It seems unlikely that the Middle Earth series will continue. So what game will feature the nemesis system next? A Mad Max game, a Harry Potter game or what about a Suicide Squad game?
Middle Earth: Shadow of War explores a lot of new ideas but in many ways feels very familiar. The Arkham inspired combat of the first game is still fun and engaging, with little need to change. The way Shadow of War implements stealth, movement and combat is still better than every Assassin’s Creed game bar Origins. The nemesis system is still the star, as you dominate, infiltrate and slaughter the ranks of orc armies. On a surface level, it seems this sequel does very little to differentiate itself from its predecessor.
So what’s changed? Well there’s the obvious gripe, loot and micro transactions. The loot does little to visually stand apart but adds a satisfying layer of depth to the grind. Micro transactions might as well have not even been there. I played the entire game and received two free loot boxes that I didn’t even need to use. They were so inconsequential that Monolith has since removed them from the game entirely. The story is strangely formatted. Rather than two open world areas to explore, with a linear narrative guiding you, you now have 5 smaller open areas to conquer with 5-10 different quest lines and no overarching story. After a certain point, you can pick what areas to explore and which quest lines to proceed with. Each quest line teaches you about the different systems of the game (combat, creatures and army management) and then rewards you with different unique skills on completion.
You’ll also have to focus on the nemesis system in a slightly different way. Instead of infiltrating the orc army and killing the higher ups, there is now a focus on building your own army. You’ll have Overlords and War chiefs running your fortresses. You’ll have captains who may betray you, save your life or lead specific regiments within your invasions of enemy encampments.
So we know Monolith studios is able to create an open world action game, they’re good at implementing supernatural powers within playable characters, and the nemesis system is brimming with opportunity. So why am I telling you all this? Well it’s because, to me at least, it seems they are done with the Lord of the Rings brand. From both a story perspective and a gameplay one, Shadow of War ends in a pretty conclusive way. Which in a way makes a lot of sense, since the nemesis system has been praised but the Tolkien brand hasn’t really led to mainstream appeal.
So what Warner Bros. (Monolith’s publisher) franchises could they tackle next?
The obvious first choice is Mad Max. Warner Bros. released a Mad Max game created by Just Cause developer Avalanche in 2015. The game became kind of a cult classic. It was loved by the gamers that played it, but launched at the same time as Metal Gear Solid 5. I’m pretty sure you can tell what happened… Yet the Mad Max world shares so many similarities with Shadow of War. Massive open spaces to explore, Arkham inspired combat and a world full of deformed creatures brimming with potential personality.
It seems the nemesis system would fit perfectly. Rather than dominating orcs with elven powers, Max could grow his reputation over time, which allows him to beat up and then convince mutants to join his army. You could conquer fortresses, infiltrate tribes and imagine the spectacle of Shadow of War’s siege missions, but with a caravan of your followers driving their own super modified desert vehicles. Could Monolith have taken over this project from Avalanche? Leading Avalanche to use the assets they had on Rage 2? So many questions…
But maybe Monolith don’t want to make a sequel to another studios game, maybe they want to start fresh. So what about the Harry Potter franchise? The series is a cultural icon and is receiving new life through the Fantastic Beast films. Sure you wouldn’t be able to dominate students… wow that sounds disturbing. But as a student at the school, you could do quests for other students, who then join/ aid you in exploring the dark forest or playing a match of quiditch. Relationships could also turn bad if you get other students in trouble during your escapades. There are quite a few differences this game would have to make compared to Shadow of War but it’s still possible.
The most obvious answer to what Monolith’s next game might be, is a DC comic’s game. Rocksteady are seemingly ready to move on from the Arkham series. Maybe they launch a new I.P. or maybe they tackle another DC character, but that’s up to them. Warner Bros. Montreal, the studio behind Arkham Origins, have quietly been toiling away on some DC related game since 2013. It was rumoured that they were making a Batman game and then before that a Suicide Squad game. That got me thinking. What if Rocksteady is making a Justice League game, while Monolith works on a Suicide Squad game?
Perhaps Warner Bros. Montreal were pushed off the Suicide Squad project because Warner Bros. saw the potential of the nemesis system in the DC universe. Imagine playing as a villain from DC comics, roaming around Gotham and Metropolis recruiting random thugs to infiltrate the likes of Two Face, Killer Croc or Lex Luther and then forcing these other villains to join your evil syndicate. You might even have to use your fellow enlisted villains to help you take down meddling super heroes. It seems like such a natural fit for this studio.
Whatever the case, I’m excited. There is so much opportunity for this studio, that I really hope they don’t try shoe horn in a third Middle Earth game and get to spread their wings.