Shadow Of Mordor: Like Pro Wrestling, Only With More Orcs

Shadow Of Mordor: Like Pro Wrestling, Only With More Orcs

Something I kept thinking about when playing Shadow of Mordor to review was that the orcs in the game reminded me of professional wrestlers. At least, my conception of pro-wrestlers. I mean this as the warmest of possible compliments.

I was reminded of this yesterday when revisiting some footage and came across this very WWE-esque move one orc pulled on me. It's a silly comparison to make on one level. But it can also be an important one for helping explain why I find Mordor's particular brand of ultra-masculinity and ultra-violence charming. The biggest criticism I've heard from friends and fellow writers so far is one that stems from a sense of fatigue: players are tired of getting yet another game about stabbing things in the face, yet another story that puts you in the spectacularly unsurprising role of a stubbly white beefcake, yet another piece of gaming culture that seems like it fails to understand anything about the nuances of genuine human intimacy.

I won't deny that Mordor can seem simple-minded in light of these sorts of criticisms. But dismissing the game out of hand for its reliance on well-worn material doesn't sit well with me either. Here's how I put it when chatting with another game critic on Twitter last night, who was voicing a lot of the same annoyances with Mordor that I'd heard from others:

Would Mordor be a better game if I could write letters to its orcs and sell them furniture? (Well, I guess I technically can send them death threats, which might count in the epistolary category). I don't think so. It's reliance on violence might strike some as oppressive. But I found it surprisingly refreshing, in its own way, because the game struck such an unusual tone. To circle back to the pro-wrestling connection: I think Mordor is self-serious and self-aware at the same time. Its violence can be frighteningly visceral at times, as can its more villainous and creepy-looking bad guys. But it always seems to know just when it should pull back and remind its players: Hey, this is a video game, don't take it too seriously. Mordor managed to acknowledge its own hyperbole and excess in such a way that, as I said at the end of my review: "it invites you and its orcs to buy into its campy fiction together. That way, you can both have more fun." Much in the same way that pro wrestling has somehow figured out a way to call itself a "sport" and "entertainment" in the same breath.

Don't get me wrong: I think a Sims-style game set in the Lord of the Rings universe sounds like an incredible idea in its own right. But that's the thing -- in its own right. Does the absence of a hobbit-centric sim game (however glaring it may be for some) need to weigh on Shadow of Mordor? I don't expect The Rock to star in somber period pieces directed by Joe Wright (thank god), and I don't ding him for not doing so. Mordor's particular focus on a boyish vision of fantastical violence might seem narrow. Broadening it, however, could've easily diluted its power.

I love The Sims 4. I also love Shadow of Mordor. I also love that they can both coexist so comfortably right next to each other -- both in my head and my gaming PC.


Comments

    I... find these complaints to be very strange and can not relate to the kind of person who would make them.

    Last edited 02/10/14 2:13 pm

    Of course there's a link to that Polygon article, why am I not surprised?

      And here I thought some Journalists dont analyze their materials enough... This one over analyzes it

        The Polygon article was by a game dev, not a journalist. But yes, point still stands. Mountain out if a molehill.

        Are there issues in modern gaming? Absolutely. Is this game a major example? No.

      I actually kind of love the fact that Kotaku ran an entire article literally praising the exact same thing that Polygon article is attacking =P

    Game ordered.

    *Sigh* I really need to stop spending money ... but the next 6 weeks make it impossible!

    It seems crazy I could have Shadows of Mordor, Borderlands and Farcry 4 all on preorder and STILL have not even thought about Dragonage Inquisition, AC Unity or Alien Isolation yet.

    Mercy.

    Oh and ... good times :)

    Last edited 02/10/14 2:47 pm

    All I can say about SOM is that for someone who has not played a LOTR game in many years, I'm genuinely having a blast playing this. It feels like the love child of Assassins Creed and Batman Arkham set in the LOTR universe, Original? no. Awesome? Hell yes!
    it's combining 3 awesome things together, you're hardly going to combine ice-cream, sprinkles and chocolate topping only to end up with shampoo boiled Brussels sprouts with toothpaste sauce.
    I have been playing it for the last 2 nights and have not spared the Destiny grindstone even a moment of thought.

    Stop writing good things about this game. I can't afford it right now, and I already wants it so bad.

    This game is not the game I think that this game should be. I'm outraged!

    I don't get how people can hate on Ryse for being repetitive but love this game. Its like Y button simulator 2014.

    There are games out there about living in a town and selling people furniture.

    This is not one of those games, it is clearly labelled that this game will involve a lot of Orc killing.

    I don't understand why you're even playing the game if you're not interested in killing Orcs.

    I'm loving it at the moment!

    I died on one sucka multiple times, and after much taunting (his), I finally beat him.

    And Talion said: "Your darkness ends here!" Set my heart all a flutter!

    Then I did one of the first sword missions where you have to kill 50 opponents. I Batmanned about for a bit, got really low on health and finally took them all out... Then after mission complete, I suddenly realised I'm still in the area of the mission, and TWO captains at once come up to me wanting a piece.

    I dispatched them, took my rune loot and had to scarper because some other bloody orc had witnessed everything and set off an alarm.

    THIS. GAME. IS. THE. BOLLOCKS.

      That feeling when you haven't done your recon and you're just stealthing around, taking out patrols, and this one guy lays you on your ass for it, then thumps his chest and yells at you and it turns out your 'hapless' target was actually a Captain who's about to grind you into paste and fuck up your plans of what you were actually trying to get to in the first place by raising the alarm and giving you eighty orcs to fight... so good.

      Last edited 05/10/14 12:20 pm

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