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.