Appropriate ashmopriate, that’s my motto. Admittedly, it makes for a very awkward family crest.

No game in recent memory has eaten up my brain quite like Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor has. Been just devouring it, thoroughly enjoying the experience. I’d really only picked the thing up on a whim, expecting it to just serve as a tide-me-over until Witcher 3 comes out early next year. After all, I don’t much care for Tolkien. Which it turns out is a good thing, because this game is at its best when it’s Tolkiocity is at its lowest.

I was genuinely kinda shocked when, shortly before forcibly liberating an orc of his cranium, said orc basically lamented that his dream of a better world died with him. It was an oddly humanizing glimpse into a people I’d been informed was thoroughly, irredeemably, and unfathomably Evil and Yucky. In that small moment — and a dozen other small moments like it — I was invited to take a look at a version of Middle-Earth that presented the Enemy as something more than a thing to be butchered absent-mindedly between side quests. For a second, I thought to myself, “What makes Gondor so great, anyway?”

I mean, I still cut his head off, of course. Dude dropped an epic-level rune. My morals only hold out for so long when weighed against “45% chance to regain health after 30-hit-streak combo.”