Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor blew orcs and minds away last year, throwing in everything a Lord of the Rings fan could want – rich lore, unbridled violence, and a vibrant world unmatched in the series to date. All that surely couldn’t have been possible without the AI system that gave its inhabitants life.
Monolith Productions’ Nemesis System is the newest invention in open-world gaming, but why should it stop in Middle-earth when there are super villains to bag and Templars to assassinate? Shadow of Mordor shouldn’t be the one game to rule it all. From Batman to Assassin’s Creed, plenty of game worlds could benefit from making your enemies one of a kind. Here’s five game series that need the Nemesis system, or at the very least, could learn a thing or two from.
5) Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider probably isn’t the first series that comes to mind when you think of memorable video game villains, but that’s probably what makes it one of the best candidates for the Nemesis system. Whereas most of the series has been dedicated to puzzles and shooting galleries, 2013’s Tomb Raider reimagined Lara Croft as something of a survivalist in her early days, capable of holding her own against man, beast, and the wilds themselves. This year’s Rise of the Tomb Raider promises the kind of desolate, unwelcoming wastelands that created gaming’s favorite heroine and it’s only right that the series provide the kind of mental and physical challenge worthy of testing someone’s sanity.
By this time in her career, it makes sense that Lara should be the hunter as much as the hunted. In the absence of many guided pathways, the Russian expanses could be the opportune place for spurring spontaneous encounters with the wildlife and sort of killer locals we met in Yamatai. Scavengers, explorers, and or more crazy cult leaders could make for interesting enemies or allies that build real relationships with Lara in their mutual efforts to survive. Should you choose their deaths, there could be the possibility of their real or otherworldly return in Dark Souls fashion, forcing Lara to determine not only how to kill them, but just which are fragments of her mind, horror-style. Live. Die. Repeat.
4) A Wolverine Game
X-Men Origins: Wolverine came so close to being the best Wolverine experience, but if there was anything it did right (a final boss battle not withstanding), it was capturing just how much fun wreaking hurricanes of gore with your bare claws could be. Just picture the Nemesis system putting it on steroids. You’re Wolverine. You’re tan, you’re ripped, you’re Hugh Jackman in a tank-top, assuming that Marvel should want to keep their movies as the inspiration for their games, as they should. You just escaped from the life-altering surgery that gave you an invincible skeleton and adamantium claws. You want answers and you’ve got to smash a lot of skulls a lot of times to get them from one Colonel William Stryker.
An open-world Canadian wilderness would see you thinning the ranks of Department H’s mutant population – Sabretooth, Blob, Deadpool (the comic one), on your way to Stryker with the Hulk as the final boss to top it all off with. Every kill would make them angrier and killing them all over again a whole lot more fun as they evolved to your play style with time and you do to theirs in a battle of the fittest. As long as it’s an excuse to lop that probable grin under Deadpool’s mask again and again, who could say no?
About 10 percent of the Borderlands series is battling wits with Handsome Jack and the other 90 percent is spent shooting nameless grunts in the face again. And again. And AGAIN. Imagine if all of those poor grunt-folk had something more to say than, “Ow, ow, not the FACE!” every once and a while. Imagine that some of them could be the next Handsome Jack in the making just waiting to take over the chaos you handed them in the form of a frag grenade.
The Nemesis system’s adaptability to multiple AI personalities would be a dream for the college frat party of crazies that is Borderlands, mixing and matching their off-the-wall personas with any and all ridiculous character entrances – fireworks, big bands, improv, the works. In the interests of avoiding Shadow of Mordor’s dreadfully repetitive intro dialogue, every character intro could rewrite one huge joke book depending on your past encounters. Remember that time you told off Psycho 1 and killed Psycho 2? They’ll remember that. Worse, they’ll make a punchline out of it in your face.
2) Assassin’s Creed
Assassin’s Creed is of the opinion that the more you talk the smarter you probably sound. Since their debut, The Templars have been little more than a bunch of mustache-twirling goons spouting off rants about money and power on their death beds. The Assassins have faired little better, basically fighting Templars for no good reason other than they’re too bored to just open a cutlery chain. In short, they’re ripe for some real characterization, ripe enough for the Nemesis system to do its magic.
Whereas other series entries set you up as a kind of arm-chair general, sending your assassins out across the globe taking out Templars for you, a Nemesis system could put you in charge of recruitment and deployment in-game from behind enemy lines. What if you could kidnap Templars and convert them into your ranks? Think Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker‘s Fulton system. It’d give your missions a whole lot more agency if you knew you might be able to change hearts and minds like you did in Brotherhood, but with the repercussions of an escapee hunting you down.
A conspirator chart like Assassin’s Creed II‘s could give some shape to the Templar hierarchy as a part of a larger conspiracy for, say, the Russian Revolution’s overthrow of the Czar or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A wanted system could also provide a bit of intel and or backstory on your targets to take them down like a real assassin – bribing a traitor, causing a riot, a subtle poisoning, you name it. Requiescat in pace, following missions.
Of all the series on this list, I can’t think of any more deserving than Rocksteady Studios’ Arkham universe. The psychology of the Nemesis system is something born right out of a comic book itself – a power struggle pitting villain against villain while creating new ones. The ever-changing landscape of Gotham City’s gang wars would be the perfect playground for waging Batman’s war on crime from the ground up. Planting your very own snitch inside the Riddler or Two-Face’s gang to gather intel could let you play your own game of Minority Report as you work to solve crimes before they happen. Even better, you could rattle their cages with a good ‘ole fashioned vendetta, pitting people like Bane and Killer Croc against one another, careful to balance the cost of victory with the death toll on the streets.
Every encounter could be about getting inside a super villain’s head, though not as literally as Talion. Every encounter like moving a possible chess piece in the city’s underworld, wreaking more fear as you destroy bigger and bigger masterminds. What’s more, a single mistake could create your own super villain, i.e. letting that a goon fall into a vat of toxic waste like a certain killer clown. It’d be ironic if the mainstay of Shadow of Mordor‘s inspiration take after what basically ripped it off, but with Rocksteady Studios’ superb track record with the Dark Knight behind it, there’s hope yet that someone else can pick up the pieces for another go-round in Rocksteady’s Gotham in some other time, some other way.
Am I wrong? Is the Nemesis system really worth imitating after all? Or did you think of some other game series better suited for it? Let us know in the comments below.