Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Shadow of Mordor - Cover art.jpg
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Video game
DeveloperMonolith Productions
PublisherWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
PlatformPC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release dateNA: 30 September 2014
EU:3 October 2014
GenreAction role-playing
Action adventure
ModesSingle player
RatingESRB: M[1]

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an open world action-adventure video game developed by Monolith Productions. Released in 2014, the story takes place between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, acting as a bridge between the two eras. The protagonist's name is Talion, a Gondorian Ranger stationed at the Black Gate. Talion's family is slain the night the Dark Lord Sauron and his Uruk-Hai forces return to reclaim Mordor, setting the Ranger on a quest for revenge after he is possessed and sustained from death by a mysterious Wraith.

The game received generally favorable reviews upon it's release, with most of the praises were about its combat, open-world design, and the Nemesis System, although it received some criticism about the game's story and boss battles. This game marked the biggest launch for a video game based on Tolkien's universe, and would go on to win several awards from video gaming publications, including Game of the Year. It was followed by a sequel, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, which was released in October 2017.

Plot synopsis[edit | edit source]

The family of Talion, a ranger who guards the black gates into Mordor, is brutally killed by the Black Hand of Sauron. Talion is also killed but is brought back to life merged with a wraith that gives him inhuman powers. He ventures into Mordor to exact revenge and to help the wraith find his past identity and what brings the two together.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Shadow of Mordor is an open-world action/adventure game that is set entirely within Mordor.[2] The overworld is mainly populated by Uruks, as well as never-before-seen creatures, such as the cat-like Caragors and troll-like Graugs.

One defining feature of the game is the Nemesis System, which allows the game to remember Uruks of a certain notability and track their progress as they rise from lowly soldiers to high-ranking captains and even war-chiefs. Most of these Uruks are randomly-generated and can vary in appearance, name, personality, and strengths/weaknesses. the Captains can randomly be found among the anonymous masses, though the war-chiefs can only be encountered by completing certain objectives to draw them out of hiding.

There are a number of tactics and strategies that can be exploited to kill Uruks: In addition to killing them in normal combat, one can also poison a nearby barrel of grog and let Uruk-hai drink from it, grapple them and throw them over the edge of a cliff or platform, set Caragors loose on them by breaking open their cages, launch sneak attacks from above or behind, or "brand" Uruks with the Wraith's powers to brainwash them and pit them against other Orcs.

Differences between versions[edit | edit source]

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game are severely lacking in comparison to their counterparts for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One: The PS3/360 versions features a simplified Nemesis system, poor framerate, longer loading times, and Graugs are very rarely encountered outside of missions. As such, the hunting challenges involving the Graugs and their variants are omitted from these versions of the game.

In Depth Summary[edit | edit source]

The family of Talion, a ranger of Gondor who guards the Black Gates into Mordor, is brutally killed by the Black Hand of Sauron and his two subordinates, the Hammer of Sauron and the Tower of Sauron, when Sauron's forces move to reoccupy Mordor after the Battle of Five Armies. Talion is also killed via a cut throat but is brought back to life merged with a elven wraith that gives him inhuman powers. He ventures into Mordor to exact revenge and to help the wraith find his past identity and what brings the two together. Through a series of quests with Gollum, Talion and the wraith find relics that give the wraith his memories back in the form of visions. After completing all three Gollum Quests, the wraith is revealed to be Celebrimbor, the elven blacksmith who was tricked into forging the rings of power by Sauron during the Second Age. Talion also reunites with a fellow ranger, Hirgon of Tarnost and in a series of missions saves Hirgon's wife, poisons orc grog, and helps the rangers destroy a statue of Sauron in Mordor. Talion and Celebrimbor also meet an orc named Ratbag the Coward. Talion frees Ratbag from his binds and makes a deal; Ratbag will rank up in Sauron's army as long as he helps Talion kill the warchiefs. After three quests, Ratbag becomes a warchief and the deal is ended. After all of the previous missions, Talion attracts the attention of The Hammer of Sauron. The Hammer kills Ratbag, the only remaining warchief, for his incompetence and Talion kills the Hammer.

A young warrior-woman, Lithariel, approaches Talion and invites him to come hold audience with her mother, Queen Marwen of the coast of Nurnen, who wishes to treat with Celebrimbor. The ranger and wraith go to the coast of Nurnen, and the ailing mystic Marwen coaxes Celebrimbor and Talion into the realization that they can control orcs--including captains. Spurred by the idea that controlling the orc command structure can give them an army to challenge the Black Hand, the pair begin taking over orcs and manipulating the orc infighting to elevate their servants to command. Along the way, Talion meets a dwarf named Torvin, who teaches Talion about hunting and helps him retrieve one of Celebrimbor's past possessions, which have uniformly triggered memories and insight in the elf's life. The elderly Marwen's malaise worsens, and Talion helps retrieve medicine for her. It's revealed that her illness isn't age or her own straining efforts at seeing the future, but the malign influence and control of Saruman. Saruman almost succeeds in remotely breaking the bond between Talion and Celebrimbor, which would kill the ranger, when Lithariel breaks the staff her mother got from Saruman and severs the connection between the two. Marwen wishes to leave Nurnen with their tribe. Lithariel, on final raids with her warriors, is captured and Talion rescues her from an uruk stronghold. In gratitude, Marwen uses her influence with the local sailors to arrange passage for Talion and his force of orcs to the stronghold of the Black Captains. There Talion battles the Tower of Sauron, who prefers to torture the mind rather than fight the body. Among other things, the Tower reveals that Celebrimbor deliberately chose Talion's body as a host, and that Celebrimbor uses Talion to exact his revenge on Sauron. Celebrimbor also helped Sauron refine the Ring. Talion slays the Tower, and the ranger and wraith quarrel briefly but resolve to continue their partnership at least until the Black Hand, last of Sauron's captains, is defeated.

Upon their return to Nurn, they find Queen Marwen's stronghold has been attacked by orcs, and the Queen and her followers are nowhere to be found. The orcs came chasing a relic of Celebrimbor's, which was kept hidden by Gollum, who's kept trailing Talion and Celebrimbor in the hopes they'll lead him to the One Ring. Talion touches the relic and relives the near-end of Celebrimbor's memories--that Celebrimbor had stolen the One Ring from Sauron, and used it against Sauron for a time, commanding his own army of dominated orcs. The pair decide to go confront the Black Hand--who has made his base at the Black Gate. After a pitched battle with the Hand's own personal band of orc war-chieftains, the pair reach him. The Hand, surprisingly, doesn't resort to a physical confrontation. He reveals the failure of Celebrimbor's campaign--Sauron was almost bested, but as the maker and true master of his Ring, he was able to magically pull it from Celebrimbor's finger to his own, and then overwhelm the elf-lord. The vision over, the Black Hand cuts his own throat to make himself a vessel for Celebrimbor, using his magic to steal the wraith from Talion. Then, with Celebrimbor's spirit in him, the Black Hand channels Sauron and becomes his master's giant armored form. A dying Talion manages to avoid "Sauron's" attacks, and then the resisting Celebrimbor freezes the Hand to give Talion time to strike him down.

The weakened Talion's vision clears in the unseen world of the wraith, and he stands over the slain Black Hand. Celebrimbor wearily believes they can't beat Sauron and he's willing to move on with Talion and let the ranger reunite with his family in the beyond. Talion, though, questions if Celebrimbor could really rest in peace if he did nothing further to fight Sauron. Celebrimbor is swayed by the ranger's argument, and bonds with him once more. Alive and strong again, Talion stands on the Black Gate and looks towards the newly-erupting Mount Doom, and declares it is time for a New Ring.

Voice cast[edit | edit source]

Role Actor
Talion Troy Baker
The Wraith Alister Duncan
Hirgon of Tarnost Travis Willingham
The Black Hand of Sauron / Nemesis Orcs Nolan North
The Hammer of Sauron / Nemesis Orcs John DiMaggio
Sauron Steve Blum
Tower of Sauron / Thuggish Orc / Nemesis Orcs JB Blanc
Torvin Adam Croasdell
Ioreth Laura Bailey
Gollum Liam O'Brien
Galadriel Jennifer Hale
Ratbag the Coward Phil LaMarr
Queen Marwen Claudia Black
Dirhael Jack Quaid
Saruman Roger Jackson
Ship Captain Jason Connery
Various Orcs Bob Joles
Nemesis Orcs / Humans Neil Kaplan
Shagflak / Nemesis Orcs Michael Gough
Additional voices Yuri Lowenthal
Additional voices JB Blanc
Additional voices Chris Cox

Reception[edit | edit source]

Aggregate Scores
Metacritic87% [3]
Review Scores
IGN9.3 [4]
GameRevolution9 [5]
Eurogamer8 [6]
GameTrailers8.7 [7]
GameSpot8.0 [8]
PC Gamer (US)85 [9]
Destructoid6 [10]
Polygon9.5 [11]

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor has received generally positive reviews, with reviewers praising the sound quality, accessibility, the game's core feature, and its Nemesis system. It was also praised its combat.

Your ears are invaded by the growls and grunts of the grotesque Uruk-hai that roam the land, and your eyes are overwhelmed by the crumbling ruins of once-proud buildings.
GameSpot Review

An array of characters fighting

GameSpot in a positive review, said, "Luckily, Shadow of Mordor greatly refines and improves other aspects of that established formula." but that Shadow of Mordorit had an erratic story that concludes with anticlimactic battles.[8]

IGN thought that the story introduced memorable characters but would not make sense to fans of the Tolkien series, and his interest in the game waned towards its end.[4]

Awards[edit | edit source]

In addition to winning several awards at major events and ceremonies, the game was selected by GameSpot,[12] among others[13] as their Game of the Year for 2014. At the 2014 The Game Awards it won the "Best Action/Adventure"[14] and it was norminated for other two awards.


See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Licensed video games set in Middle-earth
 Melbourne House: The Hobbit (1982) · Lord of the Rings: Game One (1985) · Shadows of Mordor (1988) · War in Middle Earth (1988) · Crack of Doom Software Adventure (1989) · Riders of Rohan (1990)
 Interplay Productions: The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (PC) (1990) · The Lord of the Rings, Vol. II: The Two Towers (1993) · The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (SNES) (1994)
 Vivendi Universal: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) · The Hobbit (2003) · War of the Ring (2003)
 Electronic Arts: The Two Towers (2002) · The Return of the King (2003) · The Third Age (2004) · The Battle for Middle-earth (2004) · Tactics (2005) · The Battle for Middle-earth II (2006) (The Rise of the Witch-king (2006)) · Conquest (2009) · Heroes of Middle-earth (2023)
 Turbine/Standing Stone Games: The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (2007-) (Mines of Moria (2008) · Siege of Mirkwood (2009) · Rise of Isengard (2011) · Riders of Rohan (2012) · Helm's Deep (2013) · Mordor (2017) · Minas Morgul (2019)) · War of Three Peaks (2020) · Fate of Gundabad (2021) · Before the Shadow (2022)
 Warner Bros: Aragorn's Quest (2010) · War in the North (2011) · Guardians of Middle-earth (2012) · Kingdoms of Middle-earth (2012Armies of The Third Age (2013) · Shadow of Mordor (2014) · Shadow of War (2017) · Rise to War (2021)
 Glu Games: Middle-Earth Defense (2010)
 Traveller's Tales: Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game (2012) · Lego The Hobbit (2014)
 Daedalic Entertainment: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (2023)
 North Beach Games: The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria (2023)