Picture yourself in your home, quietly minding your own business. Then suddenly, a spider comes crawling onto your arm, you smack it off and assume it’s dead. Then the next day, the spider comes back screaming man-flesh with a gang of more angrier looking spider and mocking you for thinking it’s dead. So then you once again kill the spider and the next day he comes back even more powerful, maybe this time just take it’s head off, if not he’ll just wear a bag. That’s what you can expect from the Nemesis System in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor as well as the soon to be released sequel, Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
The Nemesis System is really something quite fresh and innovative. The opportunity to give some NPC’s the recognition they deserve, for killing you of course. You never see a Goomba being promoted for taking your last life or that Stormcloak soldier being promoted to captain for defeating you in battle. To create a story within a story and add more replay value to the game. It gives the player a sense of purpose, and a sense of revenge. Creating boss battles and making the player use their head and intel to figure out how to defeat their old foe.
How it Works
How does the Nemesis System work exactly? Well in Shadow of Mordor when you are slain by an Uruk (black-speech for Orc) you are temporarily dead but eventually, you will come back as you are banished from death. You come back to the land of living to find out that the Uruk who took your life is now a captain, promoted for his grand achievement of slaying the Gravewalker (you). That Uruk is now a boss, and their power level has increased as a result. They can even decide to give themselves a promotion by challenging and forming rivalries with other Uruk captains. You will be able to see their location on the map, but not before you gather some intel.
Intel is the key component in defeating these Uruk. Intel can be acquired in a number of ways, all will require some legwork and a bit of swordsmanship. The first way to gather intel is to raid Uruk guarded camps and strongholds to find intel laid down somewhere in the form of papers, this intel will give you the strengths and weaknesses of Uruk bosses. Another way to gather intel is to interrogate an Uruk. This is introduced early on in the game. When holding an Uruk you can press A or X to interrogate them using the powers of the Bright-lord. They can then give you intel on the location of an Uruk boss. Players should be aware that when interrogating an Uruk it is possible to be hit by another Uruk during the initial interrogation process, and thus canceling the action so it is best to do this when you are finishing off the last of a group of Uruk, or find a lone one. Players should also be aware that interrogating a regular Uruk soldier does not reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the bosses. That information can only be obtained when interrogating a fellow boss. Intel is not necessary but when used right, can turn the battle in your favor and give you higher experience points when used effectively. Intel will also give you crucial info on the big bosses of the game, the war-chiefs.
Grog is what separates the elves from the Uruk, same goes for rank. The ranking is the very heart of the Nemesis System. There are two ranks of the Nemesis System: Captain and Warchief. Within these two groups are Uruk who possess different prefixes than the rest, such as a veteran who has completed a good amount of missions. An elite who has proven himself against many foes. Finally, there is legendary who is the best of the best in the captains league. When an Uruk kills you he will first become a low-level captain, from there he can either be challenged directly or be placed in a side mission where his power can increase if you fail. If you are slain again by that captain he will increase in power and potentially be promoted if there is a spot available. When an Uruk is promoted his power and resources are increased. If he is successful enough in his campaigns he will eventually challenge a legendary captain. For his spot under the war-chiefs, and may even become the personal guard of a Warchief.
The war-chiefs are the baddest of the bad, the supreme force of the Uruk army in Mordor. Warchief fights are something special. In order to get a chance of taking out the head honchos, you are required to complete a small objective for luring them out. Complete your objective and on your screen, you will see that they have arrived. The camera will close in on them.You’ll hear what sounds like the Uruk men’s choir of Mordor chanting their name as they walk out onto the battlefield to take your head. It is at this time to use the intel you’ve gathered on them to your advantage. They also may be accompanied by their bodyguards, fellow captains who have pledged their allegiance to the warchief so you may be in for a 4-way boss battle. It is possible to take out the bodyguards on their own. You can see who guards the Warchief via the Nemesis Menu.
When a Warchief has been eliminated it not over from there, there is the possibility that he survived and will come back disfigured to hunt you down again. Or that a captain will be promoted and take the place of the dead chief. The Nemesis System is like a Hydra, cut off one Uruk head, two more grotesque heads will take its place. If only there was some way to keep them alive to end the cycle, wait a minute.
Branding is an ability only given to you halfway through the games story line. Branding is the ability to turn Uruk friendly to you and assist you in fighting. Branding is the most useful against those in the Nemesis System. When you brand an Uruk captain you have a backdoor into the system itself. You can make a captain challenge another captain for dominance. Send death threats to other captains (increasing the XP and runes they give you upon death), and make them bodyguards of a Warchief. Using the bodyguard feature gives you a major edge going up against a Warchief. The war-chiefs bodyguards turn on him mid-battle and it’s now potentially 5 on 1. You can also brand warchiefs and summon them to gain intel on demand for anyone on the Nemesis System.
While you may be fighting several captains and war-chiefs, there will always be that one who is very special to you, and the game knows it. You have your own personal Nemesis. It is more than likely that your Nemesis is someone who has come back from the dead multiple times to fight you. For me it was Nazdug the Slasher, I met him in about the first 30 minutes of playing the game, and of course, he killed me the first time. I came back a second time to defeat him by interrogating him and slashing him across the face. Not 15 minutes later Talion stops moving and I hear a familiar voice cry out “man-flesh” in the distance. The camera zooms in and I see an Uruk wearing what looks to be a sack tied around his head. Just below the Uruk, I was able to see the name, Nazdug the Slasher. Again, I bested him by interrogating him then this time I broke his neck. A few hours later after I had killed droves of Uruk I was greeted once again by my pal Nazdug. Again I broke his neck but this time he didn’t come back. Which if I’m honest left me a bit sad, but all I had to do was wait until the end of the game. I won’t spoil too much but let us just say, near the end of the game, I saw Nazdug one last time, right before I chopped off his head so he couldn’t come back again.
Shadow of War
The Nemesis system is back with new Uruk and new challenges, and maybe even some old ones as well. That’s right, there has been an update for Shadow of Mordor that lets you import your Nemesis into the sequel. You will be able to battle your old arch enemy in the new game. Now’s the perfect time to go back and play Shadow of Mordor. Maybe I’ll even see Nazdug, if somehow he was able to live through a decapitation, but love finds a way. I think it’s great that they let you import your old nemesis into the new game, it gives the player familiarity and let them know it’s not all over. There are still enemies out there who know your name, who want you dead. It’s up to you and the Bright Lord to get revenge and put an end to the Dark Lord Sauron. Even if it means becoming the Shadow of War.
Monolith Production’s Middle Earth: Shadow of War releases October 10th, 2017 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.