Monolith Discusses Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War's Early Development

Ever since its official announcement earlier this year, fans have been excited for Monolith's Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. After all, its original effort, Shadow of Mordor, really struck a chord with the Lord of the Rings community, with its open-world environment and its awesome Nemesis system.

Recently PlayStation Lifestyle got a chance to sit down with the team at Monolith – namely the vice president of creative, Michael de Plater – to talk about its development, including its early stages of being made. And there's a lot going into this game…

First, de Plater discussed the new abilities that are going into the game, which will retain a certain balance. "The key is that while Talion and Celebrimbor have become more powerful, so have your enemies. The Orcs and Trolls of the Nemesis System have a whole range of new abilities, weapons and classes. Plus, the scale of the world and the battles have increased considerably, so you are now using your powers against hordes of enemies in some cases. On top of that, the beasts and monsters have increased in terms of their variety and numbers, all the way up to the dragons you will battle against and ultimately dominate. The game has grown enormously in every dimension."

But when it comes to adapting to new players, "our goal is that players new to the franchise will not have a tough time jumping into Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and for those who have played the first game, there are a lot of new features, abilities, content and surprises. Because we have so many features and systems, we can keep introducing new gameplay experiences right up to the final battles. Also, we now have difficulty levels to ensure that the game is approachable for every type of player, from those who want to enjoy the story and the world to those who are more advanced and looking for a bigger challenge."

As to why there's a new sense of strategy in some of the areas of the game, de Plater explained, "The team went in this direction because we want players to create unique, personal stories. By making the world larger and more dynamic, there are more ways in which you can affect the world and the Orc society. The Nemesis System means that your enemies and followers learn and grow depending on the unique scenarios that you create. Because of this, it's very important that players have a wide range of options to approach their goal of conquering Mordor from within. Additionally, we wanted to capture the epic scale of the iconic battles that Middle-earth is known, from the Battle of Five Armies to Helms Deep to Return to of the King. We really want the game to feel epic in this way – that's very important to us."

He also touched on the revamped Nemesis system. "The Nemesis System in Middle-earth: Shadow of War has been advanced in so many ways. First, we took all the lessons from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor about what people remembered most and which Nemesis stories created the strongest emotions and we tripled down on strengthening those stories. We want people to absolutely love to hate their personal enemies. Then, we focused a lot on adding similar emotional hooks and memories to your followers, and this allowed us to create new types of stories and connections.

"When it gets really fun is when we have interactions between your enemies and followers, resulting in betrayals and rivalries that can be a lot like relationships between friends and brothers. It brings the world and Orc society to life in a new way. There's also more purpose behind the Nemesis System now because you are building your army and conquering Mordor, so the Nemesis Fortresses increase the scale and the stakes of the Nemesis System, while also extending it to the environment. The different Orc Tribes and Overlords turn the Fortresses and the environment into their own personal villain's lairs."

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You can read more of the interview here.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War releases on August 22nd for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.