The imaginary conceived by J. R. R. Tolkien it is permeated with an immortal epic, shaped by a lyricism that the passing of time is unable to scratch. Characters with boundless charisma populate a land whose borders have in fact represented the cradle of the fantasy genre, in a literary tradition still strongly influenced by the legacy of The Lord of the Rings. An iconography that over time has been honored by other media, with Peter Jackson’s film trilogy occupying a particularly important role in this painting.
However, even the videogame universe has not resisted the power of the call of Middle Earth, with multiple software houses that have offered their own reinterpretation of the universe interpreterian. And while the next-gen awaits the new production of Daedalic for an unprecedented adventure in the role of Gollum (our Giuseppe Arace told you about it in his preview of The Lords of the Rings: Gollum), the players subscribed to Playstation plus have the option to recover for free Middle-earth: Shadow of War. For the occasion, we leave for a short trip to the (re) discovery of the revision of the canon of JRR Tolkien made by the developers of Monolith.
Between tribute and revision
Middle-earth: Shadow of War looks like the direct sequel to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, appreciated action RPG debuted in 2014. At the center of the scene we find the same protagonists of the predecessor, with Talion e Celebrimbor ready to forge a “new ring” in order to counter the power of Sauron. The nature of the main characters of the production effectively summarizes the approach adopted by Monolith in bringing the title to life. On the one hand we have in fact the wanderer of Gondor, who embodies a completely new component compared to the literary work, while on the other we find the master elf forger of the Rings of Power, central figure of the canon interpreterian around which the development team does not hesitate to build original developments.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War in fact it lives of a continuous oscillation between homages and quotations to the entire epic of JRR Tolkien and revisionism of the same. The overall result is a bold production, which does not hesitate to fill the years that separate The Hobbit e The Lord of the Rings of unpublished events and major revelations, which rewrite – even with force – the fate and nature of iconic characters in the novels. An approach that distances the title from the concept of transposition, but still able to give the public a fantasy epic that, despite its not being canonical, offers an intriguing and engaging epic.
From Cirith Ungol to Minas Ithil
The narrative of Monolith’s action RPG takes the player to the heart of some of Middle-earth’s most iconic places and events. The quotationism and the desire to link the epic of Talion and Celebrimbor to the original imagery is evident from the very first bars of Shadow of War. The duo’s plan of revenge will in fact find an immediate obstacle in the intervention of Shelob, l’ “being evil in spider form“that Tolkien condemned to a perpetual work of corruption of the unhappy world around her. The development team accompanies us into the depths of its lair to Cirith Ungol (the “Passo del Ragno”), but he presents a decidedly personal version of it. In the title, in fact, not only is the creature capable of assuming the form of a human woman, but is also strongly determined to interfere in the definition of the destiny of Middle-earth. A character attribute that strongly departs from the literary vision of the fearful Shelob, whose settlement on the continent even precedes that of Sauron, to whom she has never joined or opposed.
Great importance in Monolith production is then attributed toepopea di Minas Ithil, strategic stronghold of Gondor. Middle-earth: Shadow of War in fact he paints with great detail and background the fall of the fortified city of Men, destined to become prey of Ringwraiths. After a siege that lasted two years – an event evidently condensed in the videogame work – the luster of the “Moon Tower” is definitively extinguished by the Nazgul, who transform the fortress into their own dark base of operations, renaming it Minas Morgul, “Tower of Black Magic”. A central event in political geography tolkeniana, which even brought about the change in the denomination of Minas Anor to Minas Tirith, the “Watchtower” from which Gondor undertook to watch over the forces of Sauron.
In recalling the assault on Minas Ithil, Shadow of War does not forget to address a crucial issue: the fate of the palantir guarded near the city. JRR Tolkien’s canon tells us of seven spheres imbued with ancient and powerful magic, some of which were lost. Neither The Lord of the Rings, only three of these precious relics help shape the fate of Middle-earth: the palantir of Isengard, in the hands of Saruman, that of Minas Tirith, among the causes of the collapse of Denethor, father of Bormir, and finally that of Barad-Dur, the Dark Tower indissolubly linked to Sauron. In shaping the title, Monolith espouses the hypotheses that they would like the palantir of the Dark Lord coincide precisely with the one originally kept in Minas Ithil, stolen by the Nazgul and led to Mordor.
And the Ringwraiths themselves are among the great protagonists of the narration packaged by Middle-earth: Shadow of War. We do not want to offer too many advances in this sense, we will therefore limit ourselves to highlighting how the development team has not hesitated in exploring its origins and in forcefully redefining its imagination. As it is known, the Nine Rings of Power entrusted to Men they quickly managed to corrupt the soul of their bearers, submitting them to the will of Sauron. Monolith builds on this basis a completely new and original story, which redefines the destiny of iconic characters of the Arda universe, in what is probably the most daring rewriting element fielded by the software house.
To complete the picture, an epilogue that does not hesitate to directly reconnect the videogame epic to the events that mark the start of The Lord of the Rings. Middle-earth: Shadow of War in fact, he offers his very own personal contribution in painting the slow and cautious path that led Sauron to cast his shadow once again on the Free Peoples. With a series of turns that prove – once again – decidedly brave, Monolith proposes to player uepic conclusion to the journey of Talion and Celebrimbor, framed by the presence of a secret ending.
Assedi e Nemesis System
As told in the review of La Terra di Mezzo: L’Ombra di Mordor written at the time of the release of our Francesco Fossetti, the gameplay of the production recovers one of the mechanics that had contributed most to define the playful structure of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. We obviously refer to the Nemesis System, stylistic signature of the two Monolith works dedicated to Tolkien’s imagination.
Able to generate the hierarchies of the destined Orcs with great creative freedom
to put Middle-earth to fire and sword, the latter gives the title a constant dynamism, capable of replicating the struggles for power, betrayals and deceptions of which the reference imagery is full. Harnessing the power of the “new ring”, Talion is able to enslave members of the enemy army, assigning them specific tasks, ranging from assigning to defend him on the battlefield to infiltrating enemy ranks. The protagonist thus leads a continuous assault on Sauron’s forces, in an operation destined to culminate in the Sieges mechanics.
By recruiting an increasing number of Uruk, the protagonist will in fact find himself at the helm of a personal force, with which to lead real assaults on the fortresses that occupy the game map, divided into four main regions. The latter translate into battles of epic proportions, the rendering of which strongly recalls both the legendary clashes painted between the pages composed by Tolkien and the extraordinary staging seen in action in the film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson. Sieges represent a new mechanic, absent from it Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, capable of constituting an intriguing novelty and able to faithfully recall the war imaginary interpreterian.