We chose our enemies in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. At least, the order we defeated them. When Monolith debuted the Nemesis System in Shadow of Mordor, it added a fun feature to change up the usual action RPG fare. How you tackled the game meant every person’s playthrough was different from each other. Different enemy names. Different enemy classes. Different enemy talents. No two playthroughs were the same.
The Nemesis System gets bigger and better
With Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Monolith is expanding the Nemesis System in a big way. Here, you’re also picking your allies. The little stories we saw play out in Shadow of Mordor are back and are being expanded.
Our first look at the interactions between Talion and an enemy captain talks of betrayal. Thrak Storm-Bringer used to be one of our followers. He followed Talion, fought for Talion, but claims he was left to die on the battlefield. But Thrak cheated death and was reborn with the power of the Dark Lord.
Little story snippets like might not seem like much on paper, but when you see it in action – it adds a layer of depth we don’t often see in other RPGs. Each major encounter builds a story unique to you. Maybe a different orc follower betrays you and joins the Dark Lord. Instead of an orc necromancer, you’ll face a mounted orc.
These small, subtle tweaks turn Shadow of War from your typical action RPG into one that stands apart from others. It’s a system I wish we would see implemented in more realistic games like Mafia 3 or similar open-world games. Ghost Recon: Wildlands has a similar system where you take out a Cartel by picking off lower ranked members before tackling the ‘boss’ in each region.
But Shadow of War isn’t just about your foes. It’s also about your friends and followers. This isn’t a one person show anymore (technically two with Celebrimbor).
Monolith shows us how they are expanding the Nemesis System towards friends and followers as Talion and his orc army assault the valley forest of Seregost. Two followers are featured prominently, Ragdug Iron Mount and Az-Laar the Demolisher.
Ragdug commands armored cavalry capable of charging through fire. A handy follower since Seregost’s defenses are comprised of fire catapults, archers and even a fire drake. Az-Laar is a walking siege weapon. If we need a gate to come crashing down, he’s our battering ram.
As the initial battle plays out, Talion is still doing most of the work. Having an army is cool and all, but Monolith also needs to make the game fun for us. They can’t just have army wreck everything without us getting a chance to play.
Your followers and army aren’t just for show, though. They can give you an assist during pivotal moments.
Remember Thrak Storm-Bringer? Turns out, he doesn’t know when to die. After killing him again at the beginning of the battle, Talion finds himself facing Thrak again a few minutes later.
As Thrak is strangling Talion, another follower, Mozu Deadeye, launches an arrow saving Talion. The expanded Nemesis System adds in loyalty and friendship to the equation. In this case, Mozu saving Talion’s life.
You’ll also add new followers to your army on the fly, should you choose to spare them. And, if they haven’t already betrayed you once before.
Once you finish taking over a fortress, you’ll select one of your followers to rule as Overlord over the region. Depending on who you pick, you’ll get different bonuses for that region.
A worthy sequel?
Our first look at Shadow of War is a promising one. We won’t know how it all shakes out until we see the whole game, but Monolith looks like they are taking the strengths of Shadow of Mordor and running with them. Add in flying drakes laying waste to enemy orcs, huge armies under your control, and we could be looking at a sequel that surpasses the first game.
The graphics won’t blow your socks off, but Monolith is advertising this as alpha gameplay. We don’t know how old the build is we’re looking at, but we can assume graphics will be one area where the devs will touch up before the game’s August release date.
Speaking of August release date, it’s nice to see a publisher put some thought into trying to make the game a commercial success. August gives it plenty of room to sell ahead of the usual holiday rush. We’ll have to wait and see what other games position themselves in this release window, but I’m already more apt to purchase Shadow of War then I would if it came out in October/November.
The full gameplay walkthrough gives us a sneak peek at the expanded gear system and flying mounts. What do you think of some of the additions to the Nemesis System we just saw?