Shadow of Mordor always has a lot of ambition in what it was trying to do. A brand new story line that doesn’t tie into the Lord of the Rings movies in anyway, you play Talion, a former Gondor Ranger, who is seeking revenge on an entity known as The Black Hand of Sauron who led an attack on the Black Gate killing his family and also (in an interesting twist) Talion himself. Paired up with a mysterious Wraith, the two of you set out to undermine the forces of Mordor until The Black Hand can be located. What makes Shadow of Mordor standout is a a couple new features to help make the open world feel alive.
One of those things was the completely unique Nemesis System where the game populates this hierarchy system of Uruks who all have unique names, features, and traits. Better yet, these AI remember specific things about you and the world such as whether or not you beat them in combat, wounded them, ran away, or something else entirely. What’s fantastic here is that not only does it make each player’s game unique, but it gives the world a personality that other open world games struggle with.
The Nemesis System always seemed like one of those things that sounded great on paper but way to complex to make fully functional in a game. As it turns out, Monolith nailed it. As such, I wanted to show off some exampled of how this system influenced my gameplay recently. Let me start by introducing this pain in my side: Skak the Unclean.
Being able to influence the internal structure of Sauron’s army is a powerful feeling. I had already taken down some low level enforcers at this point and the game informed me that I was near a higher level character. Feeling invincible after a number of successes, I decided to mark this new target for death. As it turns out, things wouldn’t be as easy as I envisioned.
This ‘Skak the Unclean’ proved to be a formidable foe, brandishing throwing spears with a poison effect on them. Dealing with this poison cloud and his throwing spears wasn’t as easy as I figured it would be. In addition to trying to close the distance while dodging his projectiles, a new horde of orcs joined in on the fight complicating things significantly. Feeling like Boromir during his last stand, I was eventually taken down by the Skak and his gang, all standing around laughing at my feeble attempt to bring them down.
Death does not mean “game over” in Shadow of Mordor, instead representing a new opportunity. Upon revival, time passes in the world and the nemesis system updates with Uruk promotions and shuffling of the structure. My “friend” was promoted into a Captain role and his power rank rose meaning he was even now more difficult to take down. Even some of his stats and weaknesses can change as well, becomign harder to kill as his power increases. Determined to exact revenge upon him, I decided to switch up my tactics and attack with the help of a Caragor, a wild beast that Talion can tame and use as a mount. Thankfully, I found Skak not too far from my current position, captured a Caragor and began my glorious charge into battle once again.
Considering I didn’t actually know his strengths and weaknesses, it bit me once again as this particular enemy was a beast master type. Seeing the Caragor enraged him, giving him extra strength and he also benefited from the ability to one shot kill beasts. My advantage was quickly wiped out and it was once again just me and him. Before he could call for help, I unleashed a flurry of attacks, never letting him get distance to use his spears. After a mighty battle, I finally took down my hated enemy. The feeling in this accomplishment was great.
That’s the point of this whole thing. Monolith completely delivered on a promise which seemed (I’ll admit) a bit far fetched or at least like something that wouldn’t quite live up to expectations. The Nemesis System makes each and every game completely unique while also making this world a living and breathing thing. It adds a new twist to the typical open world gameplay.
So you may be wondering, how does the story end? Hopefully, the nightmare is now over: