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Middle-earth: Shadow of War — the first half hour has some big story twists

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The first half hour of Middle-earth: Shadow of War moves fast. We’ve recorded it on video to give you an idea of some very big plot twists that happen at the beginning of the game.

The binding of Talion the Ranger and the Elven smith Celebrimbor is the subject of the first game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which launched to great acclaim in 2014. They are set on preventing the evil lord Sauron from taking over the land of Mordor, and in this game they are willing to wage a civil war among the Orcs to stop the Dark Lord. They do so by forging a new Ring of Power and setting Talion up as the Bright Lord.

The sequel debuts on October 10 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. I’ve got a copy and have been playing it for a good 25 hours or so. And I’m nowhere near done. I played through the first game, and I’ve also read the subject lore, the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, many times.

Above: The Bright Lord goes after Shelob-like woman in Shadow of War.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

This story takes place in the 60 years between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien fans should be quite curious about the course of the story in this game as Tolkien never spelled out exactly what happened in Mordor during those missing 60 years.

[This story has some spoilers from the early part of the game. — Ed.]

Monolith is the developer of Shadow of War for publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. And its writers have been very creative in building out the story for the games. Talion’s fate is tied to Celebrimbor’s, and their mission is to stop Sauron from regaining his ring and his power. As they forge the ring, Celebrimbor disappears, Talion has a flashback to his dead wife, and he picks up his new ring.

And that’s where things get momentous. Shelob, the giant spider who was a big figure in The Lord of the Rings, can transform herself into a beautiful woman in the game. She has kidnapped Celebrimbor and holds him captive. To get him back, Talion hands over the new ring to Shelob. While Shelob is clearly threatening, she isn’t aligned with Sauron. She asks Talion how much he is willing to sacrifice. He gives up the ring. Celebrimbor rejoins Talion as a wraith who inhabits Talion’s body.

Talion seeks to take the ring back, but Shelob shows him a vision and convinces him to go to Minas Ithil, a border fortress that is under siege by the Witch-king and Sauron’s forces. Talion must find the palantir and prevent it from falling into Sauron’s hands. That’s where the cinematics end and the gameplay begins.

Above: Shadow of War will have a vast open world.

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

In the defense of Minas Ithil, Talion must find and defeat the Orc captains and war chiefs and even recruit some of them to his side. That exposes the player to the Nemesis System, which dynamically creates and grows enemies that change as you change. If Talion can win over enough captains, he can retake the fortress and capture more fortresses throughout Mordor.

That’s a lot of story and gameplay to drop on the player in the first half hour. But there are plenty of Tolkien fans out there who have been waiting to hear this story, which is one of the best extensions of the Tolkien universe I have ever seen. I’m still in the middle, but I thought you’d enjoy this preview of the tale.

The questions that arise are fateful. Should Talion trust Shelob, who claims to speak the truth, or Celebrimbor? Or should he align himself with the men and heroes of Gondor? There are so many hidden agendas and divided loyalties that the player will have to unravel. If Talion gets his ring back, he’ll stand a chance against the Dark Lord. But if he fails, darkness will fall on Mordor, the land where the shadows lie, and all of Middle-earth.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.



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