Bethesda Needs to Learn From Shadow of War’s Nemesis System
The Nemesis System was created across the globeShadow of Mordor: Middle-EarthAndMiddle-Earth Shadow of WarYou can create dynamic stories using procedurally generated orcs. This is possible by incorporating their relationships, changing loyalties, fears, and desire for revenge. Warner Bros patented the system, but it hasn’t stopped other developers from inventing new ways to tell stories in their worlds.
Bethesda could benefit from the Nemesis System’s experience as it embarks upon two major projects that will decide its future success in 2020. Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 must find ways to bring their open worlds to the next level, while keeping the freedom that characterized previous Bethesda titles. The studio could use mechanics to create stories such as Middle-Earth Shadow of War’s Nemesis System.
The Nemesis system
The Nemesis System uses the core mechanics of Shadow of Mordor, and more importantly Shadow of War to ingeniously use them as the basis of returning NPCs and their dialog throughout the remainder of the player’s adventure. For example, in many cases the player will have to flee from combat encounters that are overwhelming them. This response will be recorded by the game along with the exact encounter from which the player fled. They may come across the same procedurally generated enemy again, and they will refer to their cowardice.
If the player exploits the fear of an orc Captain, such as fire and he is defeated, the next encounter may see one of his subordinates stab him in the back, taking his place. Shadow of War uses its combat mechanics to generate its storytelling, rather than relying solely on dialogue for roleplay. Sending a spy to infiltrate the orcs, for example, can lead to orcs grimly referencing the discovery of that spy.
Partly, the Nemesis system relies on Shadow of Mordor’s main narrative conceit that Talion’s deaths, respawns, and other events are part of Shadow of War’s story. Talion’s unique role also helps to explain how certain orcs return to life after being killed. The undead versions come back to claim that Talion’s magic somehow made them ineligible to die.
The NemesisSystem transforms what might seem like a generic combat encounter into something that feels very personal over the course of the game. The combat actions of the player directly feed the story, rather than feeling like separate sections of the game like many RPGs. The Nemesis System may be patented, but there are some great ways its general principles could be applied to Bethesda’s formula.