focused on two Gondorians, though as yet unnamed, these soldiers’ presence, combined with the game taking place at least partly within Gondor suggests that some new characters will be introduced to help Talion in his conquest of Mordor.