J.r.r. Tolkien Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com J.r.r. Tolkien RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Shadow of War Is Not Tolkien's Lord of the Rings https://www.gameskinny.com/gqfug/shadow-of-war-is-not-tolkiens-lord-of-the-rings https://www.gameskinny.com/gqfug/shadow-of-war-is-not-tolkiens-lord-of-the-rings Tue, 19 Dec 2017 12:13:23 -0500 Sarah Elliman

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the greatest linguistic minds to have lived. He was a man of many talents, intricate thoughts, and opinions of the world. Sadly, his death in 1983 deprived us of more brilliant work; tragically, the expansive world Tolkien left behind has been violated by modern adaptations, and the recent Middle-earth games don't encompass Tolkien’s values and principles anymore.

Tolkien was a multi-faceted man with a lot of depth and thought; his principles are just as intricate and cannot be rushed into an introduction. These values are what made his novels awe-inspiring, and they are what has been lost in the subsequent adaptations. It is no coincidence that many felt that The Hobbit film trilogy didn’t capture the magic and essence of the previous Peter Jackson-helmed trilogy or the books themselves. There is something missing, and it is the man himself.

Tolkien’s ideas are steeped in traditional conservative principles and the hatred of war and industrialization, amongst other values. His unparalleled faith drives the narrative, and his understanding of the world, combined with his instinctual fairness, forms a universe that nobody else could replicate. Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War are fantastic games, but they should not be considered in the same league as Tolkien’s work. They have lost the essence that has attracted so many people to the books, and those very things that make them good games contradict the nature of Tolkien’s work.

Lack of Filthy Hobbitses!

As stated previously, I understand that Shadow of War and Shadow of Mordor are individual entities that share elements and lore with Tolkien’s universe. Therefore, not everything that is beloved about the series is going to make it into the game. But the lack of hobbits is astounding. They are an integral part of the series and give us insight into Tolkien’s thoughts on England, myths, power, and humility.

The purpose of Tolkien’s novels was to show that basic kindness and love are what truly make the world a wonderful place. The quote everyone loves from Gandalf, "It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay," is lost in the games. Hobbits were meant to embody moving through the world without a thought above their community. Hobbiton looks after everyone in it; they all know one another, and there is such a beauty that is left untouched for so long from darkness. It is much harder to present this idea when the main driving force behind it has been left in the dust.

Above everything else, leaving the hobbits out of the tale allows the darkness to seep back in. These characters, who are less susceptible to the lull of the ring, live ordinary lives. They may not be remembered within history, but they continue a way of life that is lost to many others in the universe.

 

Power

The idea of power and that everyone can be corrupted by it is a huge concept in Tolkien’s universe. Even the hobbits fall prey to Sauron’s power in the end, and those who have more power to begin with fall even more quickly. Therefore, Gandalf doesn’t take the ring; his inherent power as a Maia means he could wield godly power. By Shadow of War specifically neglecting this rule, it changes Tolkien’s universe entirely. This is not just a design or story choice that has been left out. The idea of power and its absolute control is unavoidable in Tolkien’s universe, and it has been thrown aside distastefully.

The most prominent example of this is Talion’s ability to reject the power of the ring. We have seen him succumb to it slightly, and we could say that he has a similar ability to the hobbits and succumbs slower than others. However, this would be completely negating Tolkien’s order of species regarding power. The reason the hobbits can withstand the ring for so long is because they are not a powerful race. As you ascend this scale, the more powerful species in Tolkien’s universe succumb more quickly to the ring. Talion shouldn’t be able to reject the ring as much as he has -- it flies in the face of what Tolkien created.

When you create a force that is all-encompassing, that can devour the purest characters, creating a character in the spin-off that rejects these rules takes away the purpose of the tale. Characters like Aragorn, Legolas, or Gandalf always kept the ring out of their sight because they knew what power it could wield through them. The truly good characters never believed they could use it for good, as power is ultimately corrupt in Tolkien’s mind.

 The Setting

A more pedantic issue is the setting that was chosen for Shadow of War and Shadow of Mordor. The tales created by Tolkien aimed to show the beauty of those who had not been corrupted. You were meant to feel sad for the passing of the elves, for the attacks on the forest, and for the destruction of beauty. There is a socially conservative message in Tolkien’s work: the longing for the grace of the past, the sadness for what has been lost and what may yet pass into darkness.

When you have a setting that is surrounded by perpetual darkness, you don’t encounter that same sense of loss that makes Tolkien’s works so powerful. You venture into Mordor in both games and don’t see the magnificence of an intricately created world or experience moments such as this from The Hobbit, when Bilbo describes Elrond's house in Rivendell: "His house was perfect whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, nor a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley." Nor does this dark setting capture Tolkien's environmental message as well as Steve Bivans does in his book Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: "I was swept off to a green, green Shire in a far, far land, and my soul has never returned. I suppose it never will."

Every aspect of Tolkien’s universe combines beautifully to create the narrative we all know and love. The settings are integral to this as well; we need a break from the horror of power and death to remind us, as Sam does, that "there is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for." Without this reminder, the player is just running around enslaving and killing orcs at will, forgetting what it was that bought them there in the first place.

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Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War are good games, but they have moved so far away from the series that they have lost what made Tolkien’s world so magical in the first place. These aspects of Tolkien’s work are the "things that were not meant to be forgotten [that] were lost" in these games. The magic of Tolkien’s world can only be achieved by focusing on why his world came to be and why we put it on such a high pedestal to start with.

Do you like the new take on Tolkien's world? What do you feel is missing from the series? Let us know in the comments below.

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Is Shadow Of War Straying Too Far From Tolkien's Vision? https://www.gameskinny.com/q6419/is-shadow-of-war-straying-too-far-from-tolkiens-vision https://www.gameskinny.com/q6419/is-shadow-of-war-straying-too-far-from-tolkiens-vision Wed, 03 May 2017 08:00:02 -0400 Ty Arthur

Last summer we were befuddled by a lack of a Shadow Of Mordor sequel at E3, but patience was rewarded when less than a year later Monolith Productions very unexpectedly dropped a reveal trailer for Shadow Of War.

Other than the disappointing final boss fight and a few minor nit picks here and there across the campaign, Shadow Of Mordor was pretty close to a perfect game. It easily remains one of the best current-gen titles to this day and was among the greatest titles released in 2014.

Expanding The Scope

While keeping the same main character, the follow-up game is set to expand in many different ways, with the sword, bow, and dagger now getting ghostly spear and hammer companions when switching over to the undead Celebrimbor.

There will reportedly be more than 100 skills to choose from -- quite a boost from the first game -- in addition to siege warfare and a frequently shifting map with territory lost and gained over time.

The ranger Talion will eventually have a whole army at his back and laying sage to strongholds is becoming a chief focus, moving up in scope from the previous Nemesis system where your goal was essentially just to kill one orc leader at a time, regardless of location.

       A human ranger leading an orc army isn't quite how I remember LOTR

It's not clear if we'll see the Easterlings at all or if will primarily be orcs as the main fodder, but we do know there will be many bigger and badder enemies from the previous game, like Shelob and barrow wights. How that will be handled remains a mystery, since presumably Talion can't kill Shelob if the game is going to dovetail into the The Lord Of The Rings proper.

Based on the trailer we know at some point you get a graug into a grudge match against a drake, which is another head-scratcher in terms of style and tone. It seems based on the imagery released so far that we'll be battling balrogs -- who weren't known to inhabit Mordor -- and perhaps even Sauron himself in one form or another.

This little nugget of information presents some thorny issues, since the developer has stated Shadow Of War essentially ends where The Lord Of The Rings starts. Unless the story veers completely away from the source material (which is a distinct possibility), that tells us either that:

  • A) Talion loses big time -- R.I.P. Talion
  • B) Sauron has the ability to take human form somehow and Talion is responsible for forcing him back into incorporeality atop his tower
  • C) Talion subsumes Sauron, takes control of the One Ring, and takes up the mantle of the new Dark Lord at the end

That latter possibility seems like it will more than rile up the Tolkien purists and could see a full scale nerd revolt.

Leaving The Source Material Behind

There was already some departure from the novels in the previous game, which drew more from the style of the movies than the literary source material. Caragors and graugs were invented wholesale for instance, and aren't The Lord Of The Rings canon.

Celebrimbor was also known to have forged the rings for the other races under the tutelage of Sauron, but wasn't involved in crafting the One Ring to rule them all. Those changes seem minor in comparison to what's coming next as Monolith leaves Tolkien inspiration behind and essentially become high quality fan fiction instead.

Talion is now leading his own force of orcs back into Mordor against Sauron while flying around on a drake (or perhaps a fell beast?). This addition is an instance where a cool gameplay element that will expand the game in fun ways doesn't actually match the lore.

There's no question that I want to rain down fiery death on an orc fortress astride my winged stallion, but unless its a ringwraith on a fell beast, or a hobbit catching a ride on a deus ex machina eagle, typically characters don't fly around on mounts in Tolkiensville.

 Something about this doesn't feel quite right

To be fair, Talion is sort of a free willed ring wraith (another story departure) and turning the weapons of the enemy against itself was a primary theme of the previous game, so in a roundabout way it could fit. I'm not sure just how your chipper dwarf companion Torvin is going to have any knowledge of fighting and taming a fell beast, though...

Green Is The New Black

The addition of strategy elements, placing specific types of orc troops into different armies for besieging strongholds, will let us see a broader view of the typical Tolkien experience, rather than just one man (or hobbit) on the ground level view.

After taking over a stronghold, someone has to keep the rest of the orc horde in line, which means Talion must assign a new overlord after killing the previous one, allowing for changing experiences depending on who you pick and how they rule in your stead.

Here we've got an interesting enhancement from the first game, adding further personality differences between orc captains. Before those traits were simple things like "afraid of caragors" or "hates fire," but now we're going to dive into the shadowy realm of loyalty and betrayal.

The result is an attempt at humanizing the orcs and infusing them with more personality, which is an odd choice, since orcs are essentially supposed to be the faceless enemy that it's acceptable to butcher by the thousands. You aren't supposed to ask yourself "What is this orc thinking? Did he have a bad day? What's his relationship like with his parents?"

That issue aside, the expansion of orc abilities, aesthetics, and weaponry leads to some combinations that don't particularly feel Tolkien-esque. I mean, Ur-Hakon has a freaking flamethrower. Again, that's cool for a video game, but we're not even remotely in traditional Middle Earth territory here anymore.

 Call Of War: Shadow Of Dutysiders II?

Forget Canon And Have Fun

On the canon and Tolkien style fronts, Shadow Of Mordor and now sequel Shadow Of War have a major issue of scale and scope.

Although fractured and only uniting at the last possible moment, the forces of men and the various supernatural powers like Gandalf and Galadriel only just barely scraped by in defeating Sauron and his armies. Yet somehow little ole Talion and his wraith host can just decimate all of Mordor by himself.

It's inherently a problem in changing from a book or movie to an interactive video game experience: how do you keep a player entertained for 40+ hours when there's a whole army of orcs out there and you only have one main character?

Without question, Shadow Of War absolutely is straying too far from Tolkien's original vision, but unlike those abysmal Hobbit movies, I'm not convinced it will actually detract from the experience.

Legolas (who wasn't even in that book) straddling two broken barrels while flying down a river at top speed and perfectly aiming and headshotting orcs was ludicrous and absolutely destroyed The Desolation Of Smaug, but it would be pretty darn fun in a video game.

What do you think -- have we broken away much too far from canon, and will that impact your enjoyment of the game at all when Shadow Of War lands on August 22nd?

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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Trailer Features Popular Voice Actors Troy Baker and Nolan North https://www.gameskinny.com/4huzv/middle-earth-shadow-of-mordor-trailer-features-popular-voice-actors-troy-baker-and-nolan-north https://www.gameskinny.com/4huzv/middle-earth-shadow-of-mordor-trailer-features-popular-voice-actors-troy-baker-and-nolan-north Sun, 14 Sep 2014 11:16:08 -0400 Mary-Kate Wagamon

Monolith Productions new trailer offers gamers a chance to get to know actors playing the hero and villian of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Shadow of Mordor takes place in the Middle Earth, the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. 

However, Shadow of Mordor doesn't follow the story of characters created by Tolkien. Instead, it takes gamers on a journey with an entirely new character: a ranger named Talion. In the game, Talion is voiced by Troy Baker, who has voiced well-known characters in several other games, such as Booker Dewitt in Bioshock Infinite and Joel in The Last of Us. 

"In a huge epic story, you have huge epic characters...all these characters have such a crucial thing to play. And one thing that I love specifically about [Talion] is what does it look like when a normal man, just an everyday man, is in this supernatural experience? And it starts with a great story."    

--Troy Baker

The villian to Baker's hero is the Black Hand of Sauron, played by another extremely popular voice actor in video games, Nolan North. North has voiced Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, Desmond Miles in the Assassin's Creed series, and none other than Deadpool himself in the Deadpool video game. 

"It's so much fun for me to be able to play the darker character."

--Nolan North

The comments for the trailer already show fans' enthusiasm for the inclusion of these two actors, and for the game in general. If you haven't yet, you can check out the trailer above to get an inside look at Baker and North's experience working together on Shadow of Mordor.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor releases September 30th for Playstation 4; Xbox One; and PC, and for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on November 18th.

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J.R.R.Tolkien Does Vegas - The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth https://www.gameskinny.com/7owci/jrrtolkien-does-vegas-the-hobbit-kingdoms-of-middle-earth https://www.gameskinny.com/7owci/jrrtolkien-does-vegas-the-hobbit-kingdoms-of-middle-earth Fri, 31 May 2013 16:50:39 -0400 Mat Westhorpe

I have two kinds of friends: those who play video games and those who don't. So I was surprised to be invited to play The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth by one of the non-games playing kind.

I was curious: I'm a hopeless video game addict who will play anything, but what could possibly have lured a man who “doesn't get Twitter” and thinks gaming is “time better spent talking to actual humans”?

I feared the worst. The recent rash of “free” games designed around the concept of milking money from the naïve addicts they carefully cultivate would target casual consumers like my friend. But this game was based on The Hobbit—a trusted and respected literary symbol of a more innocent age—surely there is no foul play here?

I remember when the Tolkien estate fiercely protected the works of John Ronald Reuel and for many years even Hollywood was rebuffed. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings remained safe from the cynical forces of marketing.

As I downloaded this iOS game I realised that this is clearly no longer the case. Following the success of the Peter Jackson's fine films, brand Tolkien now seems to be available to everyone who wants to squeeze some money out of fans of Middle Earth. Or as TH: KoMH developers Kabam put it on their corporate website:

“Kabam revolutionizes how core video game players access and pay for their entertainment.”

What is it Americans say about taking candy from babies?

I can't help but be disappointed by the widespread adoption of the Las Vegas marketing model that is spreading like a disease through the gaming industry. It seems even more vulgar when a respected intellectual property like Tolkien's Middle Earth is perverted to this commercial cause.

Insert your own pun about the Dwarfish obsession with gold if you like, but I think more pertinent is the underlying message of The Lord of the Rings; Man's short-sighted greed and industrialisation threatening the tranquility of the world.

The parallel and the irony is not lost on me.

Enough lamenting the death of ethical game development, I suppose I'd better attempt an unbiased review of this cynical corruption of a beloved work of fiction...

The Review: A Game of Progress Bars

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