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Star Wars and Game of Thrones influenced Middle-earth: Shadow of War

The latest Middle-earth epic borrows inspiration from some surprising places.

While Middle-earth: Shadow of War doesn't come out until August, IGN recently sat down to talk with Michael de Plater, Monolith Productions' vice president of creative, about what players can expect from the upcoming adventure from Talion and Celebrimbor. Obviously, J. R. R. Tolkien's novels, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (and Peter Jackson's cinematic adaptations of those books), are the biggest influence on Shadow of War. But, according to Plater, some other major franchises played parts as well.

While discussing Shadow of War's place in the The Lord of the Rings timeline, Plater compared the game to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the recent prequel that sets up the first Star Wars movie. As Plater observes, roughly 60 years pass between The Hobbit and when the villain starts making moves from his seat of power in Mordor.

"I think we look at that like, 'Can we tell a story where the stakes are big enough to explain why Sauron actually takes that long to build up?'" Plater said. "The Rogue One analogy is actually really close to what we want to achieve... We want you to be able to play this game through to the end, and then go and read The Lord of the Rings, or watch The Lord of the Rings, and have this flow into the film or the book."

Similarly, Plater and the Shadow of War team looked to George R. R. Martin and HBO's Game of Thrones in order to figure out how to keep Talion's story grounded. "Magic and myth is always, I think, at its most interesting when it is in the past, or it is a bit removed versus actually going there and dropping into the middle of it," Plater explained. While Shadow of War won't shy away from epic fantasy battles (Plater notes that both Balrogs and the Nazgul will appear as bosses) the Middle-earth crew wants to make sure that magic feels special. "I think that's what makes Game of Thrones so successful... In order for magic to work, to have a sense of wonder, it should feel magical."

Other influences include Batman's rogue gallery and Friday the 13th (both of which inspired the cast of villains in Shadow of War) and Warhammer: 40K, which provided the model for Middle-earth's newest race, a breed of intelligent trolls known as the Olog-Hai.

All of these outside influences will probably make Tolkien purists nervous. The Lord of the Rings films took a number of liberties with the books, and Shadow of Mordor muddied the lore even further. But for general pop-culture junkies, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is shaping up to be one heck of an unofficial crossover.