Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, a rip-off of Assassins Creed?

When I first heard about Shadow of Mordor, I was quite excited about the prospect of a new game based on the Lord of the Rings universe. They’ve not really done anything good since War in the North, and that was a bit hit and miss. So, once I’d spent a few minutes researching the game and watching some of the recently released gameplay videos, it quickly dawned on me that the game was incredibly familiar. I’d like to say that I used some of my keen deductive skills to notice the slight similarities, but sadly it was blatantly obvious, and I’m not the only person to have spotted it. Shadow of Mordor, in my opinion, is basically Assassins Creed with some really interesting additions.

Now let’s clear up the similarities first, before discussing the game. Though, it’d probably be quicker to list the differences, as that’d make for a shorter article. The design director, Michael de Plater, has said an Assassin’s Creed vibe “definitely wasn’t something we were consciously going for”. Though, if you read the full article on EuroGamer you’ll see that de Plater admits other similarities, such as the combat system. But, it’s not just small parts of the gameplay that seem overly familiar. The way that the main character moves, the way that he flies through the air to assassinate his targets, his Eagle like vision that identifies the ‘hit’, even the icons above the different enemies heads is incredibly similar. The way that the character climbs, even to the slightest detail of the buildings themselves are incredibly similar to Assassins Creed, if a little darker and more Middle-Earthey. One forum user even believes that:

“It’s not just the animations, it’s the assets and gameplay too. The scaffolding he climbs up, the rope he walks across, “wraith” vision, air assassinations… It’s certainly not a straight up clone, but it’s more than just a game in the same genre. It’s eerily similar to AC, certainly similar enough for a legit lawsuit.” – brucethemoose

Obviously, this is just speculation and whether Ubisoft would actually have any grounds to sue are yet to be seen. Though recently an Assassins Creed II combat designer tweeted, “I spent two years staring at AC2. I know it when I see it”, after watching some gameplay footage of Shadow of Mordor. You would imagine that, after spending two years watching the animation of a character, he’d have a pretty good idea of what is and isn’t Assassins Creed. I doubt many people would disagree with him. Have a watch below and see for yourself. I’ve embedded one video of Shadow of Mordor footage and one of Assassins Creed II. If you can guess which is which, I’ll give you a brownie point (brownie points are non-refundable and cannot be exchanged for actual money. It’s also quite obvious which video is which and I was just using the above statement to re-enforce a point, so guessing shouldn’t be too difficult).

(Around 1min there’s a good scene using ‘Wraith Vision’)

(Skip to around 6mins for some ‘Eagle Vision’ footage)

To be fair to Shadow of Mordor, there’s a bit there that’s quite different from Assassins Creed. For example, in Assassins Creed they call it Eagle Vision, whereas SoM opt for Wraith Vision. I kid. The combat system does look the same, but the way in which you go about fighting the enemies is very different. The ability to see a hierarchy of ‘hits’, see how these enemies shape the world around them and plot your most efficient move sounds incredibly interesting to me. To what extent the way in which you approach killing these enemies (or using them to kill other enemies) will change the world around you is still not clear, but it definitely has potential. It could all just be smoke and mirrors to distract us from the fact that we’re actually playing an Assassins Creed mod. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. 

The game isn’t based on any of Tolkien’s stories and is set at some point between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. The basic plot is that the family of the main character, Talion, are murdered by Sauron’s armies. Talion himself is also murdered, but is resurrected with wraith-like abilities (hence the Wraith Vision) and heads to Mordor to seek revenge. The stories of the game and Tolkien’s books will align in places, and it has even been confirmed that the player will meet Gollum at some point. Exciting stuff! Clearly, the story hasn’t been stolen from Assassins Creed, though there have been so many Assassin Creed titles that it’s probably getting difficult to find a story that they haven’t already done. I kid. I love The Lord of the Rings, both the world that Tolkien created and the story that Peter Jackson re-imagined, so I’m really looking forward to this game. Even if it is will be a lot like Assassins Creed.

But, when I think about it, is it such a bad thing that Shadow of Mordor is similar to Assassins Creed? It seems of late that the biggest issue people have had with the Assassins Creed series is that it’s getting quite samey. If anyone has a complaint about Ubisoft’s killer title, it would be that, or that there should be more pirates. So, for me at least, I’m excited for the prospect of an Assassins Creed like game that isn’t actually Assassins Creed. I loved the first three games, but I started to turn off of it a bit after the fourth, just because there was very little variation between the titles. Perhaps Monolith and Warner Bros can do something that Ubisoft can’t – to take the Assassins Creed formula and inject it into a new world, with new characters, weapons, powers and extras. Now, obviously, from a developers point of view, this isn’t a good thing. If I’d made something incredibly popular, I wouldn’t want some other Joe piggy-backing off of my success and stealing my ideas. But, for the consumer, it’s great news. Perhaps Shadow of Mordor can be something that Assassins Creed could not, perhaps it will even force Ubisoft to mix it up a bit with their next Assassins Creed title, who knows? All I know is that variety is the spice of life, even if one spice ripped itself off from the other.

  • Michael Scoates

    I dunno, I just can’t seem to get excited for it. I would hope Ubisoft decide to protect their IP and instruct their lawyers to instigate proceedings to get the whole thing pulled, unless there’s an authorised sharing of assets going on that we’re not aware of. If this was a Chinese knockoff developer we’d expect that to happen. But because it’s Warner Brothers Games and Monolith should that make it any different?

    I’m sure it would have been a great game, just not for me, been to Mordor too many times and played Assassin’s Creed to many times to believe that mixing the two would make it any more exciting.

    • Alecs Pillik

      I’m holding hope for a long-awaited Lord of the Rings game that’s half decent. I loved the originals on the PS2 that followed the three films, I thought that they were fantastic games. But since then I’ve probably set the bar a little too high for other LOTRs based games. War in the North was ok, and worth picking up now that it’s probably crazy cheap. But I agree with your point, I’ve had more than enough of Assassins Creed too.

      When it comes to them pulling the game, you would have thought that Ubisoft would have heard about this and investigated long before now. The game seems well underway.

  • Michael Scoates

    I dunno, I just can’t seem to get excited for it. I would hope Ubisoft decide to protect their IP and instruct their lawyers to instigate proceedings to get the whole thing pulled, unless there’s an authorised sharing of assets going on that we’re not aware of. If this was a Chinese knockoff developer we’d expect that to happen. But because it’s Warner Brothers Games and Monolith should that make it any different?

    I’m sure it would have been a great game, just not for me, been to Mordor too many times and played Assassin’s Creed to many times to believe that mixing the two would make it any more exciting.

    • Alecs Pillik

      I’m holding hope for a long-awaited Lord of the Rings game that’s half decent. I loved the originals on the PS2 that followed the three films, I thought that they were fantastic games. But since then I’ve probably set the bar a little too high for other LOTRs based games. War in the North was ok, and worth picking up now that it’s probably crazy cheap. But I agree with your point, I’ve had more than enough of Assassins Creed too.

      When it comes to them pulling the game, you would have thought that Ubisoft would have heard about this and investigated long before now. The game seems well underway.

  • bdogg241980

    To be honest to all of you that actually comment on how the game plays and this and that. I personally dont think anyone should get sued over a game even if you compare them. We as society have got real stupid over things so if something is seen the way another game is compared we can sue them we have the rights to copy protect life? That is basically me saying I will copy right the way I move my arm if you do it I have grounds to sue. Its just uncalled for so if ubisoft does which makes billions should be ran out of business. It is a game this is what they all are and an escape from reality they lose value they become something you put on the shelf and forget over time games are not a part of life but a part that takes away from kids, family, and will destroy a life you had. Most of you that play have never played atari we went from pinging a dot to what there is now and when people gripe about a game unless it is one that gets beefed up to becoming the worse game of all then you have a reason to gripe and want to write a review. Most of you want realistic more and more and gripe when something is not the way you want it. Yes you paid for it but blame the game makers I have not played the shadow of mordor I wanted to but when I went to play it in the 360 I was pissed by the way it looked missing objects due to them not taking the time to fix it for the 360 but try to push us to the xbox one or ps4 so im pissed at the game makers of the game for that failure and I will not be pushed to a pos system that is overpriced in an economy of today with games running 70+ to be beefed up so much it sucks so how this game looks to be played enjoy it not compare it as the story line looks good to enjoy. If not bust out an old atari and you will come to enjoy any game after that

  • bdogg241980

    To be honest to all of you that actually comment on how the game plays and this and that. I personally dont think anyone should get sued over a game even if you compare them. We as society have got real stupid over things so if something is seen the way another game is compared we can sue them we have the rights to copy protect life? That is basically me saying I will copy right the way I move my arm if you do it I have grounds to sue. Its just uncalled for so if ubisoft does which makes billions should be ran out of business. It is a game this is what they all are and an escape from reality they lose value they become something you put on the shelf and forget over time games are not a part of life but a part that takes away from kids, family, and will destroy a life you had. Most of you that play have never played atari we went from pinging a dot to what there is now and when people gripe about a game unless it is one that gets beefed up to becoming the worse game of all then you have a reason to gripe and want to write a review. Most of you want realistic more and more and gripe when something is not the way you want it. Yes you paid for it but blame the game makers I have not played the shadow of mordor I wanted to but when I went to play it in the 360 I was pissed by the way it looked missing objects due to them not taking the time to fix it for the 360 but try to push us to the xbox one or ps4 so im pissed at the game makers of the game for that failure and I will not be pushed to a pos system that is overpriced in an economy of today with games running 70+ to be beefed up so much it sucks so how this game looks to be played enjoy it not compare it as the story line looks good to enjoy. If not bust out an old atari and you will come to enjoy any game after that