A dash of the Batman Arkham series, a splash of Assassin's Creed, and a touch of next-generation sparkle - Monolith's new next-gen game set in the Lord of the Rings universe certainly looks interesting in this Pre-Alpha preview.

There's a lot of really interesting mechanics on show here, from the very Batman-esque combat, to the much more unique stuff like phase-shifting in and out of the Nazgûl 'Wraith World' and the intriguing concept of having procedurally-generated 'nemeses' to hunt down and develop rivalries with. I particularly like the domination aspect of Talion's supernatural abilities, allowing him to recruit agents to aid his own quest - especially when they pull back a layer and go even deeper, showing just how much of an extent a player can influence their network of opponents. And it looks pretty phenomenal too, especially some of the lighting effects and the particle work in the Wraith-vision stuff...

But it doesn't really look like a Lord of the Rings game. There are familiarities, sure, what with your human ranger type (who looks a very similar to Viggo Mortenson's Aragorn, which I'm sure is just a coincidence) skulking around fighting Orcs, and there's Sauron and all that, but it looks just a bit too gritty and grimy and gore-happy to have that Tolkeinesque feel. As for the basically magical abilities of Talion that let him not just target enemies but also teleport mid-combat and consume his foe's conciousness... I dunno. They're cool video game concepts, but I don't feel like they fit in the Lord of the Rings setting - it feels like it's a step too far, that they can't quite get away with being covered by 'but it's just like that stuff when Frodo and Bilbo put the ring on!'. Like, they'd feel more at home in an original fantasy world, rather than in Middle-Earth. The branding feels like it's there because they have the license, not because it feels like it's appropriate.

That said, it does look quite neat. It just doesn't look like it should be called 'Middle-Earth'.