A trip to a far-off land, discovering natural beauty on the go. It sounds like a plotline taken straight from Tolkien's work, but this time it was my very own turn. My trip took me from Belgium to Los Angeles and San Diego for Shadow of Mordor's Comic Con event. A journey I won't lightly forget any time soon.
First of all, what did I see and what did I hear? I participated in two main events. First was the Wikia Fan Express, a trainride from LA to San Diego where Shadow of Mordor was showcased. This event also allowed GlòinTheGreat and me to ask a couple of questions on a livestream. For this, we gathered a bunch of questions from the Wikia community and asked them to Michael de Plater directly. This entire Livestream can be viewed right here ! Second was the Comic Con panel, where the identity of the illusive Wraith was revealed! You can read all about that on the Wikia, and to avoid spoilers I won't be discussing that reveal here.
During the trainride, we also got to see some gameplay footage. We didn't get a hands-on demo, but what we saw made our fingers itch. The game, as showcased on PS4, looked amazing. Dynamic weather, badass protagonist and a panning camera opened the gameplay demo. They immediately opened the Nemesis-system screen, an easy to navigate screen that contains all of the information on your future targets. This demo focused on the story mission to take down one of the War Chiefs, top-tier Orcs in the Nemesis system. The several options were discussed, as were their differences in characters and traits. Surnames like "The Scholar", "Bonebreaker" and "The Tongue" definitely have a meaning in this game. The audience was then left to choose the target, for which they (of course) chose the Legendary target. A huge Orc with an impressive bone armor. A choice that was described by Michael de Plater as "if you want to see Talion die, you should choose this one". We choose him. And Talion died.
The fact that he did die may seem trivial, but it most certainly isn't. They started out with the direct approach. The Warchief was somewhere in a fortress, and the devs rushed in directly. The Nemesis system had revealed that the Warchief was a berserker, which made him sensitive for slaughtering the men under his command. Not before long, a couple of grunt guards got slayed and the Warchief came swaggering out of his lair, along with his two bodyguards. A deliciously chaotic struggle followed. Several Orcs got so intimidated by Talion's presence that they decided to run to fight another day. However, Talion quickly got outmatched by the number of grunts and the strength of the bodyguards, barely hitting the Warchief himself. Talion died and respawned (or whatever undead do) at a nearby respawn point.
This doesn't mean the game loads from the last point though. Before respawning, we see the Nemesis in action again. The Warchief got even stronger after having killed Talion, as did his bodyguards. Even the Orcs that ran away and survived got an upgrade and would remember this experience in the next battle with Talion.Nevertheless, Talion was determined to go after that very same Warchief, only this time with a bit more strategic planning. The player easily navigated through the ruined fortress with controls that are much like those of Batman Arkham games. However, he was quickly spotted by one of the Orc guards for being too careless. A new struggle followed and the Warchief rushed into battle. Before the battle started, the Warchief delivered a few lines to remind Talion of their last encounter. It's not quite often you get so immersed in a game that you've only been viewing for the last ten minutes, but Shadow of Mordor lured me into its world in this short time.
The struggle that followed wasn't exactly going as planned. The player handily killed a couple of Orcs, but there were just too many. He decided to focus on the Warchief and dealt quite a few crushing blows. However, unlike the counter-focused combat of games like Assassin's Creed, the number of enemies just proved to be too much. He was getting hit from all sides, trying to dodge every incoming attack along with several ranged attacks directed at the player. Though he almost killed the Warchief, Talion perished again at his blade. Someone who made the game just had a hard time to beat the game. A very promising look for those who like a challenge. Strategy and stealth will be required if you want to beat the strongest Warchiefs.
This demo has really convinced me of Shadow of Mordor's potential to become a very successful Tolkien game. Though we don't know a lot about the story and game world yet, this game certainly has potential. The unyielding sympathetic Michael de Plater (Praise de Plater ) proves to be a Tolkien-nut in a Wikia Tolkien Trivia Quiz, a quiz worthy of Mordor. Add to this the charismatic presence of voice-actor Troy Baker, who was extremely convinced of both the story and innovation in the Shadow of Mordor, and you have one convinced author.
Cheers to the team for such a delightfully amazing event!
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'll try to answer as many of them as possible.