Shadow of Mordor was our first introduction to the Nemesis system, and it allowed enemies to remember Talion’s actions against them. When you killed them with fire, they might return burned and embarrassed, determined to take you down. It was a two-way street, however, as if enemies killed you the game went on, respawning you but giving the enemy that killed you a promotion, making them stronger. If you were even killed by a grunt, this could end up with their promotion to a captain. You could also uncover orc captain’s weaknesses by interrogating worms or finding intel, and weaknesses were randomized just like the orc’s appearances and personalities. All of these features were what helped Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system feel alive and unique. Now with the release of Shadow of War, the game contains all of those same features as well as much more.
Shadow of War’s tagline “Nothing Will Be Forgotten” actually fits the game pretty well, as the Nemesis system ensures that each action you take against an orc captain is remembered. Humiliate a captain and they’ll remember it, perhaps even hunting you down in an entirely different part of the world. Early on in my time with the game I even had a captain hunt me down and start a battle, entirely due to the fact that I had killed his blood brother sometime along the way and he wanted revenge. Even better, killing a captain or warlord this time rewards you with a valuable piece of loot, and you can also add to this by interrogating a worm and making them send a threat. This will make the orc you choose to threaten more powerful, but also reap a more valuable reward in the end. In Shadow of War, however, there’s much more to do with the orcs that you dominate and bring to your side.
You gain their loyalty by protecting them, forming friendships, of sorts, and by assigning them as your bodyguards. Your orc captains can act independently, and if you don’t protect them, you better believe there’s going to be consequences. If the orcs on your side die, there’s a chance they might come back from the brink of death, feeling betrayed and bitter at your lack of care, and turn against you. The Nemesis system in total just feels far more fleshed out, with emergent stories popping up everywhere throughout Mordor. It’s an experience you can’t get in any other game.