New Games Should Totally Steal From Shadow Of Mordor

New Games Should Totally Steal From Shadow Of Mordor

Originality in video games is overrated. I see no better proof of that today than Shadow of Mordor. The game shamelessly borrows its combat from the Batman: Arkham series, to give one example. But it also introduced the “nemesis system”, which is one of the most provocative and original ideas I’ve seen in a long time.

Would Shadow of Mordor be such a resounding success if it didn’t copy-paste elements from the Arkham and Assassin’s Creed games quite so liberally? Maybe. But invoking well-worn motifs from similar pieces of work also grants gamers something comfortably familiar to latch onto. As I noted in my review, doing this gives Mordor’s best parts time and space to take shape, and they ultimately add up to something that feels truly groundbreaking. So if the price of admission for Shadow of Mordor is playing something that feels a lot like Arkham City, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay. Plus, we have to consider what Mordor’s peers will do now that gamers have taken to the nemesis system so eagerly — which is all the more impressive considering that they don’t (completely) understand how it works yet.

Mike Bithell, an indie developer best known for his 2012 platformer Thomas Was Alone, touched on this last point recently in a smart essay encouraging other game makers to rip off Mordor’s nemesis system in the future. Like me, Bithell feels that Mordor has a lot in common with other open-world games — in good way:

I bloody loved this game. What it stole, it improved upon, be it AC’s openworld design rhythms, or Batman’s combat system. Crucially, they did a brilliant job of bringing freshness to the game via their Nemesis system and adjoining mission structure. Much has been made of it, both by the marketing campaign and by players. And it’s great, but I think I like it for different reasons to most gamers.

I recommend giving the whole piece a close read, because he insightfully picks apart many aspects of Mordor in a way I don’t really need to keep revisiting — considering how much time I’ve spent gushing about the game already. The point that stands out to me comes towards the end, when he suggests that other game developers could start to build out nemesis systems of their own, and do so cheaply and efficiently:

This [the nemesis system] is a great system. Pretty damn repeatable too, no reason that an indie game couldn’t do this on a text level. Arguably many do similar (FTL comes to mind as an example of a game I’ve built similar relationships within). There will of course be a whole heap of clones of this system, directly as a way of giving NPCs character, but it’s worth thinking beyond that. If the lesson is ‘make players care about locations, characters and events through randomisation, persistence, reaction to player actions and implied actions off screen’ then one can see similar stat based meta stories occurring far more diversely.

It’s one thing for me as a gamer-turned-critic to think excitedly about what future Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, Arkham… heck even Far Cry games might look like if they introduce dynamic nemesis system-like infrastructures into their open worlds. It’s something else entirely to hear a one-man game development army say that the nemesis system isn’t just a “great” idea, but a “pretty damn repeatable” one too. Something much more exciting, if you ask me. And a little odd, since it doesn’t sit all that comfortably with Mordor developer Monolith’s explanation for why the nemesis system might not be so… robust when it comes to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

All I have to do is skip on over to Destructoid to see that some other gamers are just as interested in the idea of applying the nemesis system to a sim game as I am, to give one silly example of how excited gamers are. So let me ask you: What’s the ideal game that you’d like to see enhanced by stealing some of Shadow of Mordor’s best ideas?

Read Bithell’s piece here.

via Polygon


      • could you imagine how awesome it would be to see random troopers ending up as veteran rangers hunting down legion members and seeing a lowly legion recuit rise to the rank of centrurion. hell lets even see a BoS initiate eventually become head of the chapter.

        Edit i also think the system of randomaly adding strengths and weakness from a pool of traits would be great to see as well even for just regular mook

  • Read this twice before confirming that no, this article does not say what the “nemesis system” actually is.

    I had to look back to one of their linked articles to get an answer. In case, like me, you haven’t played the game and have no idea what they’re talking about:
    The Nemeses (singular: Nemesis) are randomly named enemies in Sauron’s Army that are generated uniquely with each playthrough of the game. Each nemesis has their own personality and will rise or fall within their social structure as the game progresses. They are affected by Talion’s actions, and each will react differently to Talion’s incursion into Mordor, be it fight, flight, or some other reaction. By defeating these notable enemies, the player is rewarded Runes.

    • I don’t understand… if you have not played the game yet, why are you not currently en route to the nearest purveyor of Shadow of Mordor for top-priority purchasing? Get thee to a game store!

        • But… but… all the cool kids will be playing other stuff by then and you’ll be behind on what’s hip and trendy! How will you keep up with the Jonses?!

          • The Joneses are wayyy ahead of me. I’ve recently been playing through Arkham Origins, and will probably follow it up with Spec Ops: The Line or COD4.

          • Yep, can’t wait to play specs ops, justneed some spare time. Cod4 is taking the piss a bit though! You should have played that by now 🙂

          • I like to be fashionably late….hey, you guys hear about this cool new game where you build like a virtual city. Its like a simulated city. Cant remember what its called but. Think I might buy it once I finish Altered Beast.

  • If they used it in other games they need to make the characters less generic.

    If they had story characters that had fleshed out backgrounds taking part in the same thing it would be far more impressive than having randomly generated orcs that share from a small pool of voices.

    • Interesting point, having a character who’s very interesting like in TES or Fallout may be tough given how much works into Developing a character.

  • “Originality in video games is overrated. I see no better proof of that today than Shadow of Mordor… [which] introduced the “nemesis system”, which is one of the most provocative and original ideas I’ve seen in a long time.”

    Hm. Soooo… ‘originality is overrated, see the proof of this game which is awesome because of its originality’.
    I get that the point is MEANT to be that SoM borrows heavily steals unashamedly from other systems in combination with a small but vital touch of originality, but the delivery of that thought could use some work.

  • Strategy RPG along the lines of Fire Emblem. Instead of fixed characters, have them generated and feed that generated stuff into the relationships between them etc. Bonus points if you have FE-style permadeath and that affects characters that are connected.

  • Dark Souls or a Dark Souls-like game would be frikkin’ amazing with a refined Nemesis system like this in it. Can you imagine the likes of Ornstein, Smough or Artorias changing tactics, movesets, building strength and losing weaknesses based on how much you suck?

    You could even build it in to the online aspects of Dark Souls changing and promoting monsters, sub-bosses and bosses based on all players and their interactions with them though as a concession you may just want to restrict the system to being based off the players you’ve summoned in to your game.

  • I like Shadow of Mordor, but I don’t like the control scheme. It seems too different to other games.

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