Shadow of Mordor was a surprisingly great game, cemented down by the use of its fantastic (and confoundingly still unique) Nemesis System. It allowed your actions around the ashen fields of Mordor to carry some weight, as you recruited Orcs to your side and played games of political chess with its war chiefs. It was smart but limited – which is exactly why its sequel, Shadow of War, is blowing out the system in ways that might surprise you.
In this first, lengthy look at Shadow of War’s gameplay, you’ll see that the core pillars of protagonist Talion’s abilities haven’t changed. Shadow of War still looks like Shadow of Mordor when it comes to sneaking and combat, so it’s the stuff around that which is more interesting. With the ability to travel to different regions and capture strongholds, Talion is able to rally up an invasion force composed of friendly Orcs. Each one brings something different to the table, which has a tangible impact on the siege.
Some might bring with them a force able to knock down walls and create new entry points, while other bring legions of archers to give you an edge from afar. These relationships are created in the same way too, but the broader structure of the Nemesis System allows for them to interact in clever ways. One of the stronghold’s chiefs, for example, used to side with Talion – before our player left him on a mission together and soured the relationship.
These connections between Orcs is the crux of what makes this new iteration so interesting, as they remember actions that both you as a player and other AI allies have inflicted on them. Orcs within your ranks will also build friendships and rivalries with one another, which can play out dynamically at any given time. Should two of you allies be sieging alongside you, it’s not uncommon for one to try take the competition out in the confusion of battle.
Shadow of War is using this system to make your battles unique to your play, and inject a sense of agency into the moment to moment politics that others games just don’t get near to. it’ll be exciting to see how this plays out in a less scripted manner, but we won’t have long to wait. Shadow of War is out this August.