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Video Game / Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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When you stare into the Abyss, the Abyss stares back. - Friedrich Nietzsche

"In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie..."

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a Wide-Open Sandbox Action RPG, released on September 30th, 2014, and developed by Monolith Productions and set in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. It is available on the PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.

The game takes place in an Alternate Timeline between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and stars Talion (voiced and motion-acted by Troy Baker), a ranger of Gondor responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor, who is killed alongside his family by Sauron's forces to celebrate the Dark Lord's homecoming. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for Talion, he is revived by the Elven wraith that the Black Hand was attempting to summon with the ritual killing of Talion and his family. Together, they head into Mordor to exact revenge.

The gameplay is a mix of Assassin's Creed's traversal and stealth with combat similar to the Batman: Arkham Series. The standout feature in this game is the Nemesis system, which keeps track of ranked members of Sauron's army and their advancement through it. It also keeps track of the player's relationship with them, where the Uruks will remember their previous encounters with the player and respond accordingly. If a random enemy happens to defeat the player, then he will rise through the ranks, gain a name and a title, and will endeavor to continue his own personal rise towards the rank of Warchief. The player can then encounter them in later events or just randomly happen across them while exploring the world. As they rise through the ranks, they gain strengths and lose weaknesses, so repeatedly losing fights against a specific Uruk can end up creating a rather threatening enemy.


The game was followed up with multiple pieces of Downloadable Content, ranging from extra challenge maps (killing a required number of Warchiefs and Captains, along with bonus objectives which must be completed in order for the score to be listed on Elite Leaderboards), to alternate skins for Talion, to two major quest packs - the first, Lord of the Hunt, has Talion working with Torvin to eliminate several Beastmaster Warchiefs, who have taken control of the local wildlife. The second, The Bright Lord, tells the story of the Wraith and his battle with Sauron. A Game of the Year Edition has been released which compiles all of the DLC.

Has a 2017 sequel, Middle-earth: Shadow of War.


This game provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Claudia Black plays a witch possessed by a far more powerful magic-user.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Sometimes, when you're about to finish off a Captain, he may beg for his dear life before Talion tries to deliver the coup de grâce. On the other hand, other captains will simply verbally flip Talion off.
  • The Alcoholic: Virtually every Uruk in Mordor, judging by how many of their conversations center around grog.
    • One of the possible titles for a captain is "The Drunk" and they will be seen carrying multiple bottles.
    • One drinking song heard during "Feast" missions has them naming grog as their one comfort.
      "When [something bad happens to them], Grog is there!"
  • All for Nothing: Shadow of War retroactively makes the Lord Of The Hunt DLC into this. Torvin has Talion kill all the Beastmaster Warchiefs to stop the Uruks from taming Caragaths, because their stealthiness and mobility (increased speed and climbing ability compared to Caragors) would make them powerful tools for Sauron's armies. But in the sequel, not only are Beastmaster Captains common, but the Caragors in that game have the stealth abilities of the Caragaths in this one, implying that the Orcs were able to integrate the Caragaths into their forces, rendering everything Talion did to prevent it moot.
  • All There in the Manual: If you see a proper noun that seems important but you can't quite place, try looking it up in the index of The Silmarillion or any of a half-dozen Tolkien wikis.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Graugs (full name Olog Graugs, with Olog being the Black Speech word for troll) are massive, lumbering beasts found in Mordor's wilderness who have a terrible temper and are prone to eating people, including other trolls and especially Uruks. They have variants of their own (including one who can projectile vomit as a form of combat in the Downloadable Content), and are cross-bred with Hill Trolls by Sauron to create sun-resistant Olog-hai. You learn to ride them late in the game, and they turn into stone before crumbling into dust when they die.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted for both Talion and the orcs — archers and spear-throwers will be the bane of early-game Talion's existence, due to interrupting the combat multiplier and doing a fair amount of damage. Played straight, however, for orc bosses that are Immune to Projectiles, where shooting them directly won't damage them at all.
  • Anti-Frustration Feature:
    • Aside from dying, the only way time advances on a map (thereby allowing Uruk power-plays to be made and promotions to be given out) is by actively doing so — this prevents situations where a player might Fast Travel to one end of the map to take on a particular Captain, only to have said Captain move to the portion they'd just left.
    • If the camera-angle is uncooperative, the Parry prompt will appear across the bottom of the screen, rather than above the head of the enemy attacking.
    • Should you kill a captain but die before you can pick up their rune, the rune will remain on the map once you respawn. They even have their own icon. note 
    • No matter how many Orcs and Captains are attacking, starting a mission will make them vanish. This cuts both ways, though. Want to bring that Graug you tamed into a mission? Tough luck.
  • Anti-Grinding: Thinking of allowing the orcs to call reinforcements so you can cut down waves of low-level mooks at 10XP apiece, plus XP for each kill type, from 5XP bonus to 40XP bonus each kill? Yeah, good luck with that — reinforcement orcs are worth a whopping one XP.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Uruks with the nickname "the Friendly" will be sorry they have to kill you. Doesn't stop them from doing it.
  • Artifact of Doom: Although the One Ring only appears in flashbacks, it has a significant bearing on the plot of the game.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The Orcs can be completely inattentive to the fact that the guy not 3 feet away is getting stabbed to death by Talion.
    • Or having their throat ripped out by a giant cat-monster in the Lord of the Hunt DLC.
  • Ascended Extra: Ratbag originally started out as simply one of the possible generated orcs in the initial demo of the game for the purposes of highlighting the Nemesis system. In the game proper, he's been promoted to an actual story character.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Orcs can advance through Mordor society by killing Talion or even their fellow orcs.
  • As You Know: In the trailer, Talion enters the limbo of the wraiths, meets the one who has brought him there and greets him with this chunk of exposition, of which he's surely aware.
    Celebrimbor! Greatest smith of the Second Age!
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: During duels, executions and ambushes, stronger captains will usually kill/frighten away weaker ones, but it's mostly dependent on their levels. Warchiefs on the other hand cannot even be ambushed or executed by captains (presumably out of fear) unless you force a captain to betray them.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Subverted with Ratbag. His rise through the hierarchy is met with dismay and disgust. It's implied the only reason no one kills him is because the orcs are hoping he'll take the fall for all the trouble going on (which he does, when the Hammer crushes his skull with his mace for allowing the enormous Sauron statue to be destroyed by Talion.)
  • Badass Abnormal: Talion and the wraith make an epic one of these.
  • Bad Boss:
    • The game doesn't distinguish between enemy orcs and orcs under your control while in combat (unlike Outcasts, which will never be auto-targeted), so it's very easy to accidentally hit or even execute your own guys in a pitched fight. There's also absolutely nothing stopping you from torturing your own orcs in a variety of different ways, while they just stand there and take it without resistance. Justified as Talion doesn't particularly like his branded orcs and the wraith sees them as tools.
    • Background conversations between orcs show that the Hammer and especially the Tower have a tendency to do very bad things to their own troops.
  • Back from the Dead/Resurrective Immortality: Talion's bond with the Wraith prevents him from permanently dying. Not only is this the reason for Talion's survival, but it also means that Death Is a Slap on the Wrist.
    • Talion doesn't take it too well, since he is a Death Seeker who wants to join his dead wife and son.
    • There's a chance Captains may survive a fatal injury like a headshot, or being set on fire. If they do, they come back with some new scars.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Sometimes two Uruks attack at once; countering them causes Talion to deal with one while the wraith briefly steps out of Talion's body to take care of the other.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: It's basically an R-rated Lord of the Rings without the name since the fights are bloodier, gorier, much more violent, and much more graphic.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: The wraith has some freaky powers at his command, not the least of which is mind control through Branding, but your goal is to use them to fight off foul orcs and the wraith himself is good, if not nice.
  • The Beastmaster: Talion can use his wraith powers to mind-control Mordor's wildlife.
  • Beast of Battle/Horse of a Different Color: Caragors and graugs can be controlled by Talion to this effect.
  • Bee Bee Gun: Talion can shoot Morgai Fly hives to drop them on orcs and get them to scatter.
  • Beef Gate: The Hammer of Sauron must be defeated halfway through the main quest in order to open up the Sea of Núrnen. He will be an extremely difficult foe if you've been speeding through the main quests (likely attempting to open up the invaluable Branding powers) and haven't been bothering to gain XP to develop your other powers.
  • Berserk Button: Some Captains/Warchiefs will go into a rage that increases their stats when something that angers them shows up or occurs, such as caragors, flies, the presence of a rival or even just being damaged.
  • Bilingual Bonus: For those who speak Elvish, one of the wraith's otherwise atmospheric proclamations upon collecting an ithildin clues you in almost immediately about his ultimate purpose.
    The Wraith: "Nan iChir Gelair Mordor."
    Translation: I am the Bright Lord of Mordor.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Yes, Talion has defeated the Black Hand, but anyone who knows the mythology will be disturbed when he says that he wants to make a new Ring for himself. There can only be one master of the Ring, and he seems to be Sauron's next vessel... or perhaps it's Celebrimbor's doing after all. As well, most of Talion's allies have left Mordor, either fleeing for their own safety or having been pushed away by Talion's single-minded obsession with his revenge.
  • Black Speech: The inscription on the One Ring can be heard throughout the game. It appears during the music, most notably when you enter Fort Morn, and during Sauron's Mind Rape of Celebrimbor when torturing him to perfect the One.
    Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!
  • Blade Lock: This is one of the ways captains can greet you.
    • Can double as an Oh, Crap! moment, as this happens most often when you're cutting through a random pack of orcs when, suddenly, one blocks you, introduces himself, and tells you to Say Your Prayers.
    • If you have certain abilities and are able to perform multiple executions in a row as long as your meter is full, it can be fairly irritating to find a captain, activate your meter, and start merrily hacking away, only to have him lock blades with you, deliver his quote, and then move away from you... all while the meter drains.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: The Warchief's bodyguards.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: The Klingon Promotion path to Warchief status, which Talion can provoke with his wraith powers.
  • Body Horror:
    • Some of the orcs are really ugly. Some are so lumpy, their bodies look entirely cancerous.
    • Orcs that aren't beheaded may return again - with increasingly gruesome wounds.
    • Burned orcs will be covered in bandages. And if they're seriously wounded, they'll actually appear with bags over their heads. The descriptions may even mention that their face is scarred, making it painful to eat.
    • The ones that survive a headshot will sport a metal plate which has been grafted into their skull.
    • For a non-orc example, the Tower's armor appears to be fused to his body, the straps and buckles going under his skin in spots. The skin and lips around his mouth have also been removed, so his teeth and gums are always showing.
  • Bookends: The game begins and ends on the parapets on the Black Gate. Celebrimbor even lampshades this.
    Celebrimbor: This will end as it began; with shadow and flame falling on the Black Gate.
  • Boom, Headshot!: A good way to take care of sentry archers and very useful when confronted with a warchief that's vulnerable to ranged attacks. A single charged headshot can end a battle efficiently (and hilariously) as soon as it begins.
  • Boring, but Practical: Fighting a Captain with a mob of enemies all around you? Wraith-stun the Captain. Any wraith-stunned enemy will get attacked faster, thus building the combo faster, and even if you stop to parry an attack, you can still build a combo quickly allowing you to switch between renewing the stun on the Captain and using him to build up a combo and parrying/executing the mob that's surrounding them.
  • Boss Bonanza: The final mission pits you against, in order, your primary Nemesis, then the Tower of Sauron, then the 5 Talons of the Black Hand, and finally a Cutscene Boss encounter with the Black Hand/Sauron himself.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: Depending on how much power and support an Uruk has, a "mere" captain can prove a greater challenge than a warchief or a story boss.
    • Some of the captains even look very much like ordinary Uruks if one isn't paying close attention or checking for them in the wraith world. Seeing "Combat Master" or "Invulnerable to Stealth" unexpectedly can be quite the Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: In addition to a dagger consisting of the broken sword hilt of his son's sword.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: It's revealed that Queen Marwen is being controlled by Saruman in the same manner he controlled King Theoden in the second movie.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The wraith is capable of brainwashing Uruks, graugs and caragors into his service.
  • Bullet Time: When you draw your bow, you drain a meter called Focus which functions to slow time down, allowing for easier headshots.
  • Bullfight Boss: The Legendary Graug. You need to stay far so that it charges, then shoot his head when he charges to disorient it so that it runs into a wall and stuns itself (be sure to avoid the charge too).
  • Butt-Monkey: Ratbag. Everyone in the game (and codex) says that being a butt monkey seems to make him extremely lucky.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Talion makes the distinction of "They're not orcs, they're Uruks" during the introductory sequence, although the only noteworthy difference between Uruks and basic orcs is that Uruks can endure more punishment. Talion even colloquially refers to Uruks as "orcs" at times.
  • Came Back Strong: Talion is killed at the start of the story, then revived after he becomes bound to the spirit of a dead elf lord, gaining wraith powers.
    • Any Captain who survives a fatal blow from Talion will come back stronger than before. If he exploited one of their weaknesses, like a vulnerability to ranged or stealth attacks, they'll have become immune to it.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: If you're at all familiar with Tolkien's written material, the Wraith's identity as Celebrimbor. He even outright says so indirectly when calling the forging towers "like a silver hand". Guess how you say "silver hand" in Elvish? And even if you can't immediately recall his name, the clues are there from the get-go since the wraith is very obviously an elven smith and craftsman, which narrows the list of possible identities dramatically.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Thanks to the game's Nemesis system, every single Uruk is a unique entity with his own Berserk Buttons, fears, resistances, and weaknesses.
  • Charm Person: Sauron appears to Celebrimbor in his Lord of Gifts shape.
  • Cherry Tapping: In the final boss fight of the Bright Lord DLC, it actually is possible to defeat Sauron without using the One Ring just by using regular combat finishers (and/or shooting him in the head a lot), but since he has so much health, this takes a considerable amount of time, especially since Celebrimbor doesn't get 2 finishers per combat chain like a fully upgraded Talion can (it takes over 30 finishers to beat one of his phases, compared to just a dozen or so to beat the Hammer).
  • The Chessmaster: One way for Talion to handle the Warchiefs and encouraged by gameplay.
  • I Choose to Stay: After defeating the Black Hand, Celebrimbor tells Talion that it's time for them to pass on, but Talion convinces him that there is still work for the Gravewalker in Mordor.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Ratbag invokes this by volunteering to help Talion get to the Black Hand. It doesn't end well for him.
    • According to the game, all Uruks have this since the society is based on Klingon Promotion. Warchiefs are never seen because of this, and always have one eye on their bodyguards for treachery. However, they are forced to confront serious threats because not doing so would make them seem weak and encourage backstabbing.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Captains killed by Talion have a chance to survive and return to harass him, unless they were killed by decapitation or head explosion.
  • Climax Boss: One of the final bosses is your nemesis; the game tracks your victories and defeats, and chooses the one Uruk who either had the best chance of putting you down, or the one who hates you the most.
    • Sauron in the Bright Lord DLC. At first, it looks like he's an Anticlimax Boss with his pathetically low health, but that was just a distraction while he cancels your brainwashing on the five warchiefs you brought with you! After you kill your former lieutenants, he comes back with his earth-shaking mace on fire (and proves he's a Bad Boss by occasionally smacking his own minions for no apparent reason), and true to his title, he can resurrect the dead warchiefs as well. Frequently.
  • Companion Cube: Some Uruks will talk to their weapons.
  • Continuing is Painful: Time passes when you die, filling any power vacuums in the orcish hierarchy and allowing existing orc leaders to consolidate their power. The orc who killed you also gets an immediate promotion, so dying multiple times to the same enemy makes for a more challenging rematch every time.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Besides the various immunities that they can receive as traits, all Orc Captains cannot be knocked off cliffs. They can still be thrown, if they happen to have the "Clumsy" trait or are beaten enough to have their icon turn green.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Ratbag the Coward, a lowly orc that Talion meets who teaches him the finer details of orcish society, that he ends up installing as a Warchief under his thumb.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Whether from incidental deaths or deliberate enhancement through mission successes and death threats, the Nemesis system allows the player to cultivate practically any Uruk into your... well, nemesis. There's even an achievement called "Rise and Fall" for dying to a no-name grunt, helping him get promoted to Warchief, then cutting him down at the height of his power.
  • Crowd Chant: Each time a warchief arrives, it is set to the chanting of their name. This doesn't occur with a Bodyguard Betrayal mission, however.
  • Crow's Nest Cartography: The Barad-Silme or "forge towers", which are used to reveal the map, reveal collectibles, and function as respawn and quicktravel locations.
  • Cruel Mercy: Any Orc with the Humiliator trait will refuse to deliver the finishing blow to Talion when he's down. This might sound good, but it denies you a chance to get your second wind, meaning that, when Talion goes down, the fight is over and you have to find the orc all over again.
  • Cutscene Boss: The final boss in the game is Sauron himself, although the fight itself amounts to a few quicktime events.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Celebrimbor in the Bright Lord DLC has a significantly different moveset from Talion. While the game informs the player that Celebrimbor can mass Brand orcs and cannot slow time while aiming with his bow, the game doesn't inform that Celebrimbor cannot do two special attacks while his Hit Streak is charged, nor can he stun enemies after vaulting over them. All these, combined with his lower health, Elf-shot and usable rune capacity, require the player to employ different strategies.
  • Darker and Edgier: Played with. Part of the game's appeal to Tolkien fans is, much like the Peter Jackson movies, they remind people there's some pretty dark stuff to Middle-earth already. Still, this is the first game where you are playing something halfway between Aragorn and a ringwraith.
  • Day-Old Legend: Invoked; several of the challenges are simply to set up heroic deeds that the wraith wants to apply to the legends of Talion's weapons as he reforges them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Talion gets in a few snarks every so often. Particularly pronounced with his interactions with Ratbag.
    • Gollum gets in a fair bit of snark, particularly with a mean-spirited but hilarious song against Talion (but not the wraith).
  • Death as Game Mechanic: Talion, the main character, can come back to life after being killed, and each death affects the world. The game has a political system for the different orc clans, and the orc who gets the killing stroke on you can earn promotion in the orc totem pole, causing a chain reaction of political intrigue, with some orcs seeking favor with the newly promoted one while others try to kill the promoted orc to take his place on the totem pole. Enemy orcs even ACKNOWLEDGE that you died and came back, and can actually taunt and throw mocking nicknames at you if you keep getting repeatedly killed by them.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Talion can be struck down, but he will eventually revive after a short period of in-game time. Possibly subverted in that the Uruk hierarchy goes through the motions, and a strong nemesis might grow even stronger in the interim — and arguably double-subverted by the XP Talion gets for each death.
  • Death Is Cheap: Some Uruks can survive what seems like a fatal blow (up to and including being stabbed in the face) and return for a rematch. Off with His Head! is the only assurance that they won't come back. According to the source material, Uruk medicine is very good, though also painful, so it's probably a Justified Trope. Also, Sauron isn't called a necromancer for nothing.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In the opening cutscene, Talion says that their foes aren't orcs, but rather Uruks. "Uruk" is just the Black Speech word for "orc" (Uruk-hai translates as orc-folk).
  • The Determinator: See Death Is Cheap. Some orcs can show up repeatedly, often with hideous scars or bandages, ready for a rematch with a supernatural spectral assassin.
  • Developers' Foresight: When a Captain stops to taunt you, he might reference your last encounter or the current situation. Try engaging the Captain while riding a caragor, while a wild caragor is running rampant, or after being seen riding a caragor, but hopping off and triggering the taunt on foot. The taunt will be different in each case.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Each step of Ratbag's efforts to ascend in Uruk society completely ignores that absolutely nobody respects him and that allowing Talion to freely run amok would inevitably bite him in the ass.
  • Dirty Coward: Uruks with titles like "The Coward", "The Fearful", "Who Flees", etc. have numerous fears and will retreat at the drop of a hat.
    • As an additional gag, you may find Captains who fear Talion himself. You can't give them a decent fight, even if you want.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Hammer of Sauron serves as the boss for the first half of the story. Only after defeating him can you move on to the Sea of Núrnen and unlock your branding powers.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Since the game follows the films' version of Denethor, Talion and other Gondorians are proud to be a kingdom without a king, considering themselves freer than any other because of it. Celebrimbor points out that the Steward is essentially a king without the fancy hat.
  • Doomed by Canon:
    • Talion's efforts don't do anything to halt Sauron's overall plans; just slow them down. Being an Alternate Timeline doesn't change the fact that The One Ring is still in the hands of Bilbo Baggins, and Sauron's alliance with Saruman continues unhindered. It remains to be seen how the next game will affect said Alternate Timeline, but, otherwise, many elements are likely to stay set in stone.
    • In addition, the Wraith's idea of using the enemy's weapons against him is also doomed to failure, since Tolkien made it explicit that any attempts to wield Sauron's power would just result in another Sauron, literally. This forms one of the main themes of the sequel, showing that the wraith isn't so different from Sauron himself.
  • Double Unlock: Tiers of abilities are locked away until you achieve a lot of Power, which is accumulated by killing Captains and initiating Power Struggles.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Talion becomes this as more and more Uruks are killed by him. A late-game quality Captains can have is "Fear of the Gravewalker", where simply seeing Talion is enough for them to flee in terror.
    • One of the artifacts, Old Scorchy, is just as feared. Uruks normally don't care about brands, but Old Scorchy is an enchanted brand that causes pain and damage on a mystical level, and is treated as an Anything but That! torture device for Uruks.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: After finally becoming a Warchief, Ratbag gets his face bashed in by the Hammer's mace.
  • Dynamic Entry: Unlike regular stealth kills, Brutalize kills are noisy and attract the attention of nearby Uruks. However, they also build up your hit streak to five and it causes a few Uruks to panic and flee. Beginning a combat encounter by bursting out of stealth with a Brutalize kill therefore gives you a head start on your hit counter (possibly allowing you to perform an execution immediately) and makes the attacking group a little smaller.
  • Early Game Hell: The game, after the tutorial cutscenes, quickly drops you in the middle of Mordor and you will likely start encountering captains, who can kill you quickly, very soon. Even a mob of enemies can be troublesome. Once you start unlocking more powers, though, the game gets much more manageable.
  • Easy Level Trick: Luring groups of Uruks back to a Forge Tower can allow you to make short work of them. Once you've climbed high enough onto the tower, they will automatically lose track of you. Before they walk away, you have ample time to drop down for Stealth or Brutalize kills. This even works on Captains as long as they don't have a specific immunity to the attack.
  • Emergent Narrative: The Nemesis system dynamically populates and shuffles the orcish social hierarchy based on Talion's actions. Each orc is procedurally generated with random personality and appearance traits, remembers and references previous encounters with Talion, and gains further abilities and individuation (like nicknames) as he climbs the ladder, especially if he manages to kill Talion. Later in the game, Talion learns to brainwash orcs and then subtly orchestrate their rise to power from the shadows, producing highly memorable From Nobody to Nightmare narratives.
  • Enemy Chatter: It's possible to eavesdrop on Uruks chatting about mundane things (like grog or picking on slaves).
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: One warchief sentenced Ratbag to death for killing one of his bodyguards... who happened to be his twin brother.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Wraith tried to use the One Ring against Sauron. This ends with the ring returning to its master.
  • Evil Versus Evil: It's hard to remember that Uruks and orcs are opposing forces between Saruman and Sauron.
  • Expy: The Black Hand for the Mouth of Sauron, Talion for Boromir and Aragorn, and Queen Marwen for King Theoden.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: It's not immediately obvious, but the game takes place over the course of three days, at most. This becomes more obvious compared to the sequel, especially since it's revealed over time an Uruk can shrug off Talion's Branding.
  • Eye Color Change: Happens twice to Talion. After Celebrimbor is bonded to him, his eyes turn light blue - the same shade that the wraith had in life. Second, at the very end of the game, as part of the Wham Line, they turn yellow...
  • Face Palm Of Doom: The wraith's Branding involves placing his hand on the side of his target's face.
  • Famed in Story: Talion becomes this as his legend spreads throughout Mordor.
  • A Father to His Men: Some Warchiefs can be somewhat seen as this, especially those who become enraged if their bodyguards are attacked when they take the field. Though it could be down to their Blue-and-Orange Morality.
  • Fighting a Shadow: Talion is the incarnation of this trope.
  • Fighting Spirit: The Wraith functions like this to Talion.
  • Final-Exam Boss: The final boss of the Lord of the Hunt DLC is fought using all 3 of the wild beasts you've spent the DLC learning to control, namely Ghuls, Caragarths, and a Wretched Graug. You do this because he's completely immune to everything else, including stealth hits, ranged attacks, and melee specials.
  • Fix Fic/External Retcon: An infamous alleged Plot Hole in Lord of the Rings (more of an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole for the movies due to certain changes and stuff being left out) is "why not just ride the eagles to Mt. Doom and air-drop the One Ring there?" The Appendix entry on Hell-Hawks says that the creatures attack eagles on sight; rather like crows instinctively attacking owls.
  • Flash Step: Can be learned and used as a combat technique to teleport to and knock down an opponent. It can later be upgraded to a lethal version. Yet another upgrade allows Talion to chain these together indefinitely (or at least until the energy meter runs out).
  • Flies Equals Evil:
    • Some orc captains and warchiefs are so foul that they're constantly surrounded by a swarm of flies.
    • The Morgai Flies that inhabit Mordor are a ubiquitous example, as they breed voraciously in the unburied carrion that litters the landscape. Each one has an orange patch on its fuzzy abdomen that resembles the Eye of Sauron, and they are said to be extensions of his dark spirit.
  • Fluorescent Footprints: Some story missions require you to track people/creatures down by following their footprints, that glow blue in wraith mode.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As it turns out, Celebrimbor managed to steal the Ring from Sauron while Sauron was holding it up with a pair of tongs. Celebrimbor later tries to use it as a weapon against the Dark Lord in order to save his wife and child. Unfortunately, Celebrimbor had to die to become the wraith, or the game would not have been possible. Thus, it betrayed the Elf Lord the moment it got the chance and flew onto Sauron's finger. Curb-Stomp Battle ensued.
  • From Bad to Worse: Uruk captains will sometimes ambush Talion in the middle of a melee, including when dealing with another captain. They'll then proceed to lampshade it by snarking that it's a bad time for you, which is rather fortunate for them.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:
    • The Hammer was a no-name medic who happened to pick up Sauron's mace when the latter fell in battle. Cue a few hundred years later...
    • Every Uruk in the game has the potential to be this. If a random foot-soldier manages to kill you, he'll get a promotion to Captain and his name will be revealed. It's possible for him to eventually become a Warchief.
  • Game-Over Man: Every orc who kills you becomes this.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Ratbag will tell the Hammer of Sauron that he's the only warchief left alive. In reality, Talion only has to kill four of the five warchiefs, including the one needed for Ratbag to ascend in rank; the last one is, in gameplay terms, a Bonus Boss.
    • Talion will tell Torvin that the Graug they intend to slay will be his first, regardless of how many the player might have killed already.
  • Gargle Blaster: The orcs' grog, which is described by one slave as tasting "like old, wet dwarf hair". According to Talion, it also reeks. It's also spectacularly flammable.
  • Ghost Amnesia: The wraith can't remember his life, and regaining his memories increases his powers. He only remembers his own name by the end of the Gollum missions.
  • Good Counterpart: The elven wraith is not that different from the ringwraiths, but is a force for good. Or is he?
  • Good Is Not Nice: The wraith not only looks like an evil ghostly zombie and possesses powers one would expect from a villain, he's also completely ruthless and willing to use said powers mercilessly to thwart Sauron's forces as much as possible. Not even the suffering of the outcasts elicits any kind of sympathy from him. When a prisoner is chased down, savagely beaten, and dragged away by a pair of Uruks, Talion is horrified, whereas the wraith only sees this as a useful distraction.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
    • It's possible to stealthily kill one Uruk only a few feet away from and in front of other Uruks, without alerting the rest — at least for a few seconds. They will leave their friends to investigate your suspicious noises, thereby letting Talion ambush them individually. Entire groups can be eliminated by stealth without drawing attention from other nearby orcs, despite all the gurgling and thrashing noises. You can also hide and move around very easily by crouching on ledges above the Uruks, who almost never look up. Does this sound familiar?
    • This trope is averted in stealth missions which you must complete without being spotted; during these, the enemy suddenly and inexplicably seems to have eagle eyes. Be prepared to restart these missions over and over.
    • Justified Trope when you defuse an alerted guard by branding him—him going "It must've been my imagination" makes sense when you're essentially mind controlling him.
  • Guide Dang It!: The game doesn't inform you on certain ways you can manipulate the Nemesis system.
    • Firstly, it doesn't explicitly inform you that no Uruk is immune to damage from other Uruks. This makes killing any tough Uruk who may be immune to anything Talion throws at him a piece of cake once Talion has branded enough Uruks in said Uruk's vicinity. Warchiefs in particular become sitting ducks once Talion promotes enough Branded Captains to his side.
    • Once the second half of the game is unlocked, Talion can manipulate Power Struggle missions by switching between regions (which resets all three missions in the region when he returns). If there are less than three Power Struggle missions in the region, he can also use Fast Travel to a Forge Tower to force missions to spawn.
    • While the game reminds the player that issuing a Death Threat to a Warchief will significantly increase the chance of said Warchief dropping an Epic rune upon death, the game doesn't inform the player that the player must land the killing blow on said Warchief for said increase in chance to occur.
  • Hard Mode Perks: You can brainwash Uruks into sending death threats against Captains. While this gives them a large gang protecting them, they drop better runes and have a higher chance of dropping the best kind.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: The fight with Sauron at the end of the Bright Lord DLC. Unlike most cases, you are still shown to be winning the fight after it's over. It's just that the One Ring slips off Celebrimbor's finger and back onto Sauron's.
  • Healing Herb: Talion is able to harvest herbs and fungi to recover health.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: Essentially what branding does to Uruks. They will fight on Talion's side and branded Warchiefs/Captains can be commanded to engage in power struggles with those not under his control.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The sound effect prompt for the Wraith Finisher sounds like Chewbacca gargling angrily. You will hear it every five seconds in combat, unless you turn off all sound effects and all technique prompts.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Talion's primary weapon is his Cool Sword, Urfael.
  • Heroic Second Wind: When Talion's hit points fall to zero, if the blow that did so was not an explosion, he will fall to his knees and one of his enemies will have a chance to finish him off. If nobody takes the chance after a while, or if you succeed at a Quick Time Event, Talion will get back to his feet and recover some of his HP. Subverted in that Captains and Warchiefs also have the ability to do this: if you don't finish them off with an execution, you will have to succeed at a Quick Time Event after their HP falls to zero in order to kill them.
    • Later in the game, Talion can gain the ability to deliver a killing blow while recovering.
    • Some captains have the No Chance ability, which denies the player the chance to recover, killing them automatically.
    • Some captains have the Humiliator ability. Rather than try to finish you off, they taunt you and stroll away, leaving you alive, but giving them the power boost from the victory and forcing you to find them all over again.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The whole game has this value. The methods the wraith uses, through Talion, would, under most circumstances, be considered excessively cruel and morally repugnant (e.g. brainwashing, torture, brutality, deceit) — Talion starts out reluctant to wield these powers, but, overtime, this aspect disappears and starts flying in the face of Tolkien's core values. Watching Talion's humanity deteriorate as he embraces his enemies' character can help illustrate Tolkien's main points... but also, the one ''truly' embracing the powers and nudging Talion to use them is the wraith, as he formerly tried to use the One Ring against Sauron and failed, resulting in his death.
    • Referenced by some Uruks when fighting Caragors.
    Uruk Captain: If I kill the monster, do I become the monster? Oh, I do hope so!
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the Bright Lord DLC, Celebrimbor attempts to use the One Ring to fight Sauron, and ends up averted in a crowning example of why nobody else ever tries it: the One Ring is partly sentient and wants nothing more than to return to Sauron. When it looks like Celebrimbor has Sauron on the ropes, the One Ring slips itself off of his finger and right onto Sauron's. This ends about as well as you'd expect.
  • Humanoid Abomination: In the introduction, the Black Hand of Sauron is a man with glowing red irises, rumored by the orcs to be made out of the wind. It turns out he's Sauron himself, in human form or demonically possessing a human.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Torvin's reaction towards the Black Gate, Talion's previous post.
    Torvin: Nice place? Sounds depressing.
  • Injured Vulnerability: Any orc Captain or Warchief whose health is low enough is vulnerable to becoming grabbed (and subsequently dominated).
  • Interclass Romance: Talion and Ioreth, as well as Hirgon and Eryn. Both are instances of Gondorians of the "pure" Numenorean blood marrying someone who, not being descended from Numenor, was part of the exiled outcasts.
  • Interface Spoiler: The abilities menu makes no effort to conceal that the Wraith's Drain power will eventually upgrade to the uruk-controlling Brand, which is both a major turning point in the plot of this game and the entire basis of the sequel.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: Each weapon has its own ability, each one lasting about 20 seconds. The sword's ability grants you an unlimited number of executions, the dagger's ability allows you to become invisible and stealth kill at your leisure, and the bow's ability gives you an unlimited number of arrows. In the Bright Lord DLC, these powers are combined in the One Ring, which also slows time.
  • Irony: Sometimes orcs can be overheard complaining that "nothing good ever came from a hole in the ground." They are right, considering how orcs are born... but they're deeply wrong (or more right than they know, from their perspective) when you remember where hobbits and dwarves come from.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: When Talion leads five warchiefs to find the Tower.
    Talion: This is a trap. Its silence taunts us.
  • Justified Tutorial: Most of the quest-givers are there to tell you how to do stuff you should already be figuring out, or will soon: Ratbag gives you missions to teach you how to exploit the Nemesis system and get orcs to fight each other, Hirgon gives you a bunch of introductory stealth missions, Torvin shows you how to get the most out of riding beasts, and, upon unlocking the second area, you learn how to brand orcs to get them under your control, and many missions' secondary objectives encourage you to do so.
  • King of Beasts: Caragors aren't wargs, and Word of God compares them more to lions than the wargs.
  • Klingon Promotion: If an orc that kills Talion is not part of the current hierarchy, he will (attempt to) kill one of the captains to claim their place.
    • Talion can also brand a Warchief's bodyguard and force him to turn against his master, which can result in the aforementioned bodyguard becoming the new Warchief if he succesfully manages to kill the old one.
    • Three different types of power struggles involve one Captain trying to murder another one for some reason. If a Captain that holds a lesser place in the hierarchy manages to kill a higher-ranked one, he will ascend to a higher position
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Any of the randomly generated Captains or Warchiefs may be immune to one of Talion's usual attack types.
    • As their power increases, a Captain may acquire additional immunities. Sometimes, you can find one immune to every attack type, requiring you to exploit one of his fears to take him down.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: It never appears outside of the appendix, but it's mentioned that a giant, tentacled creature has been encountered in Mordor's waters.
  • Large and in Charge: Zig-zagged. Captains and Warchiefs have randomized appearances, so they can bigger than common Uruks or smaller than Talion. The Hammer and the Tower, however, are taller than any of the Uruks, while their superior, the Black Hand, is the size of a normal man. Sauron himself towers over any of his servants in this game.
  • Laughing Mad: While most Captains will taunt Talion prior to battle, some will simply laugh creepily while clashing blades.
  • Life Drain:
    • Talion can gain health from using certain attacks on enemies if he has the right runes.
    • Enemies with the "Blood Thirsty" trait will recover health from striking Talion.
    • Caragors and Graugs, when ridden by Talion, can be commanded to eat Uruks, which recovers their health.
  • Light Is Not Good: Sauron is seen in flashbacks in his fair disguise, Annatar, which appears as a blonde elf in white robes. It's also revealed that Celebrimbor isn't necessarily a good guy himself.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Talion and the wraith, respectively, particularly in terms of their skill trees. Talion's skills focus on methodically taking out individual or small groups of Uruks and mostly just gets slightly better at it by the endgame. The wraith starts out un-impressively but quickly picks up lots of crowd control and domination abilities, including most of the hitstreak attacks. In fact, one could argue that Talion's primary skill contributions at that point are the ones that build the combo meter faster.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading:
    • Mostly averted, but any loading screen featuring Talion's face in the background will generally take a good minute to complete.
    • The developers were aware of possibly long loading times and, during certain loadings, audio fragments from Talion's past are played, ranging from his wife singing to him to him sadly grieving the loss of his family. When loading is done, these continue to play out unless you press a button to skip it.
    • Played straight in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, which feature lengthy (around 10 to 15 seconds) blank loading screens every time the player closes the map or the pause menu, when they go into the Nemesis system, etc. This is probably due to the game taking longer to load the environments than it would in a more powerful hardware.
  • Lovable Coward/Dirty Coward: Ratbag falls under this with his various antics.
  • Lovable Traitor: Ratbag is this to the orcish race. Played with, as only the audience loves him. Talion and the orcs hate him.
  • Made of Explodium: Grog. It's a good thing Uruks love it, so it's everywhere.
  • The Magnificent: Captains and Warchiefs have relevant titles to their accomplishments or traits. Examples include "The Beheader", "The Crazy, "The Coward", "Literate One", "Plague-Bringer", and many more.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Talion's marriage to Ioreth made her father Hallas extremely unhappy due to the fact that he was not of Numenorean blood like she was, even though he saved her from assault by a Minas Tirith nobleman. He did save Talion's life by commuting his death sentence and giving him a position on the Black Gate, though.
    • Hirgon and Eryn have the reverse situation, in which a "pure-blooded" Gondorian fell in love with an outcast woman.
  • Meaningful Name: Talion's name comes from the law of talion in the Bible, which is the origin of the saying "an eye for an eye".
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: All the slaves seen in gameplay are men. While Uruks periodically talk about capturing and gutting "She-slaves" none are actually seen by the player. And the only "She-slave" that we see is a named character that gets rescued during an early story mission, so it's possible they were referring to her.
    • In addition. Uruks are an all-male species and are treated this way by their Warchiefs, the Black Captains, and eventually Talion himself.
  • Mole in Charge: A late game mission has you brand all five warchiefs in Nurnen, so Talion can build an army to take down the Tower and the Black Hand.
  • Monument of Humiliation and Defeat: The Gorthaur, a statue of Sauron towering over chained slaves. Talion and Hirgon blow it up to draw out the Hammer of Sauron.
  • Mook Horror Show: Talion becomes increasingly feared by the Uruks as the game goes on.
  • Mook Promotion: If a regular orc manages to slay Talion, they will claim a free slot (or kill a captain to make that slot) and ascend to the ranks of the nemesis roster.
  • Mordor: The main setting. Semi-averted, as Mordor is not entirely a barren wasteland in this game, in keeping with Tolkien's notes, which stated the southern regions of Mordor were fertile farmlands.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When escaping from the Graug lair during one of Gollum's missions, the wraith says "Fly, you fool!" to tell Talion to escape.
      • One of the achievements is also named after the iconic quote, as it involves dropping Morgai Fly hives on Uruks to make them disperse.
    • One of the sword missions is named "They Shall Not Pass".
    • The wraith reminds Talion that "not all those who wander are lost" after the ranger points out that Torvin is far away from home hunting in Mordor.
    • After Talion learns to brand enemies, the wraith notes that it is "a gift," and they should "use the enemy's weapon against him," foreshadowing Boromir's argument in Fellowship of the Ring.
    • The platinum trophy for the game notes "One has walked in Mordor," an answer to Boromir's line of "One does not simply walk into Mordor."
    • In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam overhear an orc and a tracker discussing the various theories of who caused trouble at the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Among these theories include the work of a tark (orcish slang for "Man of Gondor"), a great elf-lord, a dwarf-man, a pack of rebel Uruk-hai, or even the whole lot put together. And whom causes trouble for Mordor in this game? A tark (Talion), a great elf-lord (The wraith,who is later revealed to be Celebrimbor), a dwarf-man (Torvin, a dwarf that almost looks like a human), and a pack of rebel Uruk-hai (the various Uruks that are branded by the wraith over the course of the game).
  • Multi-Melee Master: Talion wields a longsword and a dagger fashioned from his son's broken sword, but can only use one weapon at a time. Some finishing moves do involve both weapons though.
  • Named Weapons: All three of Talion's weapons are named. His sword is Urfael, his 'dagger' is Acharn, and his bow is Azkâr.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Zig-zagged. The Nemesis system creates a lot of fearsome titles by default. It also, however, assigns sobriquets that aren't terribly intimidating on the surface, but could well be for you personally depending on their strength and trait loadout.
  • Nemean Skinning: A common form of armor for certain orcs.
  • Nintendo Hard: Can happen thanks to the Nemesis system, but this term fits more towards the Bright Lord DLC. Despite having the One Ring, which lets you do some crazy stuff (turn invisible, slow time to a crawl, perform unlimited executions and have infinite arrows, as long as the ring is charged), the game balances this out by the fact Celebrimbor's weapons have less slots for runes, he doesn't have Talion's highest-level upgrades. It also throws possibly the largest quantity of orcs in the entire game at you, makes the Warchiefs extremely powerful, makes basic Captains absurdly powerful for their rank and ends in the toughest fight in the entire game — Sauron turns your branded Warchiefs against you, forcing you to kill all five of them at once, after which he'll revive one or more of them to fight you again while also fighting you directly. Be killed by a random Uruk and you'll see his power level going from 1 to 18.
  • Noble Demon: Thanks to the Nemesis system, some Captains can have quite a few positive traits.
  • Nocturnal Mooks: Ghûls will only appear during the night.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: During the first half of the game, Talion's method of disposing interrogated orcs is to stab them through the eyes, then decapitate them. Given how much punishment some orcs recover from, this may be justified.
  • No-Sell: Some of the orc captains and warchiefs have a quality that allows them to shrug off arrows as they bounce off their bodies like they were nothing. Others can completely ignore other types of attacks, like basic strikes, stealth attacks or beast attacks.
  • Not Me This Time: "This Uruk is dead! And I didn't do it!"
  • Not Quite Dead: Occasionally, a captain killed by Talion will show up again a bit later, badly maimed but eager for revenge. In extreme cases, this can happen more than once before they are Killed Off for Real.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Used in one of the Warchief death quotes.
    Warchief: You think you're different from us? You enjoy the kill no less! You're just another monster. A murderer!
    • Raising an army of Orcs/Uruks and deciding to get his own Ring of Power? Just like Saruman and Sauron.
    • Sauron invokes this against Celebrimbor. Celebrimbor denies it, but his actions seem to say otherwise.
    • Before Talion kills him, the Hammer mockingly infers that the darkness the Ranger seeks to destroy has already begun to claim him.
  • Not Worth Killing: Uruks with the Humiliator trait (possibly with a sobriquet like "The Humiliator" or "The Merciful") "refuse to give the killing blow to unworthy victims" and will likely end up walking away from a downed Talion because of this. And due to how the Nemesis system works, it may actually piss you off more than if they had killed you. Orcs who kill you go up in rank (and time advances) and while that means you'll face a stronger foe, it also means he'll eventually drop a more valuable Rune when he dies. Orcs who show you mercy can't be manipulated this way!
  • Offhand Backhand: How Sauron kills Celebrimbor’s daughter with his mace.
  • Off with His Head!: Combat executions and the Wraith Finisher can remove an uruk's head from its body. Killing a captain or a warchief with a decapitation will show their head on a spike for their rune portrait / pre-replacement Nemesis corpse, and also prevents them from ever coming back.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Nearly every piece of vocal music is sung in the Black Speech.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Cast of Snowflakes different, thanks to the Nemesis system. Most of the orcs here are specifically of the "Uruk" type, which are the size of Men (as opposed to the dwarf-sized goblins that Thorin and company faced).
  • Our Trolls Are Different: Averted with graugs; despite a similar appearance and the fact that Sauron is breeding them with trolls, the even larger creature is not a subspecies of troll and will in fact literally eat trolls for breakfast. The trope is played with concerning certain orcs that claim troll heritage, but it is unclear whether the claim is serious or metaphorical. Considering true Trolls in Middle-Earth turn to stone when exposed to daylight, it's to be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Le Parkour: The numerous walls, roofs, and cliffs Talion can maneuver up as he pursues his targets lends an air of this to the game.
  • Photo Mode: Available with a couple of adjustable filters and camera roll.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Some uruks carry poisoned weapons that disable the button prompt for Talion to counter incoming hits.
  • Power Levels: Uruks have power levels that dictate how strong they are in combat, which increase as they make certain accomplishments (winning a duel, holding a feast, successful recruitment campaign, killing you, etc.). As their power level increases, they may also lose weaknesses and gain strengths and immunities.
  • Powers via Possession: Being possessed by the Wraith grants Talion multiple Nazgul-like abilities.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Talons of the Black Hand. The Black Hand draws them from their spawning vats personally, tested in battle immediately after being spawned, and anyone who falls is thrown back into the vats to be fodder for the birth of the next. Clad in blood-red armor, they form the elite personal guard of the Black Hand.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The developers played it pretty loose with the lore and geography of Tolkien's setting- for the sake of brevity, just check out this StackExchange page for info.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Talion, who Word of God compares to Boromir.
  • Procedural Generation: The basis of the Nemesis system.
  • Psychometry: Talion perceives flashbacks of Celebrimbor's life whenever he touches one of his lost tools and items. This is usually followed by a Power-Up.
  • Puzzle Boss: The Hammer is invulnerable to everything but a combat finishing move, meaning you have to attack his Uruk bodyguards til you get a multiplier high enough to do one on him.
    • The Tower is invulnerable to everything except Stealth Drains, meaning you have to repeatedly sneak up on him without being detected.
    • It is possible to come across a warchief with the combat master perk (can't be harmed by any traditional combat strikes or finishers), immunity to stealth finishers and immunity to ranged attacks. At that point the battle becomes about luring him into an area where you can take advantage of his one vulnerability.
  • Random Drop Booster: Issuing a "death threat" to an Uruk captain or Warchief makes them more difficult to kill and grants them extra protection, but increases the quality of the rune that they drop.
  • Rated M for Manly: Especially in comparison to other adaptations of Tolkien's work.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Black Captains are each several hundred years old; the Hammer was alive when Sauron was first defeated, while the Tower is an original Numenorean who sided with Sauron way back in the day.
  • The Reveal: When confronted by Talion and the Wraith, the Tower of Sauron bluntly states the true nature of their bond.
    The Tower: "Celebrimbor is your curse. He chose you... and he can release you at any time."
  • The Rival: The Nemesis system revolve around rivalry with your enemies.
  • Ring of Power: The story involves the One Ring of The Lord of the Rings fame. It is implied that Talion plans to make a second ring.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The Ghuls appear to be bigger, nastier versions of the naked mole rat. They're bald, they spend most of their time underground, and they're lead by Matrons that may be analogous to naked mole rat queens.
  • Scenery Porn/Scenery Gorn: Mordor is a combination of sweeping vistas, giant fortifications, natural beauty, and the crumbling ruins of Gondor's border keeps.
  • Sequel Hook: Courtesy of the Wham Line below.
  • Series Continuity Error: Barad-dûr hadn't been built when Celebrimbor was alive, but is visible in a flashback cutscene. Likewise, Gondor had lost the Black Gate about a thousand years before Talion was supposedly stationed there. It's more-or-less justified by the Alternate Continuity in which the game takes place, however.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: You can get caragors to attack orcs by un-caging them or using meat to attract them. Later on, you can brand most foes, causing them to fight for you.
    • Poisoning grog barrels does this to any Uruks it doesn't kill outright by causing the survivors to fight each other out of paranoia.
  • Sharing a Body: The Wraith and Talion share the latter's body. This is shown through the former being used in the Wraith world, and the latter being used in the normal world.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Ratbag is (seemingly) killed halfway through the game by the Hammer of Sauron for failing to stop Talion from destroying a monument to Sauron.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Talion successfully takes down the avatar of Sauron, which is the main reason why he doesn't appear in The Lord of the Rings to stop the fellowship or lead his armies, undoubtedly a huge factor in the victory of hobbits, elves, and men. And then Talion is corrupted by Sauron's darkness. It's unknown whether or not he can overcome this.
    • Ratbag finds out about the You Have Failed Me trope firsthand after finally becoming a Warchief.
    • Subverted in the fact Talion's actions manage to save the ethnic peoples of Mordor from slavery.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Uruks speaking in a cockney accent appears to have been inspired by Warhammer.
    • There's a wonderful shout-out to Dwarf Fortress in the form of one of the collectible artifacts, an engraved mumak tusk. The name and description follow the standard DF format and the engraving even depicts dwarves in combat with an elephant (or at least the Middle-earth version thereof). Somebody on the dev team is clearly a long-time DF fan.
    • As expected, there are numerous shout-outs to Tolkien's works, including a mission where Talion must defend a bridge against a swarm of Uruks. The mission is titled "They Shall Not Pass". Other sidequests refer to chapter titles from The Lord of the Rings novels; examples are "The Scouring of the Shadow" and "A Knife in the Dark".
    • Sometimes, an Uruk will claim to be "quivering in antici...pation".
    • It's no secret that a lot of the gameplay elements were shamelessly lifted from the Arkham Series, but they also gave us this gem in the codex entry for the Morgul Bats:
      Those Uruks that get poisoned become horribly diseased and bloated, wearing their deformities as marks of honor. The poison slowly eats at their minds, sending them nightmares of a demonic man-bat who preys on fear.
    • In a bit of a recursive adaptation with A Song of Ice and Fire the Rangers on the Towers of the Teeth and the Outcast bear a strong resemblance to the Night's Watch (an organization that guards over a massive wall overlooking a deadly wasteland) and the Wildlings (a resourceful tribe of humans that insist on living on the other side of the Wall). Also, Lithariel bears some physical resemblance to Daenerys Targaryen.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: Some Uruks wear bones for armor.
  • Slave Liberation: Talion has the option to free human slaves that he comes across. You may also participate in missions to free slaves being tied up to posts for a variety of infractions, such as stealing food, rioting, or looking an orc in the eyes.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Ratbag. He is about as un-Warchief-like as you can get for a War Chief.
  • The Starscream: Orcish society is based on Klingon Promotion but nobody takes this to the extremes Ratbag does.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Orc grog is explosively flammable.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: You'll see large chunks of what we can only assume is meat hanging near groups of orcs on occasion. Shooting it with an arrow will summon Caragors, who will often wipe out the entire camp for you.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: In the flashbacks, Sauron appears in his "Lord of Gifts" disguise, but you know that it is Sauron because of this. Also, at the end, when Talion utters the Wham Line.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: When captains and warchiefs see you for the first time, all the action stops to give them time to taunt you.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: It's possible to poison open grog barrels. Once this is done, those Uruks that survive drinking it will accuse their fellows of doing the poisoning and attack each other.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Resoundingly averted with the Outcasts. Talion is remarkably civil to them and almost all of them accept his help without reservation, except for Higrom's wife.
    • Played straight with Gollum, who Talion despises. He's not too fond of Ratbag either.
  • Tempting Fate: Sneaking among the Uruks, you will often hear them wishing for a good fight or stating that they need a worthy foe for a change. One actually brags to his buddies along the lines that "if the Ranger comes creeping around, I'll give him a thrashing." Of course, it's all the more satisfying when you make them eat their words.
    • In the introductory cutscene to an ambush mission, a captain may declare, "I love being in charge! Nobody attacks me!" Cue the group of sneaking enemy Uruks ready to attack him.
  • Tin Tyrant: A common appearance for warchiefs is heavy plate armour over most of their body.
    • All Nazgul appear this way; perhaps because Talion sees them differently as undead.
    • During the final boss fight, the Black Hand reveals himself to be Sauron in all his Black Knight splendor.
  • Title Drop: The Wraith drops one in game dialogue, which doubles as a Shout-Out:
    "There can only be one Lord of the Rings."
  • Token Heroic Orc: Some Uruks only care about the fact you've been killing their kinsman, and sound downright noble and heroic.
  • Toppled Statue: The Gorthaur.
  • Together in Death: Subverted; despite Talion's wife tearfully assuring him that they'll be together forever after being killed, Talion's bond with the wraith prevents him from passing on.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Talion uses the broken hilt of his dead son's sword as a dagger named Acharn. Several of the collectible artifacts, in the main story and otherwise, also qualify, even if they are less pronounced.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The promotional information for the game highly emphasizes the idea of building Talion's own Uruk army to fight Sauron's forces. While the Nemesis system comes up early on, the actual ability to Brand targets (thereby allowing the creation of Talion's own army) does not come up until well into the game, at least halfway in. The first half consists of using the Nemesis system and various orcs' weaknesses and strengths, but not the creation of an army on Talion's own side.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Every trailer since "The Bright Lord" has spoiled the Wraith's identity of Celebrimbor, the elf who forged the Rings of Power.
  • Turns Red: The "Hate of Defeat" strength will cause a Captain to become enraged at low health.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Celebrimbor is the one who forged the Rings of Power on Sauron's behalf, and inscribed the heat-activated text on the One Ring. That's pretty ultimate. On a slightly less world-changing note, he also upgrades your weapons, reforging them into better, more intricate forms, or, in Acharn's case, turning it into a proper dagger. Legends and their meaning are also inscribed on them.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • The "Trials of War" challenges require the player to kill a certain number of Uruk Captains and Warchiefs. However, all the Uruks are pre-set instead of randomly generated, and while the Captains can still be promoted to Warchiefs like in the main game, their place won't be taken by a low-rank Uruk after they were promoted. So if the player didn't kill enough Captains before they took the place of a deceased Warchief, then there won't be any more Captains to kill, prevent him to reach the goal.
    • Due to how the Nemesis system works as well as how Captains operate in the world, it's entirely possible for an inexperienced player to get into a rut where they simply cannot progress because the Captains are too hard to kill. Add into the fact that being killed by a Captain makes them stronger and getting into a fight in a really bad spot can lead to about 4 Captains turning up to the fight, who all get extra Power simply for surviving the Curb-Stomp Battle against you... If this happens before the early missions against the Warchiefs, the player can easily be stuck after the eighth or so mission. At this stage, Talion probably has not learnt Branding yet, and thus do not have access to one of his most powerful abilities.
    • The Trial of Defiance can be this if the player messes up the kill order of Captains and Warchiefs so that they don't have enough Captain or Warchief kills to complete the trial. note 
  • Unorthodox Sheathing: Talion carries, draws, and sheaths his sword from his back, though it's not a case of Sticks to the Back; his sheath has a partially missing side that accommodates such a position.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Whenever Talion is killed, his slayer earns a promotion, causing subsequent rematches with that captain to become progressively more difficult. Additionally, dying causes time to pass, during which other orc captains can also gain power in other ways.
    • Toward the end of the game, Talion gains powerful combat abilities that make it more and more unlikely to be killed if you're skilled enough, in contrast to the Early Game Hell. Reducing the Hit-Streak requirement to five hits AND doubling the charges of special attacks, Execution bypassing all varieties of mook-level uruks, deadly fire arrows, the devastating combo of Wraith Flash and Wraith Burn, Shadow Strike Chain, combat drain allowing to reload AND heal with the appropriate rune, countless high-level and/or epic runes, etc.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Most of the game centers around coming up with new and creative ways to bump off orcs, or just make their lives miserable. And this includes the ones you Brand, who you can still injure and kill as normal, despite being your loyal puppets who never complain, and are willing to do anything you command.
  • The Voiceless/Giggling Villain: A possible Uruk variant.
  • Wakeup Call Boss: Any boss who has only ONE weakness and is immune to combat finishers. Good luck.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Torvin the Dwarf.
  • We Will Meet Again: Captains will usually say something like this once they've begun to flee.
  • Warp Whistle: There are spectral towers that Talion and the Wraith have access to, serving as both respawn and fast travel points.
  • The War Sequence: If the alarm goes off in a stronghold, several dozen Uruks arrive as reinforcements. There's nothing preventing you from taking them all on.
  • Wham Line: As Talion looks over the now volcanic wasteland of Mordor, he looks up with his eyes glowing yellow and says a sentence that has immense implications:
    Talion: The time has come for a new Ring.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Played with. If an Uruk kills Talion, he gets a name, is promoted, and gets his own Berserk Button / Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? personality traits. And while Uruks are Always Chaotic Evil, sometimes they will make remarks that are genuine emotions and pining - until they start demeaning slaves again.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Named Uruks can have individual fears (similar to their Berserk Buttons as listed above) that, if exploited, will cause them to drop everything and run screaming from the field. It also makes them immediately Dominate-able.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Uruk Captains and Warchiefs who killed Talion will sometimes say this after they've already killed him. Others speak a variation, eagerly willing to kill him again.
    • This can also work against you. Some Uruk Captains or Warchiefs will come back from the dead after Talion has apparently killed them, runes and all. The best way to ensure they don't come back is by decapitation - and even then...
  • Wrecked Weapon: Acharn is the broken hilt of Talion's son's sword, serving as both a Tragic Keepsake and a makeshift dagger.
  • You Don't Look Like You: As Urfael and Acharn are upgraded, they look significantly unlike like their original forms.note  The first upgrade tends to look similar enough to be a reforging, but the third is at the point where you want to ask the Wraith "What is this and where did you put my sword and/or son's hilt?"
  • You Have Failed Me: When the Hammer of Sauron demands to know why the warchiefs failed to protect a monument to Sauron from being destroyed, Ratbag sheepishly admits that he was the only one alive. He gets a mace to the face in response.
    • You can also do this to your own uruk subordinates, if you don't like their performance or low levels / bad skill combos. See Your Head Asplode below.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The player can do this once they unlock the ability to instantly kill all branded Uruks in the vicinity.
  • Your Head Asplode: Talion can explode the heads of uruks with his branding powers, be it through the Wraith Finisher or remote detonation of branded uruks. This damages nearby uruks and causes others to flee in terror.
  • Zerg Rush: Orcs can do this, especially if you come across a large group or start a fight inside a stronghold. Ghuls, however, fit this to a T, swarming you from all sides even though you can kill them in one hit.


Video Example(s):


Ratbag's Rise

In Mordor, there's only one way to rise in the ranks.

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Example of:

Main / KlingonPromotion

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