Shadow of Mordor has a serious lady problem. The game is missing having much in the way of lady characters at all, and when they do, they’re dissatisfying, to say the least. As a way to avoid doing a lot of explaining, here’s an article about the representation of women in the game, and here’s one discussing what they did about it.
So, here’s where we are. We have a game where the first woman you see is a character who only exists to be brutally murdered on-screen along with her child, as a way to motivate the main character. The other women are either minor plot points, or our one token warrior princess, Ithariel, who your character has to literally carry off the battlefield.
So, the game studio put out a dlc patch this week, which re-skins the main character, Talion, with Ithariel’s skin, and a lot of folks in my circles are overjoyed. I understand that anything is better than nothing, and that they (seemingly) reacted to user feedback swiftly and with decisively, but it feels like a token gesture to me. In fact, it’s SO token that it pretty much is the VERY least amount of work you could possibly do, and say “playable as a woman”. You remain Talion in the tutorial at the beginning of the game. You remain Talion in the cut-scenes. You keep Talion’s voice throughout. The story remains the same trite bullshit it always was. The only difference is that while you run around making orc’s heads explode with the worlds most annoying noise, you look like a lady.
I honestly think there’s no redeeming this game. I can’t get past the fact that there was a fridge-ing before the tutorial even ends. There’s really no coming back from that, as far as I’m concerned. A re-skin of the main character isn’t enough, especially when it’s just with a character you already had laying around, who appears in the story, already! It’s like there was a guy from the Marketing department who went down to Engineering and said “Guys! We gotta do something to appease all these angry feminists! Whatcha got?!”, and someone was like “Well, let me hack up a tech demo with a character we already have…” and it got shipped like that. Not even a token effort to make her a different person, to make what story there is even make sense. Not even a palette swap, not to mention the voice acting and cut-scene issues.
It’s okay to like problematic things. If you decided that Mordor’s story wasn’t something you were going to let get in the way of enjoying what is, by many accounts, a fun game, then thats fine. I’ve made that decision, myself. What bothers me is seeing folks who began by disapproving of the game on feminist grounds, who flat out refused to buy it, even, who then seem to think this is a positive change, rather than a bit of candy to convince us to shut up.
Perhaps it’s just that everything feels so very broken right now, but I just am feeling like saying “job well done!” for such a half-ass effort, even while it’s arguably in the right direction, is just not good enough. Actually respect me, but don’t treat me like I’m too stupid to remember why I was angry in the first place.