Is there anything more confusing than video game lore? Oh, right: Lord of the Rings video game lore. I could've sworn there were other gamers out who've been having a hard time figuring out what the hell is going on in Shadow of Mordor's main story. Finally, I can say for sure that I'm not alone.
The humorous and appropriately titled YouTube channel "Lore" recently provided a welcomingly clear explanation of all the events leading up to players' adventures in Shadow of Mordor with two separate videos. Besides being silly, the lore explainer is useful because it reconstructs the game's backstory in a chronological fashion that's actual digestible, as opposed to dishing out flashback sequence after flashback sequence the way that it's delivered in the proper game.
Also, if this wasn't obvious already, I should warn you that there are a lot of Shadow of Mordor spoilers beyond this point:
Here's a transcript, as provided in the description of Lore's video, emphasis added:
The greatest craftsmen of all time, the Gwaith-i-Mirdain were at their finest thanks to swapping trade secrets with the Dwarves next door. Celebrimbor, the greatest Elven-smith of the Second Age, was lord of Eregion when fair-faced Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, claimed he could take their talents to the next level.
With his teachings, the Gwaith forged the Rings of Power. Celebrimbor also created Three Rings untouched by Annatar, who was really Sauron all along. Using Gwaith knowledge, Sauron forged the One Ring within the heart of Mt. Doom to control the other rings and their bearers. The Elves hid the other rings, but Sauron captured and tortured Celebrimbor for their whereabouts. Celebrimbor kept the Three Rings hidden, but died before the Elves were able to defeat Sauron through their alliance with men.
Thousands of years later, on the night Sauron returned to Mordor, Talion, a Captain and Ranger of Gondor, was stationed at the Black Gate. After he, his wife Ioreth, son Dirhael, and everyone he knows is murdered, Talion finds himself resurrected and sharing his body with a wraith, or apparition. Now you must use your combined powers to recover the wraith's memories, exact revenge on the Black Hand, and break the curse to reunite with your family in the afterlife.
Ahhhhh, ok. It's all finally starting to come together now.
Of course, it wouldn't be Lord of The Rings lore if its creation wasn't marred in the arbitrary and often internecine power struggles waged between the various corporate entities that now lay claim to J.R.R. Tolkien's universe. So here's another, equally silly video about the developer lore behind Shadow of Mordor:
Again, here's a transcript:
As a subsidiary of Warner Bros., Monolith pitched their vision and passion for a new Lord of the Rings game. After the success of the non-movie based Arkham games, and director Peter Jackson telling them not to just copy his films, Monolith searched for their own story in the decades between the events of The Hobbit and Sam and Frodo's journey through Mordor.
With Middle-earth Enterprises at their side, Monolith decided to combine Celebrimbor, the key Elven smith in Tolkien's origin story for the Rings of Power, with a new character: Talion.
Monolith developed the Nemesis system in which prior interactions affected your next encounter, but the many combinations resulted in hard to find and hard to fix bugs for developers, even after release. Monolith also faced uproar both when a developer accused them of copying code from Assassin's Creed 2, and when it surfaced that Shadow of Mordor review copies were only given to those who agreed to write shining reviews. However, accusations ceased when people realised it was actually just a good game.
I wish that every lore codex for a big fantasy or sci-fi franchise came with an addendum like this that explained how real-world forces shaped the creation of the fiction in question. That would just make everything so much easier to keep track of.
Watch more lore primers on Lore's YouTube channel.