Shadow Of War's Friendly NPCs Will Also Participate In The Nemesis System

Shadow of War - Dragon
Middle-earth: Shadow of War WB / Monolith

Most of the early promotion for Middle-earth: Shadow of War has focused on fortress sieges and the ways those keep assaults are tied to the Nemesis system. But some fans might be surprised to know that the franchise’s marquee mechanic wasn’t Monolith Productions’ primary focus when the studio broke ground on the upcoming sequel to Middle-earth: Shadow Mordor.

We got a chance to speak with Michael de Plater, vice president of creative at Monolith, after a brief theater presentation and some hands-on time with Shadow of War. Given all the discussion of fortress takedowns and Nemesis improvements, we’d assumed the franchise’s signature system received the bulk of Monolith’s attention over the last three years. But the team took aim at its story delivery, one of the few areas where Shadow of Mordor really struggled.

“We wanted to have this big, epic, grand story. Iconic villains. Epic battles like you’d associate with Helm’s Deep or Return of the King,” de Plater said.

Monolith also wanted to do a better job of weaving two disparate segments of the Shadow of Mordor campaign -- the Nemesis system and NPC quest chains -- together into one cohesive experience. In Mordor, it felt like players needed to decide whether each play session would focus on advancing the narrative arc focusing on Talion’s allies or taking steps to reduce the power of Sauron’s army. In Shadow of War, those friendly characters will directly interact with Nemesis creations. And the outcome of each encounter could have a major impact on your playthrough.

“Something we’ve done this time, that we didn’t have last time, is [include] orcs from the Nemesis system -- these unique characters that will make their way into the story at key points -- and also characters who are introduced in the story who will get set free and be able to live on in the Nemesis system.” de Plater told Player.One. “In Shadow of Mordor, they were more separate. Whereas now, we’ve really been able to weave the two things together and make them feel much more connected. Both in terms of the high-level goal, of conquering fortresses and taking on Mordor, but also in the personal stories that you develop with these guys.”

Combat is also much deeper on fans’ second trek through Mordor. “We want people playing this game for dozens, maybe even hundreds of hours,” he said. “And if we want the game to continue to grow… we needed that additional layer of depth and player choice, [regarding] how they can represent their own styles and how they integrate with the gear.”

I wasn’t completely sold on Shadow of War’s new loot system after hands-on time at E3 2017. If the expanded mechanic does need any tweaking, Monolith’s VP of Creative says the studio will have plenty of other material to use as guidance. But at the end of the day, the primary goal will always be to implement changes that better integrate the series’s most beloved feature.

“A lot of games have great loot systems. So there’s a lot of good reference there,” de Plater said. “But what was important was to make it unique to us and connect it to the Nemesis system. So the way you go after it, hunt the best loot or get the best sets, or go on a little side objective to upgrade that loot, all ties back to the Nemesis system.”

The target and the method(s) used to eliminate them will still play a role in the loot Talion receives for his kill. There’s no way to guarantee a specific drop. But particularly powerful enemies will yield trophies that take the character’s life and death into account.

“If you hunt down and stealth kill a powerful warchief, who’s got a fire weapon, you might get a dagger out of that,” says de Plater. “But it’s a dagger with a fire trait on it that you can unlock. So you’re always building up unique stories that will never be the same.”

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is in development for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The game debuts Oct. 10.

Be sure to check back with Player.One and follow Scott on Twitter for more Middle-earth: Shadow of War coverage in 2017 and however long Monolith supports Shadow of War after launch.

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