Opinion: Shadow of War – Two Rings to Rule Them All?!

Opinion: Shadow of War – Two Rings to Rule Them All?!

Here is something which annoyed me very much. It serves no real purpose other than to vent a little frustration about some narrative choices by a certain game studio. So read and enjoy.

On 27th February, the game Middle Earth: Shadow of War was announced. An anticipated sequel of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, I’ve been looking forward to a sequel for ages. Not for anything interesting story wise, since it isn’t particularly strong in that respect, but more for the gameplay aspect. In Shadow of Mordor you can manipulate the power structure of the Orc army to your liking making for some very interesting occurrences.

(Tangent: I myself was able to raise an Orc kitchen guy named Ratlug to the rank of Warchief Ratlug the Skinner by aiding in the ‘removal’ of other opponents to his immortal power.)

But that’s not why I’m writing this extra article for you today. No, the reason why is because in it’s admittedly vague cinematic trailer, you’re shown that in order to combat the might of the Dark Lord Sauron, you – a dead ranger named Talion and your elven wraith companion Celebrimbor – have forged a new Ring of Power, which will likely be central to gameplay in Shadow of War.

I’m gonna talk about this from a lore and story perspective; creating a new Ring of Power within the ‘Tolkienverse’ is an incredibly stupid idea.

It’s certainly interesting the implications something like this would have on the world around it. You’re clearly a new force of power in the world and because of when this game will take place (between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) it means that whatever happens in Shadow of War, has to stay in Shadow of War, and make minimal impact on Middle Earth.

To do otherwise would devalue from those previously mentioned works.

Imagine if in between Sherlock Holmes novels, there’s a game in which a random man named Bobby goes up against Moriarty (Holmes’s arch enemy) and to do so he needs to have Sherlock’s intellect, so he brainwashes himself to make himself smarter. (throw in an upgrade system perhaps) The experience would be hyped up to make you believe that you will go up against Moriarty in some sort of epic battle. However, because this is in Sherlock Holmes’s world, you know it won’t succeed; Bobby will somehow fail or leave, and no one will mention him again. So what was the point?

Compare this to Shadow of War. You know that this ranger can not and will not defeat Sauron because Lord of the Rings exists. And you know that no one is going to remember this ranger by the time of those books, so why? Why have him go up against Sauron in the first place?

Image belongs to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Monolith Productions.

At least Shadow of Mordor didn’t truly have that confrontation and was essentially one man’s doomed campaign against the growing return of darkness.

Star Wars has stories set in between its films and they work. Maybe not to alter events of the films but to add context to the struggles of the characters; key events that happened off screen. (please consult Rogue One)  Maybe some of these stories and events aren’t mentioned, but they’ll still give add something for the viewer’s understanding of the films.

What does this idea add, beyond just giving you new and creative ways to kill and control Orcs. (or potentially Balrogs and Nazgul depending on what you take away from that trailer, which.. yeah awesome but still)

I’m not against this sort of media set within Lord of the Rings, but surely there are less troubling points in this world to explore; the fall of Numenor perhaps, or the War in the North. (which they did, but I’m told didn’t do so well)

And the creation of a new Ring of Power to challenge Sauron – who desires the One Ring once again, in case you don’t know the plot of Lord of the Rings – undermines the importance of the actual One Ring.

This is a terrible idea, and I’m sure it’s not just because of that; those who are more familiar with J.R.R Tolkien’s works will have better arguments than I do about this. But from a narrative stand point, Monolith and Warner Bros seem to have created a lot more work for themselves with this revelation.

Perhaps I’m more defensive about this because I adore The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in most – not all – of it’s forms. And when something threatens to tamper with that – *cough* three part movie *cough* – I wonder how that’ll affect the quality of what I adore. I’ll happily accept that I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to Tolkien’s work and don’t want key aspects to change.

Like I said, I must stress that I am looking forward to the release of Middle Earth: Shadow of War as I liked the first one, and I’m sure that this one will be just as good. But seriously, a new Ring of Power? Really? Do you want the Tolkien scholars to change the Ring Verse to suit your needs? Two rings to rule them all or something?

But what do I know, maybe this will turn out to be great… and dragons will be real on this Earth and there will be other nice things.

Anyway that was something which annoyed me this week. Middle Earth: Shadow of War will release on August 22nd, with a gameplay trailer coming soon I’m told.

Check out the trailer here.


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