I’ve talked a lot in the past about how videogames can make use of the conventions of gaming as a medium to tell a story and really connect with an audience in a different way than a film or a book can. Unlike those mediums, games are interactive and with this comes the possibility of diverting from the linear story progression that people have become acclimated to. It’s rare however, that games have truly taken advantage of this, with a few like Heavy Rain and Mass Effect playing with multiple branching story arcs based upon the decisions of the player. For the most port, the choices in these games are fairly straight forward – choose A or B or C. But with the new Nemesis system introduced in Shadow of Mordor, it seems that there’s room in the future for an interactive story where both the decisions and the actual ACTIONS of the player impact the story.
For those who haven’t played Shadow of Mordor (it’s quite good, FYI), the game pits you on a quest of revenge across the fantastical realm of Middle Earth. Along the way, you’ll fight hordes upon hordes of bloodthirsty orcs hell bent on ending you. The gameplay is fun (think Arkham City with swords and magic), the map expansive and the story is simple but engaging enough. What sets Shadow of Mordor apart is the fact that every encounter with an enemy may come back to bite you. With the Nemesis system, the game remembers your interactions with enemies and the game will adjust accordingly. For example, if you throw an Orc into the fire and he lives to lick his wounds, he may come after you for revenge for being burned and disfigured. Each enemy is unique and your actions can allow them to rise and fall through the ranks and change how they behave and interact with each other. With every battle, you could be creating your own arch enemy.
It’s a great addition to the game, but I don’t think we’ve seen the full potential of this system quite yet. While you could alter the ranks of your enemies, you couldn’t shake up the system entirely and the main storyline would progress more or less the same. You couldn’t create the next Sauron. But think about what COULD happen in future Middle Earth games or even other games using a similar system. There’s incredible potential for this system to allow every action of the player to affect the story in a major way. I want a game where the first few moments of playing could entirely change the landscape of the game. Maybe in the next Middle Earth game, the Nemesis system gets pushed further. Imagine in the first enemy encounter, you take on a swarm of enemies and one survives to lick his wounds. Over the course of the game and through several more encounters, he continues to grow in opposition to your character with his skills and personality developing in response to your actions until it’s this once lowly grunt that is the end game boss you must overcome. There’s so much potential for this system to allow gamers to shape the story they are playing.
I’m definitely excited for the future and for what this could mean for gaming as a medium. Games are art.