Shadow of War Dev: People Should Think of it as an Adaptation, The Movies Deviate As Well
Before the release of Middle-earth: Shadow of War, several fans of JRR Tolkien's revered fantasy world criticized Monolith's portrayal of the lore.
While the first installment (Shadow of Mordor) also strayed from the canon, this sequel went far beyond by giving giant spider Shelob the ability to transform into a rather beautiful human woman, for example.
In a post-mortem interview with VentureBeat, Monolith's Game Director Michael de Plater once again addressed this topic with a lengthy response.
People should think of it as an adaptation. There are things we do relative to the timelines in the books, for example. We brought up the fall of Minas Ithil. We wanted to use Helm Hammerhand. In the books he’s a spirit of vengeance, and we wanted to tie that to the narratives of the Ringwraiths – someone whose story of pursuing revenge and falling and becoming a Nazgul resonated with Talion. We were taking the intention, the spirit, and the themes of the books, but adapting them to fit within a slightly different timeline and story.
It’s an adaptation, basically. If you see almost any film or TV show or other work coming from a canon book or other original property, that’s often the best way to approach that. We’re as faithful as we can and as true as we can to everything we love and feel is in the spirit of Middle-Earth, but it’s certainly our version of a lot of those elements. It has that focus on, perhaps, the darker side of Tolkien’s works. It’s exploring the areas where there is more ambiguity.
It’s a kind of what-if in some ways. When you read Lord of the Rings, the big question that gets posed more than any other is what would happen if someone with power took up the One Ring. Gandalf is tempted. Galadriel is tempted. Boromir is tempted. Celebrimbor is our answer, in some ways, to what would have happened if Galadriel had taken the Ring and become a dark queen in place of a dark lord. Or what would it have looked like if Saruman had taken the One Ring and used his army of Uruk-Hai to challenge Sauron? Talion is a bit more like if Boromir had gotten the Ring.
We’re trying to be very authentic to the spirit of the books, but as I say, it does deviate somewhat from the timeline and the canon. So do the movies. They have deviations that are in some ways quite significant, like removing the scouring of the Shire. That’s quite a big change. So these are all different timelines in some ways.
While it is definitely true that the Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson had their own changes from the books, they were nowhere near as prevalent as the ones in Shadow of War.
Still, Middle-earth: Shadow of War proved to be a success upon launch. Kai really liked the game, barring a few flaws.
Some missteps keep Talion’s adventure from being perfect, but overall these changes are a force for good and worthy of being praised as The Bright Lord’s greatest adventure yet. The changes to the Nemesis system that allow Talion to command his own army of orcish brutes and install his own overlords are a worthy evolution of a system that created something unique that no game before it had tried. Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a bright journey for Talion and Celebrimbor and worth playing if you want to go on a journey to immersive yourself in the land’s distinctive lore.
Did you enjoy playing Shadow of War so far, and would you say Monolith's adaptation bothered you at all?
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