Monolith Productions recently took to Twitch to stream Q&A sessions about the upcoming RPG Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and while they're keeping painfully tight-lipped about the game's core elements, they did allude to what could be one of the most exciting new game mechanics since #ShadowOfMordor launched its award-winning Nemesis System.
Uruks and Trolls can not only hate and love the player, but each other as well. Talion's mission to conquer Mordor will tear Orc blood-brothers from one another, generating unique stories of betrayal and strife. Players can stoke the racial hatred between the Feral Tribe and the Mystic Tribe or dominate the world of #ShadowOfWar without a care for these petty struggles, like a true Dark Lord.
All's Fair In Love And Mordor
Many people played through Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor with a cold detachment from their absurd Followers, while others spent hours manicuring the ranks of their Orc army.
In a recent interview with Kotaku, Monolith VP Michael de Plater was asked about this very phenomenon with a single keen question: is there Orc romance in Shadow of War? His response was surprising as he unpacked the "hyper-masculine" characters of Mordor:
“Violence is the sort of manifestation of their sensual side, their pleasure. That’s how they live their lives. Because they are these big exaggerations of hate and fear and violence, they do kind of love it and revel in it. I think it is kind of romantic for them.”
This intriguing theory goes a long way toward explaining some of the perceived faults with Tolkien's Orcs, suggesting that their ultra-violent and destructive temperament isn't a manifestation of evil, it's just a different culture. The implications for Shadow of War are much more profound however, hinting at a meta-game with potentially endless possibilities.
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In their most recent Twitch session, the Shadow of War game developers talked about how followers maintain a much more dimensional sense of personality after being branded this time around. They can maintain pre-existing relationships and connections with others, as well as establish new ones. Orcs have tribal backgrounds which influence their abilities as well as their prejudices. Members of the Mystic Tribe aren't likely to get along with bloodthirsty Marauders, for example.
Yet, friendships forged through combat and adventure make up for almost every meaningful relationship in the entire Lord of the Rings lexicon: "I never thought I'd die side by side with an Elf", Gimli quips after nearly nine-hours on-screen of begrudgingly coming to accept his pointy-eared friend. Monolith already expanded on the chemistry between the player and their Followers in the first gameplay walkthrough, but the recent Twitch session revealed that these bonds can exist between NPCs irrespective of the player.
It's Not You, It's Me
This opens up realms of possibility, with the potential for even your most innocuous of actions to have massive ramifications. You can brand an Uruk and he could come up against his 'bloodbrother' during the course of battle. Does he betray you? Can he sway his old ally to the Bright-Lord's cause, or would they simply butcher each other on the battlefield? Even more interesting is that all of this could occur without the player even noticing - and this is just one of countless possibilities. Whole sagas of Middle-Earth drama could unfold in the ranks of your army and you might not even notice. Loneliness is often the curse of leadership.
Shadow of War is shaping up to be one of the most personalized, dynamic gaming experiences we've ever seen, and while the story's ending is probably a fixed point, the winding road to that end is fraught with micro-dramas in a macrocosm of fantasy slaughter. You can manipulate your followers into battling their old friends just to see what they do, and even if they betray you, you can brand them once again to force them back into servitude.
On the flip side, could build an expansive brotherhood of Uruks and Trolls who'll come to genuinely bond through the rigors of combat. If de Plater is to be believed, then you could be witnessing love stories unfold all around you. We're not likely to see Followers falling to their knees in the heat of battle to mourn the death of an ally, but in many ways, this makes the death of a trusty follower even harder burden to bear. The fact that they'll fight on without stopping to mourn emphasizes the incredible power of Monolith's revamped Nemesis System.
Monolith is returning to Twitch next Friday at 2PM. Do you have any questions for us to put to the developers? Let us know in the comments below.