Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor took a few liberties with the Tolkien Legendarium and its canon, but for the most part, it all fell into place as a nice little fan fiction that might have, maybe could have worked with a very liberal interpretation.
Shadow of War, its upcoming sequel, has no such reservations about forcing its way into canon. The official E3 2017 trailer for the game is high on iconic imagery from the films but also doesn’t make much sense if you know the story behind them.
In the trailer, we find our hero Talion claiming his place back at the front of the army of Gondor. The kingdom continues to wage war against the forces of Sauron, set to the background of the events leading up to Lord of the Rings. That’s all fine, but it’s in the details that come from the film’s imagery that start to really stretch the boundaries of what’s canon.
For example, Talion clearly fights alongside the army of the dead, a feat only the King of Gondor is capable of. He battles a Balrog, an ancient race of demons that either wound up destroyed, fled Middle-earth, or disappeared into the deepest parts of the world thousands of years earlier.
Finally, the biggest humdinger of them all, somebody actually forges a new Ring of Power that looks like a copy of The One Ring. Talk about tossing the entire mythology into a pot and giving it a stir.
I’m a fuddy-duddy, I know
It’s tough tacking on your own additions to a canon that has been chronicled and studied for over half a century, especially for the sole purpose of making a video game that is meant to please a mainstream audience. The imagery from the Peter Jackson films sells the game since that’s what people recognize first and foremost. This loose interpretation is necessary for the product to exist at all.
I’ll try my best to pin my lips shut and stop sounding like a nitpicking elitist for the sake of enjoying this game. Video games are allowed a unique interpretation of existing works because they have to cater to a wide array of demographics to sell themselves. Plus, I really liked Shadow of Mordor when I was able to turn my brain off and just enjoy it for what it was.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to do the same for Middle-earth: Shadow of War when it launches for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Oct. 10.