Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is widely considered one of the best games of 2014, and one of the early greats on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. That said, it almost didn't exist. Well, rather it almost wasn't a Middle-earth game, but a Batman game. More specifically, a game based on Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. That's right, according to journalist Liam Robertson, Monolith Productions was working on a AAA Batman game that unfortunately got canned, but it was from the ashes of this project that apparently Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor rose.
Monolith Productions has been around since 1994, and in the 90s and early 2000s it had its hand in some pretty big and pivotal games, such as Tron 2.0 and F.E.A.R. But after F.E.A.R's sequel in 2009, the studio hit a transitional stage in its history where it left F.E.A.R and Condemned and the series behind that it made a name for itself shipping in the early and mid 2000s. And at this point, it was dabbling in a few of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's IP.
One of these IP was Batman, which it released a game for: 2012's Gotham City Impostors. But it was also working away on an open-world title based off Christopher Nolans' Dark Knight Trilogy, more specifically, The Dark Knight Rises. However, eventually the project was squashed in pre-production. Why? Because Christopher Nolan wouldn't greenlit it, and so Monolith was sent back to the drawing board in 2011, a year before it would release Gotham City Imposters and Guardians of Middle-earth.
Apparently, the Batman game featured a Batmobile that was used to get around Gotham City, and allowed players to choose one of three different playstyles: stealth, gadgets, or good ol' head-on combat. It sounded like a pretty neat Batman game, but again, it didn't get very far. Thanks, Nolan.
Eventually this project was actually recycled and remade into Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which broke ground in 2014 with its Nemesis System. In other words, yeah there's an alternate universe out there where we got a Batman game with the awesome Nemesis System. But we don't live in that universe, so it's best not to salivate thinking about it too much.
Anyway, for more details and the full story, be sure to check out Robertson and DidYouKnowGaming's video below, which dives into the entire matter much more deeply: