Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor's first downloadable content expansion will focus on one of the game's smaller heroes — Torvin the Dwarf.
Warning: There are spoilers for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor ahead. If you haven't finished the game, you may want to hold off reading. And if you forge ahead — remember, you were warned.
Shadow of Mordor design director Michael de Plater told Polygon the decision to wrap the narrative DLC around Torvin stems from the team desiring equal air time for each of Middle-earth's races. De Plater explained that each major kind of being has a presence in the game — Celebrimbor is an Elf, the Wizard Saruman makes himself known through Queen Marwen, and we have the Maiar Sauron. In J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, Maiar are powerful spirits that aid the Valar, the deities watching over the world, in protecting and guiding its inhabitants. De Plater also noted that Torvin was one of the more well-received characters in Shadow of Mordor, so giving him his own chance to shine felt right.
"Torvin had a long genesis," de Plater said of his creation. "Before Shadow of Mordor [development] even began, we were exploring some different character concepts. He was originally proposed as a playable character."
Inspiration for Torvin's character came from lands even farther and stranger than Middle-earth. De Plater cited sources of Torvin's character as the shark hunter Quint from the movie Jaws and "a dash of Wolverine." Torvin's tattoos and shaved chin — far from the standard of the majestic Dwarven beard braids — are the result of designers wanting him to feel like an outcast from Dwarven society, someone far from home and who considers himself an outsider.
In the Lord of the Hunt DLC, Talion will team up with Torvin to do what the Dwarf does best — hunt the exotic beasties of Mordor. The Dark Lord Sauron has sent another group of his elite Uruks, the Beastmaster Warchiefs, out into his territory to exterminate the Caragors, Graugs and other monsters. With a little help from his Dwarven companion, Talion must dominate Mordor's beasts and turn them against these Warchiefs.
In addition to new Warchiefs to conquer, Runes to collect and hunting missions to complete, this DLC introduces the toxin-spitting Wretched Graug, Caragath and the Ghul Horde. Lord of the Hunt will also flesh out Torvin's story; Talion will learn more about the Dwarf's history in the Orocarni, the Red Mountains to the east far beyond Rhûn.
As for Mordor's many beasties — Caragors, Graugs and Ghuls (oh my) — de Plater said the studio treated Mordor as a realm abandoned by the rest of the world, a place governed and ruled by creatures who know no law or master. Monolith created creatures less like the Wargs and Trolls roaming the rest of Middle-earth and more like the Fell Beasts, the twisted flying entities the Nazgûl ride in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The team also wanted monsters in line with Tolkien's Great Beasts, which originated in the Mordor region and were used by Sauron's armies to carry machinery in sieges.
Mordor is a lost world.
"Firstly, we took the reference to the Fell Beasts as being creatures of an 'older world,'" de Plater explained. "Those in conjunction with the Great Beast and the Uruks made us think of Mordor as something of a Lost World, a dangerous environment where evolution has been running rampant, especially in the absence of the Dark Lord. In that approach, the Weta Workshop work which was something of an inspiration was Skull Island [from Peter Jackon's film King Kong]; we wanted the creatures to be authentic and credible within their own ecosystem.
"Also, we wanted creatures which had some of the iconic qualities of Middle-earth, such as Wargs and Trolls," he added. "But as with the Uruk-hai [Saruman's own breed of super-Orcs], we wanted Mordor to represent the most extreme and dangerous end of the spectrum within Middle-earth. The greatest challenge with the design is, as with most things, balancing the considerations of the design, the world of Middle-earth and the gameplay."
Tolkien's works often touch on the nature of good and evil, and whether or not someone or something can be purely one or the other. Middle-earth's many inhabitants, from the ethereal all-seeing Elven Queen Galadriel to the comfort-loving little hobbits, are complex and capable of both love and selflessness, doubt and fear. None are perfect people. So are Mordor's beasts, like the region's master Sauron, also evil?
"We consider them all somewhat touched by darkness, if not demonic in the way that the spiders of Mirkwood or the Wargs are," de Plater explained. "The Ghuls in particular are nasty manifestations of beastly appetites. The Caragors are to felines what Wargs are to wolves, plus cats like to toy with their prey rather than just killing them. The Graugs on the other hand are just big and territorial and not too smart. They are more on the level of a T-Rex."
Along with the new goodies for both narrative and combat, Talion will get a new Beastmaster costume skin. Lord of the Hunt also includes Test of the Wild, a new set of challenges featuring the aforementioned Beastmasters that comes with its own trophies and leaderboards.
Lord of the Hunt will launch later this year and is part of the Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor season pass. For more details on the game, check out our review and our deep-dive on how developer Monolith Productions transformed J.R.R. Tolkien's source material. Shadow of Mordor is available now for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, and will launch for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on Nov. 18.