Tag Archives: shadow of mordor

Playing with Limitations

I’ve linked to Ken Levine’s piece on Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor before, but now that I’ve begun to play the game, an observation struck me.

Levine’s piece revolves around choice in video games, explaining the genesis of the “Would you kindly” moment:

When it comes to story in video games, at best there’s an illusion of choice. At worst, there’s no choice at all. In our work, we tried to say, Well, pal, you really don’t have a choice. So let’s see if we can use that concept to mess with your head. And hence was born the “Would you kindly” moment in BioShock, a moment in video game history primarily remembered for reminding us that, when it comes to player choice in narrative, our medium is limited indeed.

This moment is an iconic take on agency in video games. When playing through Bioshock: Infinite, I took to sniffing out additional commentary on the medium: Does “Booker DeWitt” really mean “Booker, do it,” a nod to “Would you kindly?” Are infinite paths a commentary on respawning? I enjoy the idea of playing with a medium’s limitations rather than ignoring them. SHARP’s Quattron qual pixel technology was a gimmick, but I thoroughly enjoyed the marketing campaign.

In the case of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the protagonist, Talion, is merged with the wraith of Elf Lord Celebrimbor, imbuing Talion with immortality. When killed, Talion respawns and the of Orc rankings are stirred, starting with the Orc who slain Talion last. This justifies respawning and retains a consequence for death.

Video games are inherently fantastic. Meta-rules to mask limitations are not necessary, but with increasingly realistic worlds, they certainly make the experience feel tighter.

Naughty Dog better have a good explanation for Nathan Drake’s resistance to bullets.

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‘The first “open narrative” game’

Ken Levine, creator of Bioshock, writing for Matter’s New York Review of Video Games feature:

There are two games that really kicked off what we think of as the modern “open world” game: Super Mario 64 and Grand Theft Auto III. These games unshackled the player from linear progression through a game’s levels. I think Shadow of Mordor is the first “open narrative” game. You’re not just checking off missions in a variable sequence. You’re changing the dramatis personae. Whenever you succeed or fail, the characters in the story respond to your actions, and not in the manner of a branching “choose your own adventure.” It is an excessively simple, yet impressively flexible, crime story.

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Wii U is My Primary Console

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

That reality is rather quickly washed away by the fact that the Wii U has built the best library of exclusives of the current consoles, and that’s another trend that won’t likely end anytime soon. It would be hard to turn the Wii U into your primary console — there are simply too many games that will never be on the platform — but it’s equally hard to ignore Nintendo’s latest piece of hardware. There are simply too many amazing games that won’t be available on any other console.

This situation replicates what happened in the last generation: The argument between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is ongoing and contentious, but you don’t really need both. If you want to make sure you hit as many software high points as possible, you need a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One and a Wii U. The same way you needed a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 and a Wii.

We’ve gotten to the point of the Wii U’s life cycle where it’s clear that owning the system, if you’re serious about playing the best games on the market, has become mandatory.

Since Mario Kart 8 was released, I have had no problem making the Wii U my primary console. And while I adore Mario Kart 8, I’d argue that the Wii U is worth it for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker alone. It is rich with content and polish, is gorgeous and challenging, and is one of the most innovative games I have ever played. The hits keep coming.

Aside from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, I’d argue against Kuchera and state that there haven’t been any PS4 or Xbox One titles that have made me want to shell out for one or the other. And, again, outside of Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System, innovation and is something this new generation is severely lacking.

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