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5 Big Improvements Coming to Shadow of War’s Nemesis System

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More Variation, More Choices

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system was easily the most unique aspect about the game, making it something truly memorable that even garnered multiple Game of the Year Awards. Well Monolith isn’t content with what they had in the first title, as they’ve drastically improved the Nemesis system, adding in more variation and choices than ever before. At E3 2017 we got an extensive hands-on session with the game, where we got to see a few of the new changes in action.

The basics of the system are intact, requiring you to damage enemy chieftains and leaders before you’re able to dominate them. Bringing up the main menu displays a whole hierarchy of enemy forces, leading all the way up to the army’s leader. During my time with Shadow of War I decided to first take down an enemy Warchief, warping him to my side in order to boost my forces and weaken the enemies’ before taking the Fortress Siege head on. Of course, much like the first game, in order to make the Warchief appear I needed to meet a few requirements.

However, once I beat him and Dominated the chief, I was given a multitude of options. In Shadow of War you can choose to Dominate and recruit your enemy, fight them to the death, and shame them. Shaming lowers the level of the enemy, and also demotes them out of a Warchief role in the enemy’s army. The shame you’ve given does mean they’ll hold a grudge against you though and will likely try to take revenge.

At the same time the Nemesis system changes the very face of Mordor itself, as the enemies you beat or recruit will change the outcome and preparedness of battles and Nemesis Fortresses, locations you’ll need to conquer to advance in the game. Orcs have also been separated into tribes, spreading their culture and relationships throughout Mordor. Tribes will communicate with their members, spreading word of Talions’ actions that have been taken against other members of that tribe.

Allies Are One of Your Most Important Tools

Perhaps the biggest change with the Nemesis system, comes with the addition of allies. In Shadow of War the enemies you dominate have a much larger role, becoming Orc Chieftains in your ever-growing army. These characters are vitally important, as you’ll be deploying them in sieges and other battle, can assign them as your personal bodyguards.

Oftentimes allied Orc Chieftains may spring to your aid when you find yourself in trouble, and according to a WB representative, they’ll even remember actions you take to help them. If Talion saves one of his Chieftains from certain death, they’ll remember that and fight harder for one, but also won’t be afraid to leap into battle and take damage for you. Shadow of War puts a big emphasis on using your allies as Talion will be facing down the insurmountable hordes of Mordor, especially as you proceed into Siege Battles….

The Nemesis System Will Impact Siege Battles

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Siege Battles are a big new feature of Shadow of War, letting you take over enemy strongholds as your own and reap various benefits. As you might expect, the Nemesis system will play a role in this as well. Each Nemesis Fortress is protected by various Orc Warchiefs, who each have their own unique skills, abilities, and weaknesses. Of course, the different enemies you face will change what kind of approach to combat you want Talion to take. However, it also changes the flow of the overall battle.

Enemy chieftains each come equipped with a defensive perk to buff up their Fortress, things like strengthened walls to make it harder to breach, or Savages in battle that you can’t dodge over. At the same time, when you start a Siege you’ll be taken to an overview screen, where you can select the perk/units you want your own chieftains to bring into battle. There’s a significant degree of customization here, as you can select from three different unit types for each Chieftain.

Shadow of War also gives you freedom on how you want to approach each Siege Battle, if you want you can head right into battle and face down all the enemy Chieftains at once. Or you can systematically eliminate each Chieftain before the battle, making your siege easier.

In my demo, the chieftain I had taken down and the choices I made before the siege made the battle quite easy for me. My units stormed the fortress and eliminated the enemies’ Warchiefs and forces with little help needed from me. Meanwhile, the presentation that we were shown featured a battle where Talion got completely overwhelmed by a horde of enemies and multiple Warchiefs.

It’s clear that all of your choices and actions within the Nemesis System will compile into a unique experience for each player. Whether that variation can be spread throughout the entire game, however, remains to be seen.

Rivalries and Blood Brothers Extend the System Past Talion

The Nemesis System applies to much more than just Talion this time around, it’ll also work very much the same way for Orc Chieftains. Your units can form rivalries with enemy Cheiftains, gaining unique dialogue and a determination to kill one another. At the same time, they can also forge friendships so two Chieftains work better in battle together. It certainly adds another layer of detail and believeability to the game, and it’ll be interesting to see the implications of how these rivalries play out.

Apparently Chieftains can even be Blood Brothers, forming a strong bond that cements their abilities in battle. When asked about the Nemesis system a WB representative coyly said very interesting things can happen when you split up Blood Brothers and pit them against each other. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get any more details at this time, but it’s definitely interesting to consider.

Enemies’ Strengths Can Change As You Battle Them

Enemy Warchiefs can learn along with Talion as you advance through the game, even to the extent of gaining new strengths against you. A Warner Bros. representative informed me that as you use different moves against Warchiefs, they’ll learn and adapt to your style. So if you tend to use one thing against enemies, like ranged attacks, they’ll gain a resistance against that.

Monolith clearly has doubled down on everything to do with the Nemesis System, and although we only got a small taste with a demo and presentation, it was already fun to see the differences that cropped up.


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Image of Hayes Madsen
Hayes Madsen
A connoisseur of all things RPG related, and always looking for the artistic expression in gaming. His love of Gundam is only matched by his love of Pizza. Playing Games Since: 1991 Favorite Genres: RPGs, JRPGs, Strategy,