Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was a game about attachment in the face of decapitation. You came to love certain orcs, even as you warred against them. It was a game about relationships, more romantic in some ways than games that are explicitly about romance. So I had to know: In Shadow of War, is there orc romance?
During an interview at GDC, I asked Monolith creative VP Michael de Plater this very pointed and serious question. His response was... more considered than I was expecting.
"There's a whole genre of [orc romance] on Amazon, as we discovered the other day," he said. "There's absolutely people that love that! We don't have anything like that in our game at the moment, but in an indirect way, you can make them your companions."
"I think [Shadow of War's] orcs live in this very weird, hyper-masculine society," he explained. "Violence is the sort of manifestation of their sensual side, their pleasure. That's how they live their lives. Because they are these big exaggerations of hate and fear and violence, they do kind of love it and revel in it. I think it is kind of romantic for them."
What about kissing, though? Shadow of Mordor contained precisely one kiss (shared, sadly, by two humans), so kissing orcs in Shadow of War would be a natural extension of that. Sadly, Talion cannot kiss orcs, but de Plater said that orcs might get up to some PG-13+ activities in their off-time.
"I don't think orcs kiss, but they do get very drunk," he said. "The grog that they're having, which is somewhere between alcohol and meth, that's kind of fuelling the craziness that is Mordor. I'm sure they do all sorts of things [while on it]."
Maybe there won't be many torrid orc romances in Shadow of War, but the game will provide plenty of bonding moments.
"It's just really about a connection with these guys," said de Plater. "If one's your bodyguard and you're really down and you're about to die, this guy leaps in and saves you. It creates a connection. These guys are helping you out. It's sort of the inverse of last time. Sometimes if an orc was an enemy, we'd see people become really connected with them and disappointed when they lost them."
"We also put a lot into expanding the voiceover and the presentation," he added. "Before, in Shadow of Mordor, once somebody was your follower they didn't really have anything to say any more. But in Shadow of War, we've expanded their interactions and voice and character."
And nobody's saying you can't, you know, imagine the smooching.