The Welcome Unease of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Oct 6, 2014 by

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor came out last week, and seems to be both quite polarizing and well received. This apparent contradiction comes out in the game’s critical reviews, as well as in simple word of mouth from players I know. I haven’t picked the game up yet myself, since I have others occupying my leisure time and attention at the moment, but I’ve been keeping an eye on the response. While browsing Reddit, I came upon the following image:

Injured Uruk-hai

An Uruk-hai once attacked by the player returns with a description of his painful scars.

The description of “Ratanak the Crazy”, who the poster had previously attacked as the player character Talion, has a painful sounding motive. It says “Can no longer chew his food without the scars on his face hurting him.” Being that the player is responsible for inflicting those scars, this was startling. Most of the times, games have you simply going through similarly constructed, nameless hordes, yet in Shadow of Mordor, you must carefully dispatch Uruk-hai by destroying underlings and utilizing the game’s Nemesis system to forcibly enter the mind of the leaders in order to glean as much information out of them as possible. You’ll learn their strengths, weaknesses, and other details, such as the above motive.

By learning these bits of information, as well as visual indicators such as bandages, hastily closed wounds, or bits of exposed brain with metal closures, the player character is presented with direct evidence of the damage he has caused. Many games simply let you point, shoot (or swing your sword), and move on so quickly that you never see or hear from anyone again. While you’re still mowing down hordes in this sequel, and will have killed many an Uruk-hai, it is still remarkable to have these stark reminders, even when the game apparently treats them as mostly torture fodder anyway.

This image stopped me and made me think about consequences in games, since it’s rare that the effects of the violence one inflicts in games is addressed like this. Since I haven’t played the game myself yet, I can’t offer a full opinion. I’m not sure what the purpose in-game is for these motives, but this image made me recoil and want to play and see more of these raw reminders.