‘Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor’ Began As An Open-World Batman Game
I always get a kick out of little 'did you know' stories that, while not seismic in terms of industry significance, certainly make you think a little differently about a particular game or piece of hardware. And here we have a perfect example of a 'did you know' story: did you know that Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor began life as a Batman game?
Reader, I can honestly say that I did not know this. But thanks to YouTube-hit gaming historian Liam Robertson - check out his channel, DidYouKnowGaming?, as it is all of the awesome - I now do. Which is nice, isn't it? And now, you do, too!
But no doubt you wish to know more. Allow me, via Game Informer, to deliver just that...
American studio Monolith Productions was best known for its Condemned and FEAR titles before releasing the Lord of the Rings-y Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor in 2014 (a game that, despite owning it since release, I've still not spent more than an hour with... sorry!). It followed Shadow of Mordor, and its acclaimed Nemesis system of enemy AI, up in 2017 with the less-brilliantly-received Middle-earth: Shadow of War, but by most accounts it's still a fun fantasy hack 'em up.
Shadow of Mordor didn't start life as a Lord of the Rings game, however. As Robertson explains in his video - in this video (or watch it above, if the embed works on your device) - Monolith had taken a look at the IPs that its parent company, Warner Bros, had kicking about, and decided to pursue a Batman game based on the three Christopher Nolan-directed movies: 2005's Batman Begins, 2008's The Dark Knight, and 2012's The Dark Knight Rises.
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Monolith's intention was to create an open-world game starring the DC comic book hero, but to do so the studio required the green light from Christopher Nolan himself. Pre-production work went ahead regardless, which saw a virtual Gotham City spring up, complete with a Batmobile to get Bats from A to B. The game would have seen the caped crusader switch between three primary gameplay pillars - stealth, gadgets and combat - and he'd have engaged in missions to save citizens of Gotham, prevent heists, and more.
Sounds a lot like what we were already seeing in the Arkham series (the first entry in which came out in 2009), doesn't it? And perhaps that's a factor in why Monolith's Batman game was ultimately cancelled in 2011, with many of its gameplay ideas moving over to what became Shadow of Mordor. But most importantly, the studio never got the OK from Nolan, and it seems it's this, rather than the potential headaches of going up against the Arkham games, that truly did for Monolith's Batman project.
So closely connected are the two projects - Batman, and Shadow of Mordor - that in early in-house builds of the Lord of the Rings game, the player character placeholder was none other than Bruce Wayne himself, suited and booted for kicking crime in the butt.
So did you know that? Pretty interesting, huh. Weird that we never got games that tied into The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and perhaps this explains why. (And the less said about Eurocom's Batman Begins game, the better.)
Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment / Monolith Productions