Brûz remarks, "Bright Lord? Dark Lord? Same thing, really." Anyone familiar with Tolkien lore knows he's not joking. Throughout the history of Middle Earth, no matter how well-intentioned the wielder, a Ring of Power will corrupt them to the same end because they're connected to Sauron and his One Ring. Even if the New Ring could resist its power - and that's a mad-sized 'if' at best - Celebrimbor's corruption from wielding the One Ring in ages past means it cannot escape the same fate regardless. This analogy becomes true in a literal sense when Sauron and Celebrimbor literally become one at the end.
It also explains his betrayal; unlike every other Uruk or Orc dominated, instead of saying he'll serve you or adopt a more subservient attitude around you, Brûz keeps his distinct personality likely because he resisted the branding. Like Ratbag he joined the Bright Lord for easier advancement in the orc hierarchy (Ratbag and some orcs dialogue implies Brûz isn't well liked, beyond grudging respect for his combat prowess), because to him both Lords are the same as far as he is concerned.
Brûz had Iron Will, was never Branded, and was only playing along. Playing again, sharp eyes will notice after Talion "branded" him, he has none of the traits of a branded orc: his eyes are normal and there's no hand print on his face. He never looks scared, instead looking pissed off. (You can see him deciding whether to crush Talion into a fine paste or go along with him.) In addition, he's far smarter than the average Uruk or Olog; his Appendix entry noted that he was a cunning planner and Combat Pragmatist. He probably recognized Talion as the Gravewalker and decided to see if he could make him an Overlord, which was his goal. Had Talion made Brûz Overlord, he'd have been satisfied (or defected to Sauron if he or the Nazgul came a-calling.) Why would he risk killing Talion, knowing he was unkillable? Remember his definition of being an optimist. It is also worth noting that he is level 19 in the first mission he appears. Because most players (without extreme grinding) will be lower than this, within the context of gameplay he would have been unbrandable anyway.
Brûz wanted the fortress in Nurnen. Why? Because it was the most important fortress in Mordor, short of Barad-dur. Barad-dur is the administrative capital of Mordor, but Nurnen is where all the food is grown, raised and harvested and transported throughout Mordor. Bruz wanted to be the Overlord of Nurnen because that is the most coveted position in Mordor to have, being in charge of the food production. While Ratbag was tired of the gig, it makes sense why he didn't want Brûz to have the position instead, when you consider the food production. Brûz would have leveraged his position for something bigger. Goes to show also that he was an optimist in his own words.
Shelob forms an uneasy alliance with the lead characters despite having kidnapped Celebrimbor at the start of the game and held him ransom for the Ring. Talion is more forthcoming to her, while Celebrimbor is the more hostile since he demands the return of his Ring from her and that she sees him just as bad as Sauron. This is because she saw a vision the moment Celebrimbor made a new Ring of Power that he would eventually overthrow Sauron and become a even worse tyrant than him as the Bright Lord. That is why she immediately captures him: to prevent that future from coming to pass.
It may seem weird that Isildur and Helm Hammerhand are Ringwraiths, seeing as how the Nine Rings of Men were forged long before their time. However, as shown by how Talion eventually degenerates into one using Isildur's ring, and how the former bearer was given a Mercy Kill, it's obvious that both of them aren't the original nine kings; the two previous bearers must have died and Helm and Isildur were next in line. And really, doesn't it sound exactly like Sauron to use the reason he lost the One Ring as a glorified seat-filler?
In the end, Talion has a much better end than Celebrimbor. Yes, he was corrupted by a Nazgul Ring and eventually turned into a brainwashed slave of Sauron...with the brainwashing being, at most, a couple months before the Lord of the Rings trilogy began. The trilogy covers events that last about one year, by which point the One is destroyed and he gets what he always wanted; to die in peace, knowing Sauron is gone, with the potential that a survivor from the game will recall the Gravewalker and what he did to delay Sauron. On the other hand, Celebrimbor is eaten by Sauron and is, at most, remembered as one of the would-be tyrants that would have been worse than Sauron in some ways, especially if Ithariel survived and is understandably pissed about being conscripted for his personal ambitions. Now tell me, which of these people had a Heel Realization and came to understand they were just another Dark Lord?
The revelation that Helm Hammerhand has unwillingly become a Ring-wraith may come out of left-field, but in the Appendix's for Lord of the Rings, there was an eerily-similar claim made at one point: an urban legend among the Dunlendings and Rohirrim, that after discovering the frozen, open-eyed corpse of the man, feared he was a wraith who wandered around Rohan even in death. In this Alternate Timeline, that's near-exactly what happened.
Similarly, if Isildur had kept the One Ring and not died in canon, and the One Ring hadn't abandoned him, it's not inconceivable that he would've turned into a wraith. Perhaps not one of the Nine Ring-wraiths, since they still existed, but certainly a wraith.
Shelob's final cinematic encapsulates a great deal of Middle-Earth lore despite being jarring. Shelob in the game is broadly equivalent to a Maia-level Ungoliant, her mother. Ungoliant was a primeval force of darkness (very much not a mere "spider") from outside the main Tolkien pantheon and had an alliance with Melkor, who being a dark Vala and the reason Sauron the Dark Lord exists would be roughly the same difference in order to Sauron. Melkor eventually double-crosses Ungoliant and sics minions on her (Balrogs since that's the sort of tier overlord Melkor/Morgoth was). Shelob is also backstabbed by Sauron, who chooses playing games with the Rings of Power over Shelob's raw violence and sics human minions on her. Shelob's dark nature has an honesty to it that Sauron as a corrupted deceiver does not and she is 100% honest (if selective) throughout the game.
Also while not in the books or movies, a more "evil force" Shelob having some sort of relationship with Sauron is not too strange in Silmarillion-scale Arda where Sauron is a rampant shapeshifter spirit and there are love stories between an elf and an angel and a human and a elf/angel women, and another character goes after a mountain-range sized dragon in a flying ship. Creepy affection aside, Sauron also still views Shelob as more of a pet than an equal; in the books he considers the spider to be a "cat", occasionally amusing for orc punishment.
In the first game, Celebrimdor helps acclimate Talion to the idea of HeelFace Brainwashing by assuring him that they are branding only orcs, the Always Chaotic Evil creations of Sauron and his predecessors. Talion still doesn't like it, but he's fine with using the wraith's powers on evil creatures, seeing it as karmic in its own way. Celebrimbor further assures him of this after he sees Helm Hammerhand's fall, reminding him that they are enslaving monsters, not Free Peoples. Talion finally draws the line when Celebrimbor decides to brand Isildur, who Was Once a Man, despite now being a Nazgul - the wraith lost Talion's trust when he crossed a line he'd previously said they never would.
The Shadow War. The reason the section can feel like a long slog is because it was meant to show how Talion eventually succumbed to Isildur's Ring. Talion spent DECADES invading and defending forts in Mordor. Not only that, but he spent those decades doing so ALONE. Before, he had Celebrimbor to talk to, he had non-uruk allies; but during the Shadow Wars, Talion was alone with only himself, a corrupting ring, and an army that might betray him for any reason, and we have no idea if Shelob stayed in contact with him. Furthermore, when Talion and Celebrimbor made the New Ring, it wasn't designed to corrupt people, but Isildur's Ring (one of the Nine Rings of Men) was. It's almost touching in the Blade of Galadriel DLC, that Talion has Lithariel and her group of genuinely loyal followers to interact with.
Occasionally, enemy Orc captains will tell Talion that they know he has a spy hidden amongst them, and after they kill Talion theyll find said spy and kill him. As every time an enemy Orc captain encounters Talion, the chances that Talion either kills or brands and conscripts said Orc captain immediately skyrockets. Having an occasional Orc captain somehow surviving his encounter with Talion completely unscathed would immediately draw the suspicions of the more astute enemy Orc captains, ESPECIALLY when captains have been betraying their Warchiefs before.
It may seem odd that now Orcs can shake off Talion's Domination of them, until one realizes that Shadow of Mordor was an extremely short time frame compared to Shadow of War, and they basically didn't have a chance to break free. In addition, in the first game, Sauron wasn't involved in the action; in War, he's now in direct control of Orc armies instead of The Tower and he can even make Orcs immune to Domination — which was demonstrated to dramatic effect in the Bright Lord DLC.
The choice of Isildur instead of some random Human King makes sense from a narrative point of view. The developers needed a Moral Event Horizon for Talion that Celebrimbor would happily cross. Branding Isildur would be akin to branding Abraham Lincoln or King Arthur for Talion.
It makes a lot of sense that you see Celebrimbor rather than Eltariel at the helm in the Sauron confrontation scene, not just because of her smaller frame. It's pretty obvious that Eltariel was hesitant and joined Celebrimbor out of a sense of duty and desperation, rather than because she wanted to. They were nothing like equals... It was a commander and their pawn. Rather than the begrudging equality between Talion and the wraith, working together as one, this is Master and Servant. So rather than the two appearing as one, she is overshadowed by him while possessed. Whether a result of him being an Elf Lord inhabiting an Elf or because he's become more like Sauron, though, one can't be sure.
During Isildur's flashback, Sauron assumes his Annatar form but appears translucid and the orcs had to bring the corpse to his fortress instead of him going by himself like the other Nazgûl. It's because while getting an Adaptational Badass treatment he is still too weak to leave his fortress no matter the form he takes unless like in the first game he uses a vessel.
Normally, time slows down whenever Talion (via Celebrimbor) draws his bow, as he enters the Wraith Realm. The Nazgûl, however, move about normally, completely unaffected by it. After all, they are wraiths that, much like Talion and Celembrimbor, have a foot in both realms.
For the final boss battle with Sauron's Annatar form, the boss uses a sword, a weapon they're not known for using at any other time. This particular sword is special, though; it looks just like the Bright Lord's Sword. Or more likely, it is Celebrimbor's original sword, which Sauron kept for two and a half thousand years just so he could maim his nemesis with his own weapon. It also helps that a bladed weapon would be more useful than his warhammer for removing the New Ring from Celebrimbor's hand (he ends up using a dagger to do this, instead, but his sword would've been just as effective).
Celebrimbor is shown to be very afraid of Carnan despite the fact he has no fear of Sauron and can always just bring Talion back to life but we see from the trapped orcs that she can inflict a Fate Worse than Death on her victims which would completely negate Celebrimbor's resurrective abilities. Carnan also may be a spirit immune to the Ring like Tom Bombadil; the only other creature Celebrimbor is afraid of is the Balrog.
Why does Celebrimbor want the Light of Galadriel from Eltariel immediately upon discovering she possesses it? In The Silmarillion, it is stated that Celebrimbor is the son of Curufin, who in turn is the son of Feanor. Feanor, along with his seven sons, swore a not-particularly-good oath to seek out and acquire Feanor's holy jewels, the Silmarils, no matter who or what stood in the way. In one of her combat lines, Eltariel refers to The Light of Galadriel as "The Light of Earendil," A star formed by an Elvish mariner who possesses a Silmaril sailing across the night sky. Celebrimbor's lust for the Light could be an echo of the Oath of Feanor.
Also applies to Shadow Of Mordor, but unlike most games, there's actually an in-universe reason the main character never needs to do stuff people need to survive; He's undead, so he doesn't need to eat or drink, and this further means he produces no waste. Uruks don't have this freedom, and so they can occasionally be seen eating or emptying their bladder.
Eltariel being able to harm the Witch-King (even if it's only temporary) is entirely in line with the "no living man may harm him" prophecy; she's neither male nor human. Ironically, the prophecy also excludes Talion because he's not a living man anymore (especially not after obtaining Isildur's ring), which explains why Talion can fight the Witch-King at the end of the game.
While the revelation that the Nazgul can be killed and replaced came as a surprise to many, it's actually pretty easily explained. On the movie universe on which the games seem to be based on, The Lord of the Rings is written by Frodo after his adventure. He never learns that the Nazgúl can be replaced, and thus doesn't put it in the book. We are told that a Nazgul cannot be killed, but just because no-one has ever succeeded at it doesn't mean it's completely impossible, and while Talion and Celebrimbor were powerful enough to do so thanks to their own powers and the New ring, they were quickly forgotten after losing to Sauron. note And since only Celebrimbor and Sauron were involved in the creation of the original rings in this universe, no-one else possessed the knowledge to create a new ring, and thus couldn't become powerful enough to defeat oneAll we know about the Nazgul is based on the observations a few people made during a small timeframe. The nine kings we are shown on the prologue of the first film are probably just the original lineup whose identities Frodo learnt from someone, and the rest, such as Helm and Isildur, were "recruited" without anyone knowing. And as they are under his command, Sauron could probably just kill any Nazgul whenever he finds a better replacement or wants to punish someone. And as Eltariel's reaction shows, that Celebrimbor can dominate and destroy a Nazgul is a life changing discovery, as she drops her distrust about Celebrimbor's motives and join him because he pretty much did a miracle.
In addition, no Nazgul is actually killed in the game. The only one "killed" is Isildur, and he wasn't killed — he was Branded then released from slavery.
In hindsight, Shelob only says "Death came: death to Sauron. Death to his dominion...and death to Talion" in the full ending. She never mentions Celebrimbor, who, as we now know, seems to have managed to claim Victory by Endurance over Sauron.
Eltariel defied Galadriel after seeing Talion's story and stayed in Mordor because they'd become Fire-Forged Friends. Remember how she said stalemate was victory? She only went to Mordor out of a sense of duty — she stayed because now she had a personal reason to stay — avenging Talion.
Eltariel seems uncorrupted by the New Ring — because she refuses to Brand anyone. As mentioned earlier, it isn't the fact that the One Ring is corrupt because of the Dark Lord; using any ring of power to dominate others is what corrupts the wielder. Also explains why Talion still has a working conscience at the end; it's Celebrimbor who dominates and yells orders at orcs, not him.
Eltariel's Orcs are far more loyal than Talion/Celebrimbor's Dominated Orcs and never betray her. Why? They're with her of their own free will. A hidden Aesop, indeed.
While Eltariel is unable to brand orcs, she can tame wild beasts just fine. That is because she isn't using Celebrimbor's ring, but the light of Galadriel to soothe them and do as she wants rather than take control of their minds like what Celebrimbor does.
It makes sense that Branded orcs have Icy Blue Eyes instead of Glowing Eyes of Doom from the first game since they were branded using Celebrimbor's ring, which leaves a different effect. Also from a gameplay perspective, this was done by devs in order to distinguish them from Undead orcs, who now sport glowing eyes in their stead.
Despite taking place on the distant past, the locations in Shadows of the Past missions look exactly like they do in the present. While this is obviously to save disc space by reusing locations, it can be explained by them being memories. Celebrimbor can remember how he completed each feat, but might not remember every detail of the locations he performed them in, and thus substitutes them with locations that remind him of them. Alternatively, as Celebrimbor is telling the story, Talion might think of a nearby area since he obviously can't know what each battlefield looked hundreds of years ago.
Shelob uses Talion to trick fate as being human blessed with the Gift of Men, he is not bound by Middle-Earth's fate and cycles.
A bit of Fridge Awesomeness: Talion has used the powers of three different rings; The One Ring by proxy through Celebrimbor's wraith powers, The New Ring, and finally Isildur's ring. And he still managed to resist the last one for decades.
Celebrimbor's powers -turning his opposition to his army- is quite fitting considering that orcs are speculated to be corrupted elves. Talion's ability to rise the dead is also very fitting, considering that he himself is a dead man kept alive by magic.
Even if the lore isn't the same, Helm's boss fights taking place in Seregost make sense, since in the original text he froze to death.
On the PS4 version, the controller light turns purple, what colours do you mix to create purple? red and blue foreshadowing Celebrimbor and Saurons' Fusion Dance.
It must be noticed that after Talion is betrayed by Celebrimbor and speaks to Shelob, she is not in her raven-haired, pale-skinned form, but the brown-haired, human-toned skin form. She is embracing her human self, not her ungoliant, shadow-weaving form. Even more telling, she's holding Talion in a Pietà Plagiarism.
More and more of Talion's moves involve the wraith. Is Talion learning to use his abilities to their best effectiveness, or is there a more sinister explanation - because of the new Ring of Power, or is the wraith starting to take control of him? After all, Talion seems to be in control only when moving, sneaking and fighting, everything else is done by the Wraith. In case of the last one, does Celebrimbor consider Talion an ally or is he just another branded victim? Since Talion's motive of avenging his family and joining them in death has slowly turned to Celebrimbor vs Sauron part 2, it is certainly possible that brainwashing is involved and/or the wraith is just using him as a vessel to exact revenge on Sauron. One Rousing Speech has Celebrimbor completely taking over Talion's body.
Worse, many of Talion's Rousing Speeches are word for word some of the things Celebrimbor pronounced in the Bright Lord DLC.
One of the devs let it slip that the orcs branded by Talion still own their slaves. This holds some disturbing implications about Talion and Celebrimbor growing increasingly indifferent about the plight of innocents if it helps serve their purpose, to the point they will look the other way when their servants practice slavery. This also means that while the orcs you control can become friendly over time, they don't necessarily become better people under Talion.
It seems by "slaves" they didn't mean Human slaves. The "slaves" seen in the game are other Orcs.
Consider for a moment the vision Shelob had about Celebrimbor defeating Sauron. Had he managed to successfully enslave him, practically nothing would have stopped Celebrimbor in his path, barring the Istari and Balrogs such as Durin's Bane or Tar-Goroth. For one, Sauron's existence is tied to the One Ring, who as far as anyone knows is lost (at the time of the game, its currently in Bilbo Baggins' possession) and considering how important it was for Talion to Hold the Line in Mordor to preserve the balance of power until the Fellowship was assembled, an invasion spearheaded by Sauron in his physical form would have been devastating with no one knowing how to stop him.
Worse still, think of what could happen at this point if Celebrimbor reacquired the One Ring. Best case scenario, Sauron reclaims it, breaks free of his brand, and the two then slug it out, giving the Free Peoples time to lick their wounds, and weakening the victor sufficiently for a possible final defeat. Worst case scenario, it's not enough for Sauron to break free, meaning he is now back at full strength and still Celebrimbor's servant... or the Bright Lord takes the One for himself once more, gaining direct control of the Nazgul (including Talion, this time as a slave instead of a semi-equal partner), and with two Great Rings, power beyond even the Maiar. It could potentially be another Silmarillion moment, with the Valar forced to ask Eru Illuvatar for help once again. Let's remember what happened the last time Eru got personally involved...
From Shelob's perspective: this future only did not come to pass thanks to Talion being a Spanner in the Works and choosing to Mercy Kill Isildur. Consider that she returned the Ring to the leads so they could raise their army to stop Sauron, even though she knew that future could still happen, but had no way to stop them. She did not influence Talion in any way, as she tells him that "he saw Celebrimbror for whom he was". It was due to sheer luck and chance that this Bad Future was barely averted; one might argue it wasn't chance, but Shelob being the rare Evil Can Comprehend Good and knowing giving Talion a little bit of knowledge would save the world.
Dying to an orc named the Obsessed, luckily Talion is dead and his body regenerate somewhere else but we are never told how long the body stays in front of the orc.
Decoys always look practically identical with the captain they're pretending to be... Even if the captain is horribly deformed, scarred, burned, maimed or poisoned. Imagine what the decoys-in-training go through to gain their new appearances.
Let's all hope that Màku is the only one who knows how to make the poisonous fog that Eltariel uses to gas the Seregost fort. If Saruman or Sauron had that or something like it for Helm's Deep or Minas Tirith, those battles would have gone very differently.
Eltariel never finds out that Celebrimbor would be just as bad as Sauron if he was in charge. The new ring wishes to reunite with Celebrimbor, and the ring's influence + Celebrimbor's manipulative nature + Eltariel's lack of knowledge = an excellent vessel for Celebrimbor. She still thinks Celebrimbor is a force of good, and as Eltariel rivals Talion in terms of skill, he is back where he started in Shadow of Mordor; only there's no Sauron to overthrow...
Lithlad is said to be worthless from a tactical viewopoint, largely because it's so far from Mordor and the land is dead. Yet it is filled with orcs. Are they in Lithlad to avoid the entire Bright vs Dark conflict?
The reason Sauron couldn't corrupt the three Elven rings of power was because they were created in secret and carefully hidden from him. Celebrimbor, on the other hand, would know all about them because he made them. So if he succeeded in defeating Sauron, what would have stopped him from then corrupting or dominating Elrond, Galadriel, or even Gandalf through their rings? Nothing, most likely. No wonder Shelob thinks he's worse than Sauron.