When Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was announced everyone was talking about the nemesis system that would feature in the game. What is it? What does it do? Will it really work?
Well in simple terms the nemesis system sets up rivalries between the main character, Talion, and his foes. Fighting and scarring an Orc chieftain will not only leave a mark upon him but how he reacts to you later in the game. The nemesis system also helps to effect plot outcomes, your reputation and how the population reacts to you.
Initially Shadow of Mordor showcased how the nemesis system worked to the players advantage. You can kill figureheads within the ranks, possess orcs with you wraith abilities and have then act as a spy or assassin or gain their trust and have command over their armies. At the outset this looked like an elaborate political game of chess. Strategically placing troops or infiltrating the ranks could only adhere to your benefit. Or does it?
At E3 Monolith Productions’ Michael De Platter spoke with Gamespot and went over some of the finer points of the nemesis system. Yes, the system very much works to your advantage if you are successful in your attempts to over throw the fascist Orc regime. For example if you posses the mind of a Orc bodyguard and manage to kill the Orc Captain, the body guard is next in line and will take his place as Captain. With you in control of this troop you have sway over his entire platoon or army.
Obviously killing the Captain, without influencing his troops prior, could mean several outcomes depending on your previous actions. Upon killing the Captain his subordinate could be fearful of you and flee never to be seen again. One Orc could step up and assume the old Captain’s position meaning you’ll have to go through the whole process of beheading the Captain again. They could instead all choose to turn against or preferably serve you. After all nothing commands respect than a good beheading.
But that isn’t where the game’s nemesis system gets interesting. The moment you are killed is were things begin to really change. Yes, it’s inevitable. We all die in games and 99% of the time we just hit respawn with little to no consequence. However, in Shadow of Mordor the passing of time continues and the game remembers your death. Fortunately your newly acquired Wraith abilities allow you to respawn but fellow characters distinctly remember you dying, most important of which is the very person who killed you.
If you are hacked down by an orc there is a good chance they will be promoted and added to your nemesis system. Therefore the next time you face them, potentially, they could be even more powerful than the previous encounter. In turn your whole hierarchy that you’ve established may have changed. If someone has fulfilled a role within the ranks that you hoped to exploit, your work may be cut out for you. You may have to remove this plight from your ranks before gaining access to a high value target. One thing that wasn’t disclosed was whether this usurping action can unroot any spies that you have hidden amongst Sauron’s armies, therefore truly undoing all of your hard work.
TwinstickGaming intend to keep a close eye on Shadow of Mordor and I think it’s safe to say that no two play throughs will ever be the same.