Lord of the Rings prequel 'Shadow of Mordor' announced

The war over the One Ring may have been won by hobbits (and a finger-hungry Smeagol), but Middle-Earth has tomes and tomes of history to explore. Warner Bros' next foray into the works of J.R.R. Tolkien will be a prequel set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, titled Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It's being developed by Monolith Productions for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Shadow of Mordor stars a ranger named Talion, whose family is killed before his eyes by Sauron's armies. He's subsequently killed himself, but the spirit of vengeance revives him with "Wraith abilities." Those come in handy, obviously, when he goes on a revenge mission through Mordor, learning more details about the Rings of Power in the process.

The standout feature is the 'Nemesis System,' which makes every encounter against an individually named enemy with strengths and weaknesses. Your enemy's reactions will be shaped by your own actions, and ultimately you'll be creating your own personal arch-enemy after several fights. A tease for the January Game Informer cover story, which features Shadow of Mordor, says that enemies can survive battles and head off to lick their wounds and train for your next encounter.

Monolith is said to be teaming up with LOTR film director Peter Jackson and the artists at Weta workshop to make sure the character designs, story, and settings fit within Jackson's film world.

"In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, players will explore the dark and very personal theme of vengeance in a world where decisions have a consequence, and those consequences persist even after death," said VP of development Samantha Ryan, in the announcement. "The game introduces new gameplay mechanics to the action genre, creating opportunities for emergent and customized gameplay that will be rewarding for players."