I love Lord of the Rings, and I love video games. What a match made in heaven then, when I played the ambitious Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor back in 2014. What a surprise it had in store for me when it quickly became my favourite Lord of the Rings game ever made.
Its near-perfect Arkham-like combat made you feel invincible when executed well, whilst inflicting self-induced mortality as you struggle to beat a horde larger than your button-pressing skills could cope.
The Nemesis System was one of the best new systems in modern gaming, with its unique orc captains and dialogue which may only repeat itself once or twice during a 30-hour playthrough, illustrating an impressive array of different bad guys to kill every time. The story was fine but improved greatly in the sequel which released in late 2017 – Middle-earth: Shadow of War.
Introducing fortress sieges, fire-breathing drakes to dominate, and perhaps most importantly, a much better story with an extremely memorable ending, Shadow of War improved on the already breathtaking action of the first game. Leaving behind the walls of lore restriction in favour of a story that hasn’t been told before within the Tolkien universe.
And that’s what I want to talk about – where does Monolith Productions go after making two of the very best Lord of the Rings games? And what’s more, making it look not just possible, but producible in three or four years.
I want to talk about this specifically because I don’t think these games get the critical nor commercial praise that they should. I’m not sure of the reason why they aren’t praised as two of the best action/adventure games in recent memory, but fortunately, it seems that the studio is doing well enough to keep making these awesome games.
So, what’s next for the studio? Due to job postings for the studio, it looks like their next game will feature their biggest USP: the Nemesis System. There is no surprise to this rumour since no other game studios have attempted to copy this impressive system. Why not manifest and master a great system which they created themselves, and build on this to make one of the coolest systems we’ve seen?
This, of course, does point to the idea of a third Middle-earth game. An idea which I am completely on-board with, as long as the team feel that they have a story to tell within that world still. That being said, it seems like they do, because of an interview with Creative Director Michael de Plater.
He explains the choice they made with the ending of Shadow of War and says that there is more story to be told as (SPOILERS) Sauron has not been defeated at the end of the second game. My take on the second game’s ending is that there is more story to tell because it very much carries the Empire Strikes Back vibe, and leaves an opening for an ending which isn’t relentlessly dark. Which, for the record, is awesome.
Furthermore, more job listings seem to point to Monolith’s next game being open-world and to have humans included in its Nemesis System. As far as I’m concerned, both games are open-world, and the addition of humans to the Nemesis System comes as no surprise as Monolith upgrade their nemesis system.
In both of these listings however, they do mention sci-fi elements included in their next project. Whether they are alluding to Middle-earth or not is difficult to say, but it would be extremely interesting if they decided to head into space. I doubt it, but it could be a bold manoeuvre on their part.
More rumours and speculations point to vast open-worlds which stream its content as you play it. Since this game will be aimed for the next generation, we can only hope to find out these technological ambitions at E3 2020. However, since they created and developed the Nemesis System, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came up with another technological marvel for us all to be impressed with over the next few years.