Shadow of War: The New Nemesis System

Okay so a couple weeks back I compared Shadow of War with its predecessor, Shadow of Mordor. In a fit of stupidity, I then accidentally uninstalled Shadow of War instead of Shadow of Mordor and had to re-download the whole 93GB game. Anyway, I also said I wanted to talk more about the Nemesis system, so let’s do that. 

In Shadow of Mordor (that’s the first one), there were two regions, and your ultimate goal in each region was to kill or dominate the five warchiefs. This goal, simply put, was shitty, because the more Orc Captains you controlled, the less interesting and diverse the game got. Shadow of War, by contrast, has a different focus, and it fixes heaps of the problems. In each region, there’s a fortress, and your job is to take it over. The fortress has a ruler, or an overlord, and you can’t touch him until you get into the actual fortress siege part of the game. Aside from him, the fortress also has a number of warchiefs – somewhere between 3 and 6, depending on how strong it is. The warchiefs can have bodyguards from among the general Orc captain population, and they also often provide bonuses to the fortress – stronger walls or special Orc fighters or whatever. As far as I know, you can’t dominate these warchiefs – or, rather, you can, but they’ll stop being warchiefs if you do. They’ll descend into the body of Orc captains, and that warchief slot will remain empty for a couple turns, before being filled by a newcomer or a promoted Captain. Similarly, when you go to invade the fortress, you can take a set number of dominated Orc captains with you – again between 3 and 6, depending on your level. Those Orcs will ride with you into battle, and they’ll help fight off the warchiefs inside. You can also install dominated Orcs as bodyguards, and they’ll turn on their warchiefs when you turn up to invade the fortress.

What all of this means is that your goal isn’t really to kill the warchiefs beforehand. Instead, you want to build up the strongest group of 3-6 Orc captains to take into the fortress siege with you. You can dominate every single Orc captain in a region, and, frankly, it won’t help you that much. You’ll still be limited to that group of 3-6. What’s more, you’ll probably have weakened your chances of winning the fortress, because your chosen captains won’t have any other captains to train against. I found that I kept the ratio of dominated to not-dominated Orc captains at around 50-50. That way, I could match the skills and weaknesses of different captains to give my Orcs the advantage in a fight. For example, if an enemy captain was afraid of fire, I’d send one of mine with a fire weapon to fuck him up. It’s an easy kill, and it helps level my captain in preparation for the fortress siege. In this sense, Shadow of War encourages you to keep the enemy captain population quite high, keeping the incidence of random events high too. It twists the game to foreground all the best mechanics of the Nemesis system.

As a further example, we might note that technically you can go and kill the warchiefs if you want – but as I suggested earlier, the position will be filled again within a couple of turns. So the act of killing warchiefs again becomes tactical. Maybe they supply stronger walls for the fortress, and you want to get rid of that perk, so you take them out. Alternately, maybe they have an ability that will counter the captains that you’re bringing to the fight – so you take them out to secure your own army. Or maybe you keep a warchief in place with a bunch of dominated bodyguards that will murder the ever-loving fuck out of him on siege day. By making it into a tactical decision rather than purely a gameplay requirement, the question stops being whether you can do something and turns into whether you should. That’s a much more interesting question.

I said I didn’t have a full post on this, and I don’t, so we’ll leave it there. In quick summary: Shadow of Mordor made you kill or dominate all the enemy captains, and it made the terrain really dull. In Shadow of War, there’s a bunch of good reasons to keep a significant population of enemy captains, and in fact you can’t really kill the warchiefs anyway, because they just keep bringing in new ones. Shadow of War wants you to do more complicated things than just killing, and it’s great.

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