Middle-earth: Shadow of War will introduce the first non-white hero ever to appear in the Lord of the Rings world. And in 2014, Monolith Studios brought J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fictional world back to life in a way that fans had never quite seen before, with Shadow of Mordor. The game, which was notable at the time for its coveted Nemesis System, was welcomed with widespread success upon its release, performing well financially, and earning multiple game awards and critical acclaim. However, Monolith is prepping to expand on their work in Shadow of Mordor in every possible way with this year's follow-up game, Shadow of War.
Whether it be the game's exciting new Siege Mechanic, more complex Nemesis System (which affects the game's entire open world as users play, not just the individual Orcs they fight against), expanded world, or improved graphics and weather mechanics - Shadow of War promises to be an even greater step up from its already impressive predecessor. And as such, the anticipation surrounding Shadow of War has been growing appropriately over the past few months.
However, Shadow of War will also be notable for its introduction of the first-ever non-white hero to be featured in Middle-earth, with a new character named, Baranor. While he was only featured briefly in the first trailer for the game as well, Waypoint reports that Baranor will lead The Desolation of Mordor DLC released with the game. And despite the character's historical value in the world of Middle-earth, Andy Salisbury, a community manager at Monolith, says the studio never felt Baranor's inclusion was a deliberate choice:
"He will have his own story DLC in The Desolation of Mordor, where you'll learn all about his story. I'm not sure if we looked at [Baranor's creation] as a choice, but it was an easy one to make. I don't think we thought twice about it when we were writing the story and when we wrote Baranor. It was just kind of an obvious character for us to write. We're obviously very happy to make sure that we give everyone an opportunity to see a character that they love, but I don't think it was deliberate. It was obvious."
While the Lord of the Rings franchise remains one of the most beloved fictional properties ever created, Tolkien's work has come under fire over the years for its lack of any real diverse representation in its characters. A vast majority of the franchise's human characters are depicted as being Caucasian, while the only human black characters in the story - like the Haradim - are seen siding with the enemies and villains.
So whether it was an intentional choice by Monolith or not, the studio is making history in The Lord of the Rings world with their introduction of Baranor here. Not only will the character play a prominent role in Shadow of War's story, but will be at the forefront of one of the game's DLC expansions, which should only further spotlight his importance in Middle-earth. Now, for many longtime Lord of the Rings fans, this may still be coming as too-little-too-late, but hopefully, Baranor's inclusion will be just the first step in more diverse representation moving forwards, as Tolkien's world is further expanded upon across multiple different media platforms in the years to come.
Middle-earth: Shadows of War becomes available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows (via Steam) and the “Play Anywhere” program for Windows 10 (with the Xbox One version) in the U.S. starting October 10, 2017.