Bleeding Cool’s Alex Roberts reports from SDCC:
Monolith Productions held a panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con for their much-awaited upcoming game, Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Moderated by Matt Mercer (Critical Role), the panel consisted of Monolith’s creative VP, Michael de Plater, and the voice actors for the game, Troy Baker (Talion in Shadow of Mordor), Laura Bailey (Injustice 2), and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick).
The panel started with addressing the elephant in the room: what on earth was Kumail Nanjiani doing on the panel? The answer is that he is voicing a comic-relief orc named The Agonizer. We were treated to a behind-the-scenes video of Nanjiani bringing the character to life. The orc tries again and again to land great threats and catchphrases, but is constantly second-guessing himself and asking for do-overs. The character will be sure to bring some levity to the game, as he brought to the panel itself.
“They had to tone down Troy’s handsomeness to make his character believable as a warrior,” Nanjiani quipped about Baker’s performance as Talion, the main character.
Another clip showed us Laura Bailey’s new character, Eltariel, The Blade of Galadriel, a mysterious figure who can also see the ghost of Celebrimbor. The clip starts with Talion waking up, and Eltariel sharpening her sword and asking him how to feels to come back from the dead. The video hints that she is an assassin sent by Galadriel and makes begrudging allies with Talion and Celebrimbor.
In discussing the creation of the new character of Eltariel, Baker stated that Bailey was always an influence and strong contender for the role. When asked about the role, Bailey said:
“Having the opportunity to be a part of this world in the last game, but not being able to do more, was very difficult. When I got approached for this game, I was flipping out through the roof.”
Baker revealed that he still did his fair due and sought other actresses before confirming Laura. “Wait, you asked her to do it and still auditioned other people? Not cool!” Nanjiani laughed.
Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead) came out as a surprise reveal following another video showcasing her character, the dreaded spider Shelob. In the game, Shelob is able to take a humanoid form and hints at being a conflicting character. She is able to show Talion visions, but her true motivations are unclear. Michael de Plater said that she will serve as a foil for Galadriel’s purity. McIntosh revealed that she is seeking to bring balance to Middle-Earth, driven by a hatred for Sauron and Celebrimbor both.
Baker and McIntosh recounted how she was accidentally surprised with a Skype interview she thought would be a check-in, but was really her audition. On the spot, going into a theater to see a movie, sitting next to a stranger, McIntosh was able to nail the lines from memory. They cast her immediately — although the Skype call cut off and she did not hear Baker’s reply.
In a very strange twist, McIntosh also revealed her grandfather was good friends with Tolkien, the creator of the Lord of the Rings series. She told a story about the two of them playing squash and Tolkien tearing his Achilles tendon. While he was laid up in bed, Tolkien said that he would now have to write the books he had been putting off. The panel erupted into jokes and awe about McIntosh’s grandfather inadvertently having a hand in the creation of the greatest fantasy series of our time.
In returning to the gameplay itself, Michael de Plater said that the original game was just a “proof of concept” and the new game expands on everything that they featured in the first game. They really dove into the “Nemesis-system” that was the first game’s driving aspect, the ability to face enemies again and again and have them grow and evolve based on your interactions with them. Between the footage and the discussion, the game is sure to capitalize on what we loved from the first, while adding new dynamics to the gameplay.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War will be available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on October 10th.