This 8 minute gameplay "walkthrough" for the next Lord of the Rings game, "Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor" came out yesterday, and... It looks amazing. I'm also not sure I believe anything it's saying.
Perhaps it's just my hardened heart born from years and years of crushing disappointment, but every time a game claims that "every decision you make influences the game's world," I struggle to believe it. And what Shadow of Mordor (I keep wanting to write "Shadows of Mordor" and it's driving me crazy) is claiming, that there are no generic enemies, and that each one you interact with in various ways will influence the game later on, is impressively ambitious. I'm just not sure I believe it.
The game itself looks interesting, primarily taking cues (and code?) from the Assassin's Creed franchise, with a dash of the Arkham series thrown in, along with some interesting new gameplay elements of their own. There's definitely worse places to borrow from.
I've also got some concerns about the very foundation the game is placed upon. If the game primarily takes place within a pre-ruined Mordor, as this trailer and information I've found online seems to suggest, I wonder whether the game will wind up feeling fairly linear and constrained. Assassin's Creed and the Arkham series were both at their best when they made you feel like you were inside a living world, and I'm not convinced this will feel that way.
While there may wind up being a lot to this "Nemesis System," I'm skeptical of their "no generic enemies" claim which is featured in the above trailer. The game supposedly uses procedurally generated content to make each enemy unique and interesting, and to react in a different way. I can't help but wonder what actual difference that will wind up making, however. Is the biggest difference going to be whether the slaver I fight in this sequence name "Ratgut" or "Barfface"? Will certain points boil down to Mass Effect style decision moments, where I choose whether to let a character live or die? Will it actually matter whether I skip one procedurally generated enemy with stealth, or kill him? How? Will there be a big brawl at the end between Talion and every enemy I didn't kill progressing through?
I'm convinced that procedurally generated content is going to wind up being a major part of the future of gaming, I'm just not convinced this game is going to wind up being as good as this trailer looked. It doesn't help that it's a licensed game, even though the Lord of the Rings franchise is actually one of the exceptions to the "all licensed games suck" rule. Maybe it'll be incredible, maybe I'll wind up with egg on my face for being skeptical. I hope I do, I really hope this game winds up being amazing. I want every game to be amazing. But until I see more, I'm not sure I buy this just yet.