Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor is an action role-playing game set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of The Lord of The Rings. You play as Talion, a ranger who has wraith-like abilities, whose main quest is to avenge his family and take down Sauron and his army of orcs.
One of the first things I do when I play Shadow of Mordor is to open the map and look for indications of Intel. To kill an orc warchief easily, I have to kill his bodyguards. To kill his bodyguards, I have to aim for specific orcs which when interrogated, will give me information on a specific orc’s strengths and weaknesses. As I set my targets in my mind, I find that this ties in with the Lens of Goals, where a good variety of short and long term goals keeps me always in reach of the next objective. Short term goals such as gathering Intel are achievable and rewarding as it makes the final objective of killing a warchief much easier.
The Lens of Meaningful Choices also applies heavily in my mission to kill orc captains and warchiefs. I am constantly caught having to make choices that will affect outcomes in the game. Should I kill the orc now or brand it so that it can follow my commands? Killed orcs give only a moment of peace as they are quickly replaced, while branding an orc allows me to control his actions but give me some kind of responsibility to make sure he does not get himself killed by other orcs. Similarly, when I’m trying to intercept a duel between two orcs, I have to choose if I should kill both orcs when they are weakened, kill the one left standing as well as determine the correct timing to step in. Each action I take affects the outcome and determines if I will have an advantage in the future, which makes each decision more meaningful.
I find that I am emotionally invested in the orcs that I fight throughout the game. Every time I encounter that orc that has killed me the previous five times, I feel frustrated in having to face him and his degrading insults again. On the other hand, when I have successfully killed orc after orc, I become feared amongst the orcs and gain a reputation as being the toughest being to beat. Orcs that I have killed even sport the scars I have given them, tying in Aesthetics and Story in the Elemental Tetrad. While these actions do not contribute directly to the main story, the unique interactions between each orc make the world of Shadow of Mordor that much more immersive. Following the Lens of the Story Machine, different interactions with different orcs will generate different reactions from them. This essentially allows players to craft their own experiences and mini-stories.
My friend frequently enters the section on Sauron’s army, which shows the hierarchy and relations between the orc captains and warchiefs, as well as each identified orc’s strengths and weaknesses. The Lens of Problem Solving contributes to this reaction, as my friend has to constantly find a way to bring down the more powerful orcs by analyzing them in Sauron’s army. Each orc has his own unique set of strengths, such as invulnerability to stealth or the ability to poison the player, which acts as a problem my friend has to overcome. Furthermore, taking down the wrong orc at the wrong time may create problems in the future, which leads my friend to constantly check each orc’s relationship to his leader, if any.
Unlike Sauron’s Army, the Upgrades section was rarely accessed by my friend. Experience points were also disregarded throughout the game. He found that even with low upgrades to his character, timing and dodging attacks are still easy due to his own skills and prior experience to similar types of games. As long as my friend is able to counter an attack at the right timing, getting killed is very difficult. The Lens of Skill does not seem to be effectively used in this case due to the following:
- Due to the familiarity with the combat system, some players will fare much better than others, which may make the game unfair.
- The level of skill required may be too low for seasoned players, making the game not as fun as it could be.
In this case, the game Mechanics on the player’s end in the Elemental Tetrad may need to further refined to ensure a better utilization of the Lens of Skill.
One of the main mission’s objectives is to mind control all five orc warchiefs. While the act of brainwashing them is the same (lower their health then brand them), my friend went through a different path to approach each orc:
- Directly confront the warchief and brand him.
- Brand the warchief’s bodyguard then kill the warchief. The brainwashed bodyguard fills in the now vacant position as warchief.
- Command one of his mind controlled warchiefs to pick a fight with another rogue warchief, wait for his health to dwindle, then brand him.
The application of the Lens of Freedom allows the freedom to choose how he executes his actions to achieve his objectives.
Even though my friend and I have played the same game, we have each gained our own set of unique experiences. This may be because different lenses appeal to each of us, thus we gain a richer experience from one lens as compared to the other. My friend may find that the Lens of Skill has been under-utilized, but others may feel that the skills required to play Shadow of Mordor are just right.
Lenses are also commonly interrelated and a combination of them can apply to each aspect of the game. For the act of killing an orc, multiple lenses are considered:
- Lens of Goals: to set the goal of killing the orc
- Lens of Freedom: to explore different ways in luring and killing the orc
- Lens of Problem Solving: to plan the best way to kill the orc
- Lens of Meaningful Choices: to decide on the plan of action
- Lens of Skill: to execute the plan and attempt to kill the orc
- Lens of the Story Machine: the after effects of the attempt
The variety of ways that lenses come together adds to the experience of the game. Although some lenses may not be used effectively, the game can still be fun as long as there are sufficient lenses that are able to enhance each other. The same can be said for the elements in the Elemental Tetrad. The Technology used in making Shadow of Mordor is not revolutionary, nor is the main Story particularly creative. However, as each element comes together, they help to shape the game and turn it into something unique and fun.