Shadow of Mordor

Here’s the story of Shadow of Mordor – You are a ranger guy. Orcs kill your wife and son, then you, in a ritual designed to bind a dead elf’s spirit to your corpse. It works. You resurrect with bonus ghost powers, like ghost arrows and ghost teleporting between ghost buildings and ghost respawning after being killed so you can never really die, in a clever melding of videogame and story.

You proceed to gruesomely murder your way through your surroundings.

There is no glorious violence in this game. Deaths are messy and agonizing, and you gain a skill that lets you learn to deliberately brutalize them even further, make their deaths so messy and agonizing the surrounding orcs run away in sick horror. And yet, it’s all lovingly rendered with slow motion effects, the better to luxuriate in it. Your ghost arrows are refueled by draining the life out of others. You learn enemy weaknesses (often phobias, allowing you to kill with further terror) by using your powers to tear your way into the minds of random orcs while snarling that there’s no point in struggling , after which you can either stab them between the eyes or simply think them dead with a clench of your fist, and you later gain the ability of long-term mind control, where they’ll devotedly follow and obey your every order, tolerate it as you absentmindedly slice them in melee, let you tear at their soul to replenish your arrows, stand obediently should you decide to stab them for fun, and mass-die if you will it. Some orcs can’t be interrogated or possessed…at least, not without extra torture to break their spirit, but like you weren’t going to do that anyway. Various missions are explicitly about terrorizing the local orcs and “growing your legend” by doing so.

There’s moments when it seems this is meant to be as fucked up as it is, but if it’s deliberate at all and not an honest belief that cruelty is the mark of heroism, it’s one of those fakeout depth things where they mention the possibility, shrug, and then you just keep going. Perhaps a game where you were really outmatched, and also where you had any actual goal you were moving toward, might be able to raise the question about if torturing torturers could ever be worth it. But here, you’re a fused pair of unkillable ubermen, a white guy and a whiter elf both of whom are better at literally everything than the orcs are. Sure, your mind-control powers are “brands” of a white hand over the orc’s face, and yes, your mind-control power is introduced to you as part of a secret plan by Saruman to try to usurp Sauron by out-evilling him, but once you punch Saruman’s spell in the face and make sure he can’t get your shiny mindslave army, you double the fuck down on the branding thing. Meanwhile, there are missions all over about rescuing human slaves from the cruel orcs, because slavery is wrong and abusing slaves is extra wrong, unless they’re ugly, in which case go nuts. (I have honestly never seen this much beauty = goodness in one place. Ranger guy is pretty, good NPCs are pretty, slaves are dressed in plain clothing but unmarred, questionable elf wraith is striking but shriveled with decay, apparently helpful creepy crone is secretly evil but uncreepifies once you punch the Saruman out of her to look pretty. Was Sauron torturing the elves into orcs to get the original army wrong? There’s no sign they’re in any way ill-used and deserving of a moment’s sympathy, presumably because they became ugly in the process and so deserving of whatever’s done to them.)

The ultimate reveal is that questionable elf wraith is the one who made the one ring, escaped and used it to raise a slave orc army against Sauron, failed. You find this out after you’ve made another slave orc army which gets you far enough to fight one of Sauron’s major components, and you come out aliveish, so naturally ranger guy ends the game saying that hey, let’s stay and keep raising slave armies against this guy, torturing people to break their spirits then conscripting them into your slave army is fucking awesome when it’s being done to orcs.

I think the real dissonance of it is centered around the human protagonist. The gameplay largely revolves around the orcs’s AI. The various named orcs are engaged in constant struggles for power and prestige. They’ll engage in risky behavior that’ll grow their acclaim/power base if they succeed. They’ll show up for morale-boosting feasts. They’ll straight up challenge each other to duels to the death. The most important ones will have lesser ones as their bodyguards. And the player is supposed to make their own life easier by making the controlled orcs rise in the ranks to allow proxy control of all their underlings, which can be accomplished by sabotaging the activities of the other orcs. It’s ultimately a game about some orcs being bigger cheaters and murderers than others and rising through the ranks because of it, and a game that admitted that everyone involved in this is a monster who only isn’t self-serving when they’re being outright sadistic would at least avoid the sense this brutality is meant to be any sort of noble. In the conversation about “what the fuck is wrong with videogames”, perhaps more time should be spent on how gamers want games where they can wallow in hideous acts of cruelty but be hailed as a heroic savior the whole time.

104 Comments

  1. Roarke says:

    Haha, wow. I did wonder about this game. Most of the stuff I see on the internet is stories about how people got invested in specific orcs who managed to somehow be exceptional, and my friends’ criticism has nothing to do with the cruelty and everything to do with repetitiveness:  orc mind-slaving aside, it’s just Far Cry 3/Assassin’s Creed. 

    We’ve had a few standout games in recent years that seemed, to me, to do a great job questioning the violence and hero-worship in violent games. I guess that’s not enough to really buck the trend, though. I think if you tweaked this game a little and found a way to show the player how shallow and pathetic they were compared to all these RNG orcs with actual lives and personalities, you could go a long way.

    Metal Gear Solid 3 actually managed to do that somewhat. In a huge narrative with all these competing schemes, the player character, Snake, is the only person who isn’t operating on some level below the surface. He’s just an assassin sent to kill all the important characters, and the main conflict of the overarching plot is actually resolved with him completely unawares. The game knows this, and does rub it in your face somewhat, but it’s left relatively unexplored.

    1. illhousen says:

      Honestly, I still think Fate/Extra was executed rather nicely in that regard. Everyone was fighting was some ideal, some wish they invested everything in to be fulfilled… except you, since you don’t really have any stake in the HGW beyond simple survival. And yet you were the one to prevail in the end, crushing wish after wish, life after life, even though your very existence is false and cannot be maintained. Plus prolonged death scenes with enemies lamenting their failure and trying to come to terms with their approaching demise.

      It was a nice balance that didn’t make you feel like shit for what you did (because, alright, nobody really wants to die) and showing the brutality of the whole thing.

      1. Roarke says:

        What’s nice about Fate/ is that the story comes down just as hard on the people with ideals. When they try to unilaterally push their ideals on others and resort to force, the game makes it clear that their wishes ultimately have the same value as the person fighting for their own life. Somewhere in the Nasuverse, good ol’ Father Kotomine is swiping away a single tear of joy.

        1. CrazyEd says:

          This is one of my problems with Fate/Zero. It has your typical Urobuchi nihilism, but I don’t get the same feeling that I do from F/SN that nihilism can be just as bad as idealism. Unlimited Blade Works questions idealism but doesn’t outright reject the idea that you should ever have ideals or that there are ideals worth fighting for.

          F/Z is just everything sucks and nothing matters.

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          1. Heatth says:

            In part is on purpose, as F/Z is a depressing prequel where everything must go wrong in order for the story to work. But I don’t think even it is completely hopeless. Waver pretty much exists so someone can get a good ending of sorts.

            1. CrazyEd says:

              See, I get that, but I don’t think that means that everything had to not matter for it to work. I know it was on purpose, which is why I avoid things with Urobuchi’s name on them like the plague.

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            2. Heatth says:

              I am not sure what you mean by “not matter”. The people who survive the whole ordeal and were influenced by it still matter. A lot os shitty thing happened, but it is not like the world ended in the aftermatch.

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            3. Heatth says:

              Also, Urobuchi is not that uniformelly nihilist. Madoka Magika ended with a sorta happy ending (movie aside) and so did Psycho-Pass.

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    2. SpoonyViking says:

      I’m reminded of “Metal Gear Rising”. It’s a wonderful game, Raiden’s character arc is all about deconstructing the idea of righteous violence and the violence isn’t pretty even though the action is so stylised and over-the-top, but it’s still a game where you’re actively rewarded for slicing your enemies to pieces.

      1. Roarke says:

        Mm yeah, MGR is definitely a closer relative to this game as a whole.

  2. CrazyEd says:

    And here I thought that Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine had some viscerally satisfying melee combat (with the added bonus of being the primary healing mechanism).

    1. Roarke says:

      This actually made me think somewhat of the Batman: Arkham series. Batman games also have a kind of brutal combat style and stealth elements, to the point where the whole “no killing” thing almost feels pointless. But I can forgive Batman anything, because he’s Batman. 

      1. illhousen says:

        Well, realistically speaking, Batman definitelly killed some people in those games. When you jump on someone’s head, putting your whole weight plus additional kinetic energy of the jump on their spine, they’re very unlikely to walk it off. At best, we’re talking long-term, perhaps permanent damage, painkiller addiction, increased likehood to go back to the life of crime because they need a lot of money to pay health bills and buy drugs…

        Batman is kind of a shit superhero, objectively.

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        1. Roarke says:

          Good thing I don’t care about any sentence with both “objectively” and “superhero” in them. 

  3. Xander77 says:

    The most coherent criticism I’ve seen is that the whole point of LotR is that the answer to abuse of power isn’t abuse of power by a “righteous” person. Galadriel and Gandalf aren’t exactly subtle. So a LotR game in which you get to punch Sauron right in the herald with your awesome ring-wraith powers kinda misses the point.

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    1. Farla says:

      Even more than that, LotR is a setting where the good guys accept surrender. Or even not surrender but an opponent who can’t stop you from restraining them – Gollum didn’t go to the elves and say he needed help, but when they caught him, they did their best to care for him. The human forces in Sauron’s armies who give up are talked to and released. And we’re told repeatedly that anything to do with elves, even just hearing elvish words spoken by non-elves, is painful to the orcs, which suggests the lack of orc prisoners isn’t simply that elves enjoy killing orcs.

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      1. Nerem says:

        A lot of LoTR really sidesteps how Orcs are treated. Mysteriously orcs always come up completely dead whenever a fight with them is involved, and we get no actual look into what they’re like outside of being Always Evil Soldiers.

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        1. SpoonyViking says:

          We do see that their societal hierarchy is entirely built on strength and fear, and that they fear and hate Sauron and the nazgûl almost as much as they hate the other races. Frodo also shows some pity toward them.

          You’re right in that it’s not much of a look on them, but I’d say there’s room to interpret them as less of an Always Evil race, and more of an Evil Because That’s How They’re Raised race.

          1. Farla says:

            Well, the raised one becomes uncomfortable because then there is an obligation for people to try harder to reach them.

            Give LotR’s setup of trauma that’s unhealable in this life, I’d go with the idea that they’re the same elves as were originally stolen – their physical forms are made and remade out of the slime of the earth with their souls unable to move on. Which is still “murder to torture victims” but it’s immortal torture victims and you’re trying to send them to the mental health clinic on the next continent over.

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            1. SpoonyViking says:

              Well, the raised one becomes uncomfortable because then there is an obligation for people to try harder to reach them.

              But is that really a feasible alternative given they’re at war?

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            2. Farla says:

              At the part where the armies are meeting and a wave of orcs are charging and it’s the fate of the continent, no, but the rest of the time, yeah. There should be attempts at diplomacy, parley, trying to take survivors of initial battles prisoner…And the fact it’s learned means there’s be more variety, and there’d definitely be orcs trying to surrender. Just as how our own police and soldiers ideally should try to resolve incidents to minimize deaths, and not go, “Hot damn, it’s consequence-free murder time!”

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            3. Nerem says:

              The books actually contradict the whole ‘they’re tortured elves’ part a fair bit as Tolkien struggled with how to handle the orcs. Like, most of the orcs seen in Lord of the Rings are Uruks, who are newly bred orc/human hybrids. So they can’t be tortured elves. They’re also our classic view of Orcs when it comes to how they look and stuff, as the regular Orcs seen in LoTR are more hobbit-like in size and strength. And are specifically ‘human spirits’ in a new body instead of humans.

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            4. Farla says:

              I can rationalize the crossbreeding as a magical fusion thing. He has like a dozen versions of orcs and I think only one definitely involves there being female ones anywhere. And while it’s established humans can fuck anything and churn out half versions, several versions say there’s elf in them somehow and magical fusion would also better explain how any elven crossbreeding was possible given elves are terrible at reproducing even normally, die when raped, and hybrid human/elf children aren’t actually half of one and the other but just have dual citizenship until they come of age and pick one, so like, how the hell do you cross them with orcs? Whereas if it’s just picking up dead elves and tossing them into the orc-spawning vats to add some seasoning to the slime, none of this is a problem.

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            5. SpoonyViking says:

              But Gondor seems to have always been at least in a state of cold war with Mordor and / or Angmar, and the other cultures / kingdoms seem to have been concerned only with their own affairs for the most part. 

              What you’re saying is right from a moral point of view, but it’s not as if humans, elves and dwarves are morally superior to real-world people.

              If it helps, there is a scene at Helm’s Deep where Aragorn tries to solve things with the orcs by talk, instead of force. It’s feasible he’d try to establish some sort of lines of communication with the orcs after becoming king, but then we’d be veering into headcanon territory.

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        2. Farla says:

          You think so? I’d say the bit with the captured hobbits at least shows us what they’re like when not in the middle of battle. They’re capable of taking prisoners, their equipment and supplies are their own rather than looted goods, and they fight among themselves. That they can’t exist beyond being evil soldiers, that they can’t be coexisted with, is part of the sin of their creator.

          Given how the rest of the books go, given it’s stated others surrendered, given they regularly display little thought for their own survival… I don’t think there’s anything hidden in their deaths. They’re dangerous to take prisoner and it’d probably be torture to keep them imprisoned – Gollum is far less corrupted than the orcs and elvish things hurt him.

          1. Nerem says:

            Gollum is corrupted in a different way, though. And reading around, elven equipment didn’t actually hurt orcs or have any special ability to hard them by default. Instead, what it held over orcs was fear, because orcs feared the wearers, not that their armor actually physically harmed orcs to even be in the presence of.

            Gollum was a special case because he was more or less a Ring-Wraith, who were harmed by elvish power in any shape, hence why just SAYING the name of an elvish goddess hurt ring-wraiths.

            1. Nerem says:

              to harM them by default. Ugh.

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            2. Farla says:

              Frodo and Sam use an elvish word as a signal it’s really him on the basis they don’t think orcs could even manage to say a single word in elvish, though – ambiguous if it’s “willing but throat physically can’t make the word”, but I had the impression it’d burn in their throat at the time. I don’t think we ever get a situation where one of them’s tied up in elvish rope to confirm it doesn’t hurt them but we know they and Gollum both have similar light sensitivity, which suggests there’s a commonality between the way the a chunk of Sauron’s power makes you and the way he made his servants.

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            3. Nerem says:

              Light doesn’t hurt Orcs. It’s a misconception that it harms them but it’s generally more that they don’t like it, which is different, and it’s born out of living underground and in the dark all the time. This is why the Uruk-Hai don’t have light sensitivity – they were trained to work in the open and had no reason to hide because they were actually as strong as men, unlike Orcs who were generally the size of hobbits, which is why Sam and Frodo could disguise as them so easily.

              Gollum was burned by the rope because he hates elves THAT much after how horribly they treated him, combined with his innate hatred of pretty much everything.

              He dislikes the light because he lives underground all the time too.

              I actually can’t find anything about Elvish words hurting orcs. It’s possible Frodo and Sam might have been dumbly underestimating the orcs.

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  4. Hyatt says:

    In the conversation about “what the fuck is wrong with videogames”, perhaps more time should be spent on how gamers want games where they can wallow in hideous acts of cruelty but be hailed as a heroic savior the whole time.

    I also want to spend time on how some gamers want games that treat the fascist, genocidal option as equally valid and likely to succeed as other options.

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    1. Act says:

      some gamers want games that treat the fascist, genocidal option as equally valid

      It also need to be pointed out that it’s the same dudes who think this way IRL and genuinely believe it’s valid, blah blah toxic masculinity. The Venn diagram of people who get off on this type of fantasy and people who think we should, say, kill all Muslims may not be a perfect circle, but it’s close.

      Like, back when people were convinced video games were corrupting America’s youth, it always stuck out to me that no one ever talked about the obvious explanation that the reverse was the issue: raise boys to glorify war, power, and hypermasculinity and obviously they’re going to demand violence and oppression in their playtime and then go on to be violent, entitled adults. Media influences us, yeah, but we also create and consume media that reflects who we are.

       

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      1. Roarke says:

        This reminds me of a disconnect I’ve been feeling lately with my own approach to games. Like, if I were to pick up Shadow of Mordor not having read this article, I’d probably get into the uberviolence like any of the toxic crowd and play the game to completion without a thought. If a game just has violence as its premise and nothing deeper, I will and have sunk to its level for the sake of enjoyment (unless it goes really overboard, like God of War. That game is gross).

        It’s really only when games offer more or different that I’ll actually step back and be like, hey, there’s a pacifistic option? A diplomatic/stealth/inventive solution? Let’s do that! Like, it’s so easy to just slaughter your way through Bethesda games, for instance, but it doesn’t occur to me to do.

        1. Act says:

          I’ve always been a very squeamish person, so gore-for-gore’s sake has always been a big turnoff for me in games (I’m the kind of person who would turn blood effects off…). Also, it helps that games like that also tend to have shit stories and few characters I can personally identify with. The combo of all those things means just  seeing the trailer is usually enough for me to think I won’t like it, and as a result I don’t play super violent games, and then as a result of that the violence looks more gratuitious in comparison, etc.

          I think the point about choice is a good one. That was one of the things I liked about Dishonored. Removing the choice turns it into a completely different game, because one of its core conceits was that Corvo was trying to do the just thing, and blithely murdering your way through the city was not that and the game penalized you for it. Something similar could probably be said about Assassin’s Creed.

          (I also wonder if this isn’t the reason I ended up playing a lot more jRPGs when I was younger (and today) — the violence tends to be cartoon violence, there’s at least token justification (the monsters are evil spirits we have to cleanse!), and jRPGs have always done a relatively good job of questioning whether your mission is just.)

          1. Roarke says:

            Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed are following the grand tradition of stealth games that will let you murder everyone if you’re too mean, lazy, or incompetent to sneak through. The Metal Gear Solid franchise started that tradition, and is still the best example imo. I haven’t played Dishonored yet though; that’s next after Dark Souls III (already one of my favorite games, right up there with Dark Souls I).

        2. CrazyEd says:

          That’s kind of how I feel about Space Marine. Never before has a 3PS made melee combat such a satisfying and vital part of the gameplay. Even though it’s just a button you press to hit things with your power axe, it’s always so ridiculously satisfying. The game puts you in one place, your goal in the other, and a billion orks in your way with nothing but a bolter and chainsword to get to where you need to be.

          And it’s just so fucking fun.

          (Oh, and it also manages to make Space Marines feel like what they feel like in the incredibly nerdy fluff only people like me know about, and perfectly captures the massive and grandiose scale of the setting. And other stuff like that.

          But god damn, that power axe.)

      2. Hyatt says:

        The forum I found these sentiments in also had casual anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and KKK references in member titles, so I can definitely believe there’s very significant overlap. FWIW the developer of the game in question hates that forum and has described it as being full of bigots, so I’m pretty sure he only included the fascist option to drive home how it sucks.

    2. Farla says:

      See, I’m okay with there being something equally valid in the sense that both get you to the end. It’s only creepy because it’s “equally valid” in the sense they want the fascist genocide option to be equally right (or more equally right because they should get bonus points for how this is objectively the best way to play) and for all the people in the game to still suck their pixel dick about how cool they are.

      “I want to get to torture people for information!!!!!!” okay you grabbed a random person and they gave you bad info because they didn’t know anything “omg wtf get this SJW bullshit out of gaming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” so it’d be a bad time to say how this has negatively affected how the other NPCs view you and how people are avoiding you now on the basis they think you might torture them for info.

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      1. CrazyEd says:

        At least it’s not a Bioware game. In a Bioware game, the nature of the blank-slate protagonist and the extremely shallow writing that results from the need to accommodate all the blank-slate protagonists possible means that you can probably torture a character for information in one scene, and seduce them in the next.

  5. SpoonyViking says:

    Is there any reason at all for this game to be set in Middle-Earth other than the brand recognition of “Lord of the Rings”? Because everything about this concept seems to go directly against Tolkien’s writing, either explicitly or implicitly.

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    1. Farla says:

      I think it’s just brand recognition but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility they’re intentionally trying to tap the market of people who liked the part with the army of orcs that needed murdering but felt it’d have been better if we spent more time on how to make the murdering more painful.

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  6. Act says:

    So basically it’s for people who think Sauron is waaaay cooler than Aragorn and don’t want to confront what that says about their morals.

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    1. Farla says:

      Sadly, probably not nearly that self-aware. The main character pretty much is an AU Aragorn. Sauron kills not-Aragon’s hot wife, which is why his murder rampage is completely morally right.

      So, it’s more like this is smarter!badass!betrayal!aura!Aragorn who does all the things Aragon should’ve done if the movies weren’t for kids.

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  7. Nerem says:

    There’s no sign they’re in any way ill-used and deserving of a moment’s sympathy, presumably because they became ugly in the process and so deserving of whatever’s done to them.)

     

    To be fair, the original books have a bit of problem with this. In-universe they are supposedly originally twisted elves but by the time of the books they’re great great great grand-children of twisted elves and pretty much no one has any sympathy for them, and the only characterization they get is crudely lower-class.

    Out of story they are, in Tolkien’s own words, intended to basically be the sum of all hated Others.

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    1. Farla says:

      Eh, while there’s the problem of an always-evil race, you can still see a big gulf between how Tolkien wrote people interacting with orcs vs how people later used it as a springboard for genocide fantasies. It’s like how originally zombie movies weren’t about how fun it was to kill things that looked just like people, even if it’s true zombies are a people-shaped threat.

      A lot of things in his books can’t be fixed – the elves can’t stay, Frodo can’t be healed, Gollum can’t be redeemed – but it’s not meant to be a fun excuse to go a-murdering, it’s a tragedy.

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  8. illhousen says:

    So, I remembered hearing something dubious about this game elsewhere, so I’ve googled it, and look what I’ve found:

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    1. Farla says:

      Funnily enough, I just heard that unrelatedly while venturing into the Escapist forums for the current take on videogaming.

      I have no idea how I feel about this because jesus christ they made the spider sexy but it’s so hilarious that notAragorn is all like “she’s a giant spider with spiders on it, but she also smushes her boobs against me when talking…she must be trustworthy! More trust-hugs plz.”

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      1. Nerem says:

        I will say that Shadow of War admits just a tiny bit more that Talion and Celebrimmor or whatever his name is are mostly murder-headed shitheads. The elf wraith is perfectly fine with Minas Ithil being wiped out as long as they secure the Palantir (whose importance seems kinddd of overstated. An instant communication device is pretty good, but it’s not an all-seeing crystal ball like Shadow of War seems to think), and Talion mostly wants to save it because they’re his people.

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    2. CrazyEd says:

      This seems like something that would be better served as original fiction. See here for more details: fanfiction (d o t) net/topic/11834/165030563/1/Original-Fiction

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    3. Hyatt says:

      The thumbnail is very misleading.

    4. Act says:

      NGL I literally thought they gave the spider tits and a sexy face and was disappointed.

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      1. illhousen says:

        Where is that sexy duck picture? (In related news, I now have “sexy duck” in my search history.)

        1. Act says:

          I believe if you search this blog for ‘sexy pigeon’ you will find what you’re looking for, because we’re highbrow.

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          1. illhousen says:

            Courtesy of Keleri:

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            1. CrazyEd says:

              excuse me but what

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            2. Roarke says:

              This is sexual dimorphism in media defined. An even better one is World of Warcraft, though. You have these races where the men are hunched, hulking, hairy dudes, then the women are basically human women with green skin and little tusks.

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            3. Nerem says:

              They’ve been getting better about that. Pandaren women are just slightly shorter than the male Pandaren and have breasts and that’s about it. Which still makes them like 7 feet tall and rotund.

              Also you’re not correct in that case. Troll woman are mostly smaller troll men, who are mostly just tall green-skinned humans. You might be more thinking about Orcs, whose males are huge and hulking and hunched over while female orcs are lithe in comparison (but still pretty big). Tauren are based on bulls and cows so they make a bit more sense.

              Draenei MIGHt be what you’re thinking about? They’re not hairy either, but male Draenei are hulking as hell while female draenei are not. (Both are big and tall though and have horns).

              Let’s see. Gnomes are basically the same both gender. Humans are humans. Elves are basically the same, both Blood and Night Elf… Goblins are about the same except female ones have smalelr noses. Undead are the same as humans. Dwarves are dwarves for both. I guess mainly it’s that Worgen, Trolls, Orcs,  Tauren, and Draenei women are deliberately done to be prettier because that’s what beta testers wanted.

              https://wow.gamepedia.com/media/wow.gamepedia.com/6/6f/Playable_Draenei.jpg?version=292af5fd53c01c201c831b30e4b96f04 Draenei, who are holy demons, for example.

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            4. Nerem says:

              Though to be fair to you I don’t actually remember what the older models looked like so I don’t remember if that significantly changed.

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            5. Roarke says:

              I wasn’t really thinking of a specific race when I said that. It was a general observation of the Horde (minus blood elves who are all elves obviously). Early WoW especially had extreme dimorphism that was exacerbated by female outfits going full-on boob plate. I do understand that they eventually got better about that. Just saying it was one of the most well-known examples out there. 

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            6. Nerem says:

              Eh if you want to make a point you should be correct about it. Talking about an example (and you said a specific example instead of something general) that doesn’t describe any race makes you seem wrong and hurts your point. You aren’t WRONG at all that there are some good examples of what you meant, but if you want to point at something as an example you should know what you’re pointing at. That’s why I went through the examples more thoroughly. Like I THINK you meant Trolls, though the difference has shrunk with the new models I’m pretty sure, so I can’t be as sure.

               

              Maybe I’m just an annoying pedant.

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            7. illhousen says:

              What’s funny when it comes to extreme sexual dimorphism in inhuman races, is that it makes human men look extremely feminine for them since all humans look pretty similar to inhuman women more than anything else.

              That was probably not the intended result of designers.

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            8. Nerem says:

              This is less a case for the male humans in WoW. But it is the case for the male Blood Elves in WoW.

              Which reminds me of one of the funniest quest lines in WoW about you finding a bunch of bored trio (Gnome, Dwarf, and Orc) around a campfire by one of the huge world scars caused by Deathwing that just happened in story when the Cataclysm happened. And the quest is you listening to tall tales (by playing them out) and the Orc’s tale has him with a flying convertible with two hot babes and a strapping buck! And the strapping buck was a male blood elf.  And you could end the tale by ditching the hot babes for the strapping buck.

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            9. illhousen says:

              I don’t actually know much about WoW beyond “it exist.” Was talking more generally.

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            10. Nerem says:

              I think they realized just what you were talking about and headed it off at the pass. (The model on left was old style one)

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            11. Nerem says:

              Also since you don’t know what WoW is, let the fan explain! … It’s basically your Standard D&D Setting except it never quite took itself seriously and actually evolved over time into something pretty interesting. And it absolutely hates Always Chaotic Evil, to the point that even the Evil League of Evil isn’t pure evil. (And that’s the closest to Always Chaotic Evil. The Burning Legion, a group of demons under a mighty evil god’s banner that seems like it’s The Evil Races but it turns out that even it is redeemable and able to be saved if what they need can be found.

              It’s not super deep or anything because it’s an MMO but it’s a fine example of a parody that turned its parody into an actual setting, and is thus able to comment on things without it just being “me too” references.

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            12. illhousen says:

              Well, I mean, I’ve played Warcraft 2-3 back in the day, I know the gist of its lore if not the specifics. It’s specifically WoW (an, in this context, design evolution) that I can’t really comment on because MMORPGs were never my thing.

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            13. Nerem says:

              Oh well. To be fair, a lot of my comment is still useful since most of it is stuff that wasn’t in those games.

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      2. illhousen says:

        Also, honestly, I’d be down with a spider with a human face (less so with tits because that’s just creepy and not in a good way). Makes her more expressive, more character-like, while preserving the fact that she’s an ancient horrifying monster.

        She also fits the role of an old cunning crone ala Ravel much better than sexy femme fatale (she doesn’t even have a funny hat), so that would be my inspiration for design.

      3. Roarke says:

        They didn’t even go the route of putting a nude (natch) upper female body on a giant grotesque spider a la Dark Souls/Monster Musume. Maybe that trend is dying.

        1. CrazyEd says:

          As someone who could probably name a half-dozen other places with spider-chicks that work like that, I can promise you that it’s not. So long as mankind has existed, mankind has wanted to fuck what it probably should not.

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          1. Roarke says:

            Yeah there probably are, but only those two examples stick in my head because 1. I love Dark Souls and Quelaag/Fair Lady are a sad pair, and 2. Spider Chick in Musume was about the only tolerable character, at least up until where I stopped. 

            1. CrazyEd says:

              The ogre is comfy and the kobold is sporty, but yeah, out of the main harem, the spider is the only one who isn’t a fucking psycho.

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            2. Act says:

              My favorite thing about spiderlady in MM is that she has two asses, one of which is on top of the spider body, which she presumably just poops on all the time.

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            3. CrazyEd says:

              Sorry to spoil it for you, Act, but they’re actually just a butt-shaped mounting place for the muscles of her pedipalps. You have been tricked by the spider’s mimicry.

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            4. Act says:

              Human butts are just butt-shaped mounting places for the muscles of our legs so this disproved nothing.

              edit: this may be the most r/nocontext comment I’ve ever made on this blog

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            5. CrazyEd says:

              The gluteal muscles are, of course, but unlike Rachnera, humans use their butts for more than just moving their vaginal pedipalps. It only looks like a butt to you because you’re a human. In function, they’re more like another pair of shoulder blades.

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            6. Act says:

              This is the most fanwank BS I’ve ever heard.

              I am 10000% sure the author made that up after someone pointed out to him that she would shit on herself.

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            7. CrazyEd says:

              Look, Act, just accept that your fuckspider shitting headcanon has been throughly shattered and move on with your life.

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          2. Farla says:

            I am pretty okay with this because centaur-type creatures are super cool and that’s enough to make up for managing to have breasts more implausible than the rest of them combined.

            I’m currently knee-deep into constructing a D&D far future apocalypse where one of the only remnants of the biotech empire is that there’s the descendents of sexy snakepeople pets.

            Of course after thousands of years of natural selection they’re no longer sexy, even for the vore demographic.

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            1. Roarke says:

              even for the vore demographic.

              Stuff exists now that the vore demographic is into that probably make your un-sexy snaketaurs look like the snakegirl (lamia?) from Monster Musume. 

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            2. Farla says:

              Yes, but the resource poor desert environment means they’ve shrunk to the point they can’t swallow anybody whole.

              CHECKMATE, VORE ENTHUSISTS.

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            3. Roarke says:

              Nice job teasing the lolicon/vore enthusiasts. That’s some niche shit right there.

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            4. CrazyEd says:

              Oh, you sweet, sweet child of summer. Believe me when I tell you this: You failed to make them unsexy enough.

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            5. Farla says:

              You’re probably thinking of lolicon-gore enthustists, given they have to dismember the body to get it down their tiny throats. And in that, they’re nothing special. There’s lots of stuff that tears you up and eats you because D&D setting, including all humanoid races because resource poor desert environment. Those are also the sole source of titties now that all other mammals are extinct.

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            6. Roarke says:

              It’s a pretty barren desert in all senses, then. 

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            7. Nerem says:

              If you like centaurs you could always watch A Centaur’s Worries, which is basically “What would the modern day world be like if everyone was an animal-person instead” and actually cared to world-build that and make it into a legit slice of life. It sure is something.

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        2. illhousen says:

          I find it disappointing that there is a notable lack of alternative human/animal configurations. What about spiders with human arms and tongues (and nothing else from humans)?

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          1. Nerem says:

            Because people want sexy, not horrifying nightmares.

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            1. illhousen says:

              Quitters.

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            2. Farla says:

              And yet everyone keeps putting human butts on them.

              The spider at least has something attached to the butt. Do you know how many fucking snakes I’ve seen with butts a fourth of the way down their body?

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            3. Act says:

              My personal favorite was a MM figure with a human vagina on the snake half. It was like the lizardboobs cliche, but so much more confusing.

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              1. Farla says:

                I’ve seen human vagina between human thighs followed by snake half.
                The worst part is once you see incredibly stupid snake porn, it ruins all other supposedly non-porn ones because you realize they always have a narrow waist followed by big hips at the junction when it should be rib cage all the way down. Sure, useless thighs shove the stupidity right into your face, but they don’t actually make less sense than a solid pelvis without them either.
                In conclusion: only snakepeople allowed A healthy snakeperson does not have random dents in their body! Even if there’s pollution and poor snakebabies are getting caught in rubber bands or plastic rings, they use their hands to free themselves before it causes deformities.

            4. CrazyEd says:

              That, too, is canon. They don’t let not having legs stop them from wearing panties. How else would MC-kun accidentally find a pair in his hand if they didn’t?

              Guys, did you know: Monmusu is actually totally fucking trash?

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            5. Septentrion says:

              The person with a monstergirl avatar knows the least about monstergirls.

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            6. CrazyEd says:

              Farla, did you know that snakegirls in Monmusu have just as much difficulty shedding their snakeskin as actual snakes, despite having the arms to just tear it off?

              Did you know that the sensation of this skin flaking off is also intensely erotic?

              Did you know that the tip of a snakegirl’s tail is an erogenous zone that enjoys being stroked?

              Did you know that an entire chapter (half of an episode in the anime) was dedicated to this degeneracy?

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            7. Act says:

              The character in the show may have legs, but the figure itself clearly has the vag on the snake part. I know this because the collectibles community lost its shit when you could see the vagina under her skirt but not take the skirt off as was promised, so I got to look at a plethora of pictures of it.

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  9. SpoonyViking says:

    Other reviewers picked up on the same things you did, Farla (although they’re a fair bit more forgiving of it due to enjoying the gameplay):

    https://www.theverge.com/2014/10/1/6881161/middle-earth-shadow-of-mordor-torture-terrorism

    And here’s one for the sequel which shows those issues are still present:

    https://www.polygon.com/2017/10/5/16428308/middle-earth-shadow-of-war-review

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    1. Nerem says:

      The Shelob thing is still really weird. I can get wanting her to present a human form so she can be a character but well, having her be the ‘sexy mentor’ type is just… For Shelob, it seems wrong.

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      1. illhousen says:

        Clearly, if anyone had to be a sexy mentor, it should have been Saruman.

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        1. SpoonyViking says:

          Obviously! He was played by Christopher Lee, after all.

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        2. Farla says:

          You sicken me. Sauron seduced like half the elves into letting him run around being evil first place and you’re saying some johnny come lately is the sexy mentor? NO. Sauron makes a sexy elf body “wearing” some strategically placed red ribbons and seductively tells them that he bets Sauron would be sooooo mad if, ooooh, they enslaved those orcs over there, oh building an army that’s sooo hot wow, let’s just do it right now, oh no what if someone…tortured orcs more…

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          1. CrazyEd says:

            there is a line

            and you have just crossed it

            please do not keep going just to see what happens

            1. Farla says:

              Oh I think we all know what happens. >_>

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          2. illhousen says:

            Are you implying that the journey of notAragorn was essentially hijacked by Saurong to turn our hero into just another shard of darkness in the world, like he did with Saruman?

            Well, that can’t be. Sexy times aside, that would actually be in the ballpark of Tolkien’s themes, and we can’t have that.

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            1. Farla says:

              I am implying nothing. I am stating facts.

              It is a canon fact that after Shebop strikes out Sauron will come over just to laugh at her because focusing on seducing the human? Humans will fuck anything! Focus on seducing the elf, idiot. Here’s how it’s done.

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