For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we’ve been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we’re running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective. This week: A storytelling failure.
On a crag of volcanic rock, overlooking the wastes of Udun, I crouch silently in the rain, watching the orc hordes of Mordor milling around below me.
They march and they argue. They taunt their human slaves and, when they pass close enough, I can hear them talking about me — Talion, called Gravewalker, murdered Captain of Gondor brought back to life by magic and the influence of my mostly-invisible elf/wraith buddy, Celebrimbor, who is a ghost that lives in my head.
They fear me, these orcs. As they should. Thirty or so hours into the game and I am a Middle Earth murder machine, capable of slowing time, teleporting, exploding orc heads with my magical elf powers. I can orchestrate a ballet of death — by dagger, by sword, by bow and explosion and poison and mind-control — that is as ferocious as it is beautiful.
But instead, I sit still, watching, waiting. In the distance, my nemesis (my current nemesis, the one who hates me most for this ten minutes) walks in stupid circles, just out of my sight. His name is Malmug Face-Stabber. Or something like that. I forget exactly what he’s called, because I have already hung so many of his kind on the end of my sword that they all blend together. He is Malmug The Plot Device, really. And as I sit and wait I wonder why the makers of Shadow Of Mordor didn’t include a button that would make Talion sigh.
I am bored out of my elf-inhabited mind.
Photo: Marian Carrasquero/NPR