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Warner Bros. and Monolith Productions sent out a fresh batch of screenshots of concept art for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The images make it clear that this is intended to be darker than The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. There are no foppish halflings or clumsy dwarves to be found here.

Shadow of Mordor is set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Sauron the Dark Lord has returned to Mordor and is slaying anyone who would challenge his return to power. Caught in his path of destruction are the ranger Talion and his family.

Talion doesn't stay dead for long, though. He's resurrected by a spirit so that he can get his revenge. This spirit also grants him new "Wrath Powers" that can be used to deceive or destroy enemies. In one screenshot, a ghostly mirror of Talion is slashing an orc while he fends off the monster's friends. Talion's weapons and melee combat skills will increase over time as the player spends rune rewards.

Monolith seems intent on making the enemies as memorable as the guy slaying them. The player will be battling named enemies with distinct personalities. Their actions will change these enemies over time. I'm really hoping for something like this:

Talion stands near his horse, adjusting its saddle. A one-legged orc hobbles over, dagger drawn. The ranger turns.

TALION: Herbert, is that you? How's it going? HERBERT: Not great, since you sliced off my arm. TALION: That would suck, yeah. Want to go another round?

The orc takes a clumsy swing and falls over. Talion lops off his arm with a downward slash.

TALION: Well, I gotta get going. See you in an hour, Herb.

The ranger climbs on his horse and rides off.

HERBERT: (shaking his remaining fist) Curse you, Talioooooon!

We'll see, though. Monolith and WB have been pretty vague on the details thus far. I hope it does lead to more meaningful relationships between players and their enemies because there's a lot of potential for innovation there.

Shadow of Mordor will be released on the Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. WB has yet to announce the release window so it's still a ways away.

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