Everything you need to know about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to get ready for Shadow of War

Middle Earth: Shadow of War releases October 10 due to a brief delay intended to help polish the final product. The title is one of the most anticipated games this year, and looks to expand on its 2014 predecessor with more of everything that made the original great. The ingenious procedural generation of the Nemesis system will return, and you’ll even be able to carry over your favorite underling and most persistent foe. The new game will add fortress assaults and tactical elements to the mix. When we went hands-on with the game at E3 this year, our only real concern was that Shadow of War’s developer, Monolith, might have bitten off more than they can chew.

Shadow of War, and its predecessor Shadow of Mordor, are set in the Lord of the Rings universe brought to film by Peter Jackson. Both titles borrow the open world stealth and combat from Rocksteady’s Batman games. They let you use those skills to run around a medieval-fantasy battlefield rather than gliding through Gotham City. Instead of knocking out burly, clownish thugs, you’re encouraged to kill Uruks (nastier orcs) or secretly convert them to your cause. There’s no shortage of cruel, black-blooded foes to skewer, and Monolith’s motto seems to be “kill all you want, we’ll make more.”

The Story So Far

Spoilers for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor follow.

The protagonist in SoM is a human ranger named Talion, one of the last defenders of Gondor, a land which borders Sauron’s base of operations. The game is set some time in between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Sauron is still marshalling his forces and has not yet completely overtaken Mordor. Soon after we’re introduced to the character, Talion is forced to witness the ritual murder of his wife and son before he himself is killed by some of Sauron’s captains. It’s unclear at the outset exactly why it happens, but somehow Talion is resurrected when his slain body is bonded with the spirit of a long-dead elven lord. Talion thinks it may be the result of the ritual murder of his son. Working together, the two set off to exact their revenge on the captains and their master.

The elven spirit lends Talion many powerful abilities. Through its influence, he’s revived no matter how many times he falls in battle. This is both a blessing and a curse. Since he cannot truly die, there’s no way he can see his wife and child in the afterlife. He believes the only way he can free himself from the wraith is to track down and slay the captains who murdered his family. Talion was already an accomplished swordsman and survivalist, and the wraith augments his already formidable combat skills. Later, it also allows him to dominate the minds of the Uruks and beasts he encounters. He is able to set them against one another or work to make sure that the Uruks under his influence attain positions of power in Sauron’s hierarchy.

The Sins of the Pasts

Initially, the elven lord has no memory of his life before melding with Talion. He gradually recovers fragments of his memory as Talion helps him find artifacts tied to his past. Over the course of the game, it’s revealed that the wraith possessing Talion was once known as Celebrimbor, the blacksmith who was duped by Sauron into crafting the Rings of Power, hundreds of years ago. When he realized Sauron’s deception, Celebrimbor stole the One Ring and attempted to use it to bring the war machine Sauron was building to a halt. Declaring himself “The Bright Lord of Mordor,” he began using the ring to bind an army of Uruks to his will.

Sauron had poured a significant portion of his own power into forging the One Ring, and Celebrimbor had some success slowing down the war effort in Mordor. When he brought his army to fight Sauron, however, the dark lord managed to wrest the One Ring away from him, and Celebrimbor was captured. After torturing him into giving up the locations of the nine rings for mortal men and seven for the Dwarf-kings, Sauron killed Celebrimbor. As punishment for his betrayal, Celebrimbor was cursed with undeath, preventing him from joining his family in the afterlife and binding his shade to the land of Mordor.

At the end, it’s revealed that the ritual murders that joined Talion and Celebrimbor were instead intended to bond the wraith to the Black Hand of Sauron. This was the captain responsible for killing Talion and his family. Once summoned, Celebrimbor made the choice to bond with Talion to exact revenge on Sauron. Ironically, this kept Talion from his family, just as Sauron had cursed Celebrimbor with undeath.

The Black Captain reveals Celebrimbor’s designs to Talion during the game’s climax, taunting that Talion will never see his family again. Celebrimbor admits he can leave Talion’s body and allow both to enter the afterlife, but Talion decides he wouldn’t be able to rest for eternity knowing he had the chance to stop Sauron but didn’t take it. Talion decides to work with Celebrimbor to rid the world of Sauron’s influence, and his final line in Shadow of Mordor shows how far he’s willing to go to bring the Dark Lord down.

Where We Left Off

From what we know of Middle Earth: Shadow of War, the new game will pick up exactly where Shadow of Mordor left off. Many enhancements are planned, and you can check out the rundown of what we’re most looking forward to. We’re especially interested in how Shelob will find her way into the story; the spider queen has prophetic powers and can transform into a shape that looks an awful lot like Talion’s dead wife.

Keep an eye out for our review of Shadow of War very soon.