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October 22, 2014

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Content Rundown


One game to rule them all?

Intro:

Wow, been a long time since I actually had an introduction to one of my Content Rundowns/Reviews. Anyway, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was of particular interest to me, after recently becoming a LOTR fan.

The mythology Tolkien created for the series is mind-bogglingly vast, with detailed histories for characters, places, languages, cultures, civilizations, and a whole lot more. A game or extra couple dozen movies set in this universe would not be out of place at all.

Therefore, it's great that someone decided to flex their adaption muscles and take a chapter out of the big book of Tolkien, creating a video game set in between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Does it live up to the aforementioned works? Well, let's find out.

NOTE: Since this is a Content Rundown and not a Review, due to me not being able to play the game and watching video walkthroughs instead, the story, atmosphere and overall "feel" of the game will be looked at, as opposed to gameplay mechanics and player interaction. The Areas of Concern will still be as complete as possible.

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg

Verdict: Caution Advised for Strong Gory Violence

Release Date: September-November 2014

Developer: Monolith Productions

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows

Genre: Open World Hack and Slash



Areas of Concern:

Violence:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive


--A man is hit in the back with a club, breaking it with a crack and a small spray of blood. This happens mostly off-screen. He is shown choking, with blood leaking out of his mouth. The club then hits him in the hand, with a painful close-up of his bloody hand as we hear squishing and the man screaming horribly.

The man is then beaten several times, crying out in pain with thuds being heard. In the same scene, a man and a woman are executed by having their throats slit; this happens very quickly and we hear some gurgling. We only see a side-angle when the woman gets her throat slit. The man then has his throat slit; we see a close-up of his pained face and hear graphic slicing sound effects.

--A man slits his own throat; we see blood spraying out and hear fluids dripping. Another man's throat is also slit, we see blood spilling out onto the floor and staining his body. He chokes and gurgles as he dies slowly.

--A man repeatedly stabs an enemy in the head and chest with a shortsword, blood spraying out and crunching being heard. He then takes a sword and plunges it into the enemy's mouth, fire spewing out and blood squirting. Blood pools beneath the enemy afterwards.

--A man stabs a beast in the face and back, blood squirting out and crunching being heard. Another man jumps and stabs it in the face and eye, blood spurting out. The beast is then pulled down with a chain, and the first man runs over and stabs the beast in the chin, and slits its throat. Blood pours out of the beast's neck; it struggles around and eventually falls over dead.

--Players wield swords to slay Orcs, which are humanoid creatures with primal aspects; players can slice and stab, with your character plunging his sword through heads, necks, backs, abdomens and ribs with blood squirting out and staining the environment.

Limbs and heads can be chopped off, with ribbons of blood flying through the air, staining the environment. Slicing sounds and growls of pain are heard. When executing important characters, the game goes into slow-motion to show the character's head flying off, a shocked expression on their face.

-Players can do a combination of moves, with your character stabbing Orcs in the backs and breaking their arms, a crack being heard, stab an Orc in the back several times with slicing and grunting being heard, stabbing an Orc twice in the neck and then breaking said neck, stabbing an Orc through the side of the head with muffled screams from the Orc, or stabbing an Orc through the face and then chopping off his head. (Blood sprays are shown throughout.)

-Players can fire arrows at enemies; we see a splash of blood, the arrow sticking out of their bodies and hear cries of pain.

-Explosions are portrayed, with lots of flames and wreckage shown, setting Orcs on fire, who run around and scream before becoming black and burnt, and fall over dead. 

-Wild creatures attack other characters, biting and tearing at them with crunching and squishing being heard, and sprays of blood are shown. 

-Players can tame a huge bipedal beast and attack enemies with it; it stomps and slaps enemies, sending them flying. It can also take an enemy and bite their heads off, purple blood spraying out.

-Players can interrogate wounded enemies; a ghostly man puts his hand on the Orc's face, burning it with crackling being heard and cries of pain.

The game occasionally goes into slow-motion in order to emphasise violent moments.

--We see several dead bodies lying in pools of blood, with blood staining the bodies. In one scene, a heavily wounded man lies in a puddle of blood, choking and gurgling.

-In one sequence, we see several arms, limbs and heads lying around in an environment, with lots of blood puddles all over the area.

Context of Violence: Shock Value

Sex/Nudity:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

Nothing.

Context of Sex/Nudity: None.

Language:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

Uses of B**t**d and Bl**dy. An Orc insults several other Orcs with the word Dung. "You dunghill worms!"

Context of Language: Comedy

Spiritual Content: 

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--After dying, a man finds himself in a limbo of sorts, with a ghostly being guiding him back to the real world and becoming his guardian of sorts, resulting from a curse caused by a blood sacrifice.

--Runes, artifacts and objects are used for spells, which show the past. Some spells are cast to give characters extra strength and the like.

--A character is possessed by another in one scene, speaking with two voices and her eyes black out. This is stated to have been caused by a powerful Wizard casting a spell. 

-Players can also possess Orcs and make them kill other Orcs.

Context of Spiritual Content: Fantasy

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--References to a "keg of grog", a few Orcs are shown drinking said grog, and a few other mild references.

Context of Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco Usage: Atmospheric

Gross Stuff/Gore:

--A few characters are shown urinating; no nudity.

--The Orcs are grotesque, humanoid creatures with green skins, wild eyes and yellow, shark-like teeth.

Scary Stuff/Emotional Scenes:

--A scene near the beginning, where a man watches his family being killed and then joining them soon after, is very tough to watch, with the mother/wife screaming horribly as her son is executed and her husband is beaten.

--A couple of grotesque creatures with glowing eyes and mouths appear. Big growling beasts are depicted.

Morality:

Abysmal Bad So-so Okay Good Very Good

Players slay Orcs and fictional beasts, with almost no human beings slaughtered by the protagonist. While our hero may be slightly vengeful, he is pretty much the standard "good guy" found in any story.

Morality Type: Black and White

Thoughts & Impressions:

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a standalone story set in the epic mythology of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. While homages are made, Shadow of Mordor aims to be it's own creature, yet still spin a yarn worthy of it's predecessor.

Does it succeed in it's goal? Well, story-wise, no. Shadow of Mordor has your typical revenge plot, which still manages to be effective. It's not the most memorable story, which is something you can't say for Lord of the Rings.

Talion makes for a sympathetic, if somewhat two-dimensional, protagonist. His story makes a vague connection to LOTR lore by being bound in death to Celebrimbor, the legendary jewelsmith who crafted the Rings of Power. (Lord of the Rings geeks will immediately grasp the importance of said rings.)

Their dynamic is oddly flat. They work together quite well and share a bond over having lost their families, which is about the only thing of depth in their friendship. The supporting characters are typical, only managing to do their jobs as, well, supporting characters. (Ratbag is a bit of a standout, being an Orc who falls under Talion's control, but sadly disappears later in the game.)

Overall, the game seems very interesting to play and while I may change my mind upon actually sitting down in front of it with a controller in hand, Shadow of Mordor falls far short of crafting an epic story worth of the vast mythology it builds upon.

Conclusion:

Let me be honest; this game should really be suitable for teenagers, save for a few moments which depict a family killed by their throats being slit and a man slitting his own throat and graphically bleeding out.

These two moments push the game into Caution Advised for me. The rest of the game, with its gory violence towards Orcs, isn't really that bad to be honest. Sure, it's bloody and gory, but it's also pretty easy to distinguish it from reality.

Language is kept to a minimal, for once, which is great. Some alcohol references. Spiritual Content is somewhat prominent but clearly shown as Fantasy. If you've seen the LOTR films, the magic in the game should be nothing new. 

Overall, the violence is more graphic than the film trilogy, but it shouldn't be a problem for gamers 16 years and older.

Verdict: 16+
For Strong Gory Fantasy Violence

Outro:

And so there it is! It may not be a masterful story, but heck, it passes the Tolkien test okay. Hope you guys found the Content Rundown useful! There will be more reviews and stuff in the coming weeks. 

Stay tuned!

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