Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Toronto-based launch event for Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. As my first local press event, I was excited to see exactly how this kind of thing worked. Not only that, but I got to play Shadow of War early, and I’ll admit that I’m now really looking forward to it.
The event started at 7, with members of both WB Entertainment and LexPR present and fully welcoming. The Great Hall, where the event was held, was lit and decorated to give it the atmosphere of a tavern; fitting of Tolkien’s world of medieval fantasy. Tables had candle-lit lanterns on them, gothic statues held bowls of Smarties, and there was a rather nice throne in the sitting area. It felt like I had walked into a modern re-imagining of a medieval pub, just with more 4K monitors and video cameras.
After meeting some great guys from various press sites, I had the chance to take Shadow of War for a spin on the Xbox One. As one of the first games to run natively in 4K, Shadow of War looked fantastic. There was an eerie realism to the way the Orcs looked; their faces moved in a way that was rather reminiscent of the movies. The sprawling landscapes and the enormous castle in the hub area made me feel quite small in what seemed to be a huge world.
There were quite a few mission types available, but they typically all lead to fighting Orc captains (which is completely fine by me). Players familiar with Shadow of Mordor would be at home with the various environmental hazards at their disposal, from beehives to cages with trolls and ravenous caragors inside. There are a great deal of new elven abilities for Talion and Celebrimbor to use, including Arkham-esque vertical launches off ledges, and an attack that makes a bunch of Celebrimbors appear to wreak havoc on nearby enemies. I’m looking forward to seeing what other new features are in the game, and I’m hoping they can live up to these already impressive additions.
Then it was time for the keynote, where we watched a trailer for Shadow of War about how “nothing is forgotten”. Characters will remember every choice you make, whether you leave your allies behind to be killed by enemies, or if you save them by risking your own life. The trailer was live-action and rather impressive, and it definitely got its point across well. After going over some stats about WB Interactive Entertainment, we got the rundown of Shadow of Mordor’s key features and new mechanics.
Suddenly two Orcs came booming down the stairs and invaded the stage (you may recognize these Orcs from E3 and other Shadow of Mordor events). After some funny small-talk and a joke about Drake (we’re in Toronto after all), the Orcs wandered the crowd for the remainder of the night. There were no slit throats or bitten-off ears, so kudos to them for going against stereotypes (is that speciesist? Does that exist?). In all seriousness, the Orcs were down to take photos and do interviews with people while entirely in-character, and their enthusiasm really added some extra life to the event.
The food was fantastic, as it was medieval-themed to match the event hall. Finger-sized chicken pies, butternut squash pizza (maybe not the most medieval food), and a plethora of other delicacies made their way around the show-floor. The whole event really felt like it had properly taken heavy inspiration from its source material, without being “too much”. It was a nice balance of game-themed and professional, providing a relaxing atmosphere.
Overall, Shadow of Mordor’s launch event was a treat to attend. The food was good, the game is fun, and the Orcs were excited. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, and meeting others in your field is always a refreshing experience. I’m glad my first local event turned out so well, and I can’t wait to cover future title launches.