Realism in Middle-Earth? Now, I’m using realism in a subjective sense, talking about the realism in the diegetic world of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Realism is going beyond just the look of the game. Of course the game is beautiful, the areas of Mordor you can explore have desolate barren wastelands, over run by Uruk scum while other areas are lush and expansive that seem to be teaming with life. Even your character has a unique realistic design. His hair seems greasy and unkempt, as it should in this type of environment. When it rains your clothes become saturated, and are given a unique shine while other objects in game will have the rain bouncing off them as they would in a real world setting. Even the wind in the game was fascinating to me. On a flat ground you notice the wind, but not really. However, the higher you climb the wind picks up and it’s a stark difference between lower ground and higher ground. Still despite all these amazing qualities that fit into realism, that’s not what I want to talk about. I’m more interested in the diegetic realism as well as the unique fighting system.
In all games (no, most games,) when your character dies you somehow come back to life. We as the player don’t always question this quality but have accepted it as a part of the in game world. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor however has incorporated death into their gameplay. The main character, a ranger named Talion is linked to a Wraith character known as Celebrimbor. Don’t know who Celebrimbor is? Well he is the original forger of the Rings of Power in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth lore. Now, because Talion is linked with Celebrimbor, Talion cannot die for he is, “Banished form death.” Well, what does that mean in game? Simply put you can’t die. So, when you do die in the game and you are brought back to life it makes sense in the diegetic world. Your character cannot die as long as they are bound to the Wraith character, Celebrimbor. It gets even more realistic. Let’s say you lose a battle to a Warchief named Olgoth the Drunk (Yes, an actual Warchief in the game.) When you come to face him again, they will mention before battle something on the lines of. “Have you come to die again?” Previous battles are remembered. In some games if you lose to a major boss, when you come to fight them again the code in game has the boss act as if it is the first encounter. In Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor the game incorporates failure.
This game has been known to take elements from certain games as mentioned in a video by GhostRobo. Like he mentions in the video, if elements are working in other games, why not incorporate them in your own? Still, what makes this game unique is its own hierarchy in a military fighting system also know as the Nemesis System. Every action, every decision, and every single choice you make in this game affects your gameplay. It’s why no two gameplays are the same. Through the Nemesis System, enemies will remember you. If you are simply amazing at this game and are cutting down captain after captain and Warchief and Warchief, you will begin to create a name for yourself in the game. The Uruks will know the name, Talion.
Another great attribute to this Nemesis System that goes back to the realism is that every Uruk has a personality of their own. Their title gives you hints of who they are in Uruk society, that Olgoth the Drunk I mentioned earlier? If you mess with his grog he becomes enraged and therefore stronger. Every Uruk has weaknesses, fears, and strengths. To learn this information you have to interrogate other lower class fighters. This goes back to the realism, you aren’t just born with this information of a Warcheif’s strengths and weaknesses, rather by interrogating enemies, you can undercover valuable information about the Captains and Warchief’s of Sauron’s Army. While playing this game, time doesn’t stop. If you defeat two Warchief’s and go off to do side quests, when you return to look at which Warchief to fight next you may notice that two lowly captains were promoted to Warchief’s in your absence. The hierarchy in the game is always moving. At one point early on in the game, you free a grunt of an Uruk who tells you the weaknesses of a Captain. When you defeat this Captain, that grunt you freed earlier takes his place.
What is great about the realism in this game is the freedom for strategy, the realism isn’t holding the player down. Maybe you are feeling brave and you want to take on the Warchief and his two bodyguards head on. Or perhaps, you want to take out the bodyguards and have a one on one match with the Warchief. The possibilities of this game are truly endless and the freedom of realism in a diegetic world allows for a fun and surprisngly unrestrained experience.