The Compelling Story Within a Story in Shadow of Mordor

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The Compelling Story Within a Story in Shadow of Mordor

The main story of the new Shadow of Mordor game offers a forgettable character on a mission. But dig deeper and you find a narrative worth following.

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Outstanding how what was once a random kill-and-forget mook can tell a more gripping tale than a terminally ill child you need to fetch another fix of Not-Zombie for every damn day. I haven't played Shadow of Mordor, but I imagine it all ends in tragedy anyway if you have to kill the guy you helped ascend to Warchief on account of him being a Warchief, if that's how it works.

State of decay has this oft self generated storytelling, aside the whole 'teh zombies again?' thing. Very intriguing. I would imagine the healthier the imagination, the deeper the story, no? The only issue is not all gamers like to squeeze their imaginatory glands.

Rest in peace Khosh. I hope there are many alive things in the orc afterlife for you to kill.

I'm far more invested in the game now that I'm actually working to get Orcs to positions of power (via brainwashing) in order to take over the armies. It's way more fun than whatever it was I was supposed to be doing.

The big problem with the Nemesis system (which I generally consider to be an awesome thing) is that it "punishes" people for being good at the game. You need to fail for it to really kick in. If you are too efficient and hunting down high ranking orcs you can easily end up pretty much amputating one of the game's major mechanics. And when I find myself saying "Alright then, let's get killed a few times to shake things up!", that kinda takes me out of it...

Again, I do think that Nemesis is a great concept and the implementation isn't bad, just that it (or other similar systems) need more work in the future.

Yep. I pretty much had the same experience working towards some of the more interesting achievements. I posted 2 paragraphs in another thread, but in short, I love games where you can create your own narrative within their framework. Shadow of Mordor is almost perfect in that regard (a bit repetitive at times). Skyrim also allowed you to work on your own narrative, but that was more because all the main quests and such were completely unhinged and nothing really carried any consequences in the world.

Jandau:
The big problem with the Nemesis system (which I generally consider to be an awesome thing) is that it "punishes" people for being good at the game. You need to fail for it to really kick in. If you are too efficient and hunting down high ranking orcs you can easily end up pretty much amputating one of the game's major mechanics. And when I find myself saying "Alright then, let's get killed a few times to shake things up!", that kinda takes me out of it...

Again, I do think that Nemesis is a great concept and the implementation isn't bad, just that it (or other similar systems) need more work in the future.

Yea, the game did get easy quickly once you got used to the controls and combat mechanics. Fingers crossed for an enhanced difficulty edition Witcher 2 style? :p

I know I've read similar things a few different places, but Yahtzee this was the best non-review Review of the game it could have possibly gotten.

I want this game now.

What I see is that this is finally a game that uses some of STALKER's tricks ? I must play it then...

IS it not time for you Yahtzee to make a STALKER Call of Pripyat review? During a low period?
Nah, you wont.... you casual :D ...

Pretty much the reason why I love the Civ series .

A random seed, a fistfull of good mechanics/rules and you got story evolves around you.
Problem is that its requires a hell lot more efford then hard-coding/scripting "dramatic events".

And why should you do this from a buisness perspective?

People might be more interested ti play it more then once,
but this means they are less likely to BUY sequel that contains a different event.

The nemesis system was great, but it sort of fell flat on its face for me because of how OP the main character was. I could literally make 4 guys Warchief in an hour by destroying their competition easily.

Don't start about making button prompts invisible, not only is that a ridiculous way to improve the difficulty, but it wouldn't help much either. The path to win in this game is simply by staying on the outside, hitting something with the wraith stun and slashing him 5 times quickly in order to get two executions in a row or two combat drains / brands with the relevant talents.

Once you get a rune that heals you 30% on each combat drain its GG for the orcs.

A related issue is that the Nemesis system does give a lot of variety, but the "boss" mobs still sort of all behave the same way, except they have more health and do more damage + they're immune to some things.

Honestly, I think this system would have been much more impressive if it was done in a generally more interesting game and if it wasn't the only thing the game had going for it. Shadow of Mordor was a very flat experience for the most part: characters had as much depth as a bulldozed pancake, the story could be written on a piece of toiletpaper, few enemy types besides the nemesis system, boring environments.

Not to mention

Imagine that same system in a game like Skyrim though, used to give each faction even more replay value? Epic win.

I can't wait to play this game 6 months from now when they finally release a "complete" edition. DLC ruins everything.

To the memory of Khosh, the Drunken Greenskin that Could.

EDIT: Come to think of it, this is the sort of thing that Dwarf Fortress does really well, if you take the time to get into the heads of your little beardy charges.

Like the expedition leader, who worked his fat fingers to the bone making the settlement livable, only to be subplanted as mayor by the slimy soapmaker that arrived last summer. Or the mason and mother of six who were found drained of blood in her bed one morning. That murder was later linked to that very same soapmaker, who were exposed as a charismatic vampire after a failed drain attempt.
The best part is that the husband of the killed mason was the lawd0rf on duty that carried out the beating the former mayor was sentenced to. Amusingly, the mayor was killed by it, despite the fact that I equip all lawd0rfs with wood truncheons specifically to avoid that.

Dwarven Justice. It isn't elegant, but I welcome it nonetheless.

I hadn't heard about the nemesis system until Yahtzee's video, I'm pretty damned impressed though. Honestly This is the type of 'innovation' I was expecting we'd be getting 10 years ago when the PS3 and Xbox 360 launched and were highlighting their multi-core architecture. An actual new innovative way of making games rather than the same old with higher graphics. If you have multiple CPU's running at once you should be able to make them 'do stuff' in the background that creates dynamic content while the rest processes what's currently on screen for the player.

Crud, the more I hear about this game - and, yes, Yahtzee isn't the only one reporting such experiences with it - the more I'm tempted to buy it. At this point I'm pretty much certain I'll get it. But for the first time in ages, I'm actually tempted to buy a game soon after release rather than when it goes to budget price. Still, I've got a lot of Skyrim and other games to play, so, honestly, it'll probably be waiting. But I can't deny a certain... glee and expectation.

Jandau:
The big problem with the Nemesis system (which I generally consider to be an awesome thing) is that it "punishes" people for being good at the game. You need to fail for it to really kick in. If you are too efficient and hunting down high ranking orcs you can easily end up pretty much amputating one of the game's major mechanics. And when I find myself saying "Alright then, let's get killed a few times to shake things up!", that kinda takes me out of it...

Again, I do think that Nemesis is a great concept and the implementation isn't bad, just that it (or other similar systems) need more work in the future.

See, I haven't played the game yet, but I've followed the discussion and this came up quite often. I would go about it with a bit of role-playing. Talion is immortal and aware of it and provided he has more tactical nuance than "TALION KILL ORK" I could imagine him actually brainwashing an orc and then dying on purpose to promote him up the ranks. Anyone trying to take on Mordor has to see the advantage of having an army at his command and one doesn't have to be Sun Tzu to see that army of sleeper agents is a marvelous thing.
So even if you're good at it, dying doesn't have to be just "shake it up", but "how do I die to help that one bugger rise in the ranks". And if you active your sleeper agents at will, is it possible to not activate them at all during a battle? If so, you might let your agent kill you on purpose to let him grow in power. That's how I would make use of Talion's immortality.

So what you're telling me is to buy this game? Okay, will do.

Gretha Unterberg:
Pretty much the reason why I love the Civ series .

A random seed, a fistfull of good mechanics/rules and you got story evolves around you.
Problem is that its requires a hell lot more efford then hard-coding/scripting "dramatic events".

I prefer Crusader Kings II. It gets more relatable when the individual actors in the game are actually meant to simulate people rather then more abstract concepts such as "nations".

A very good story, Yahtzee. I can't wait to get this game. Next month I get a PS4, and this will be one of three games that I get with it. So looking forward to this.

There's a little game called Crusader Kings 2 that is practically made of this sort of emergent storytelling. You're given a map of Medieval Europe, North Africa and India, crawling with thousands of characters living out their procedural lives, marrying, bearing children, feuding, warring, scheming, rising to prominence and descending into obscurity, reshaping borders and dying of syphilis. You choose one character of this huge roster and start participating in this enormous emulation.
There's no clearly stated goal, you find one for yourself and try to reach it. Be it to unite the Irish lands under one crest or rise through the ranks of the Byzantine Empire, break off of the Holy Roman Empire and form the independent Bohemian kingdom or make Zoroastrianism a major world religion, it's up to you.

It's not about the goal but the journey. You might be an aspiring Irish warlord on the quest of uniting all of Ireland, but you are so cynical and lustful that the Pope himself, disgusted with your God-awful ways, excommunicates you and gives every Catholic noble a carte-blanch to attack you and force you to abdicate in favour of your drooling imbecile son who's then quietly smothered in his sleep by his Regent. Your fledgling kingdom then falls apart as your numerous former vassals fight for power and the island is invaded by an opportunistic Castillian duke who has a claim on the Irish throne because his mother married you uncle or something. All seems lost for Ireland but the Castillian usurper receives a serious blow on the head during a minor clash in Connacht and dies while in coma several days later, causing a succession crisis in his homeland.
None of that concerns you, however, as the loss of your son has shaken you so much you've received a Possessed trait and are to preoccupied with instituting turnips as currency in the little county you still own. Your subjects, unhappy with the reform, decide to get rid of the crazyman on the throne and slip a poisonous snake into your bed at night.
So you die. But not all is lost as long as there are landed members in your dynasty, so you now play as your distant cousin who, through some intricate marriages and alliances, had inherited a county on the Baltic coast. Uniting Ireland might be impossible for you now, but what about uniting Lithuania..?

All this is very much possible in this game. The combination of big politics, small-scale personal interactions and random events creates a gripping narrative that is never the same however many times you play. The only problem with CK2 is that it is a global strategy game that is reserved for unwashed nerds who'd rather stare at a map rather than stab their way to victory like any normal gamer would.

I had a similar experience.

Early on, my first fall was at the hands of Skum (which the game would later pronounce "skoom", but I remain steadfast in assuming it was "scum"). Skum was the first orc to cease my advance through the orc hierarchy. He was a ranged captain already though, he didn't gain his prominence from killing me. But he did get a huge power boost from my death.

Later, I ran into Skum again. Now brimming with arrogance, I decided to try and sneak him. With fresh intel on him, I knew it would work if I could get close enough. Sadly, He turned to face me as I was trying to sneak up behind him (literally the only time I've failed at the stealth) and he started taunting me then firing bolts that were really knocking down my underdeveloped health which only had the first upgrade bought at that point. He also had the Orc ability to call in forces and while I was trying to finish off the smallish crowd that gathered after he spotted me, he called in a few more Orcs and I fell once again. As luck would have it, he'd fired the bolt that halted my attack once again, and was moved up to power level 16 (which was higher than the War Chiefs at this point).

After this he was very powerful for my lower level character. Every time I would fall, Skum would gain power from a Feast or a Hunt or just from killing me again until he was the only power 20 character in the first act of the game. He started showing up to foil my other attempts at taking down Captains and War Chiefs. All told, he took me out 5 or 6 times. Skum survived to the third act of the game. When finally, after powering up my Talion to the maximum level, I managed to get the better of Skum. I had considered killing him for the sheer visceral sense of catharsis it would bring. But instead I decided a more fitting end was to fall under my power. I wanted to see him as a tool in my plans to undermine all that he knew and cared about.

Cheers to you, Skum. You really made the opening bits of ME:SoM more than memorable. I hate you, you miserable Orc bastard!

Sniper Team 4:
Next month I get a PS4, and this will be one of three games that I get with it

What are the other two games?

Bedinsis:

Gretha Unterberg:
Pretty much the reason why I love the Civ series .

A random seed, a fistfull of good mechanics/rules and you got story evolves around you.
Problem is that its requires a hell lot more efford then hard-coding/scripting "dramatic events".

I prefer Crusader Kings II. It gets more relatable when the individual actors in the game are actually meant to simulate people rather then more abstract concepts such as "nations".

fair enough,but the point stays the same.
to me CK2 lifes from your personal storytelling :)

There is litte to nothing scripted in it.
it just simulates persons/families .
All the drama that puts a song of ice and fire
to shame is this system reacting to your
machiavellian plots.
And you fill out the blanks with your headcannon ;)

Everything I'm hearing about this whole Nemesis system is making me wish that game developers would learn a powerful lesson: Putting in systems that encourage organic, self-propelling mini-stories will do your game far better than hyper-complex QTEs or expensive voice acting.

Unfortunately, it seems more likely that the lesson they'll take away is "shove your game into a well-known but completely incongruous license and rake in the cash".

I remember the first time I lost one of my branded captains at the hands of a warchief he was attempting to usurp, I actually cried out "No!" loud enough to bring my roommate running asking me what happened. As it turned out, that was also the last time I let that happen to one of my wretched beautiful babies. Thanks game for making me have feelings for an Orc other than hatred and disgust.

Charcharo:
What I see is that this is finally a game that uses some of STALKER's tricks ? I must play it then...

IS it not time for you Yahtzee to make a STALKER Call of Pripyat review? During a low period?
Nah, you wont.... you casual :D ...

Yahtzee reviewed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky a few years ago, but that may have been enough for him. Although it would be worth it to bring back the "spell-out-each-individual-letter-in-S.T.A.L.K.E.R." gag.

OT: Now I HAVE to get this game, if only to brainwash my own little spy network of brainwashed Orcs. The last time I felt things for NPC's that much was in C&C:Red Alert 2 and C&C:GENERALS, when I got any nameless unit promoted all the way up to ELITE rank.

For the game's faults, I'm willing to give it some leeway for being the first of a series. Honestly if they just punch up the enemy variety and expand the Nemesis system with more traits/appearances I'd probably be content to buy a sequel regardless of the attached story/characters though I'd certainly LIKE to see those get a major overhaul. Mounted orcs, climber orcs, enemy wraiths, Fell beasts, some other baddies that can keep up with Talion so running away isn't so easy along with some other harder enemy types like trolls or Nazgul. But Talion is also going to need to come back a bit weaker too no matter what, the ability to insta-mount Caragors and Graug lategame makes them inconsequential as enemies, and even just the basic bow with a Focus recharging rune becomes an army-killer by the end.

Darth_Payn:

Charcharo:
What I see is that this is finally a game that uses some of STALKER's tricks ? I must play it then...

IS it not time for you Yahtzee to make a STALKER Call of Pripyat review? During a low period?
Nah, you wont.... you casual :D ...

Yahtzee reviewed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky a few years ago, but that may have been enough for him. Although it would be worth it to bring back the "spell-out-each-individual-letter-in-S.T.A.L.K.E.R." gag.

OT: Now I HAVE to get this game, if only to brainwash my own little spy network of brainwashed Orcs. The last time I felt things for NPC's that much was in C&C:Red Alert 2 and C&C:GENERALS, when I got any nameless unit promoted all the way up to ELITE rank.

The Yahtzee from there is not the same as the Yahtzee now. He likes this game which has some elements from STALKER. He is also more of a PC fan now as well.

I do know he made a Clear Sky review. :P Who knows it may end up like his love for Demons Souls :P

I love Shadow of Mordor, but it's main quest is the only actually good story in it (sans the ending). See, an equivalent amount of effort will always produce a better written story than it will a randomly generated one.

Not that I'm against the concept, I'd be quite interested to see the nemesis system combined with the radiant quests from Skyrim in the next elder scrolls game. Something like you hunt down a bandit captain with randomly assigned traits and he begs for mercy as he is about to die. If you let him live he'll reveal that the only reason he was banditing was because X other bandit captain was holding his sister hostage and forcing her brother to steal for him. You then get a quest to take care of the second bandit captain, etc, etc, etc. It's take a lot of variables and work to be interesting, and would require more options that kill or dominate, the NPCs involved would have to feel like real people to an extent.

That said, the same amount of effort could be used to write a ton more side quests for an elder scrolls game or any RPG. Perhaps something for a new IP or the next Middle Earth: game to explore (it'd have to use humans, dwarves, or elves, not orcs, as they're not very relatable).

Xsjadoblayde:
State of decay has this oft self generated storytelling, aside the whole 'teh zombies again?' thing. Very intriguing. I would imagine the healthier the imagination, the deeper the story, no? The only issue is not all gamers like to squeeze their imaginatory glands.

Haru17:
I love Shadow of Mordor, but it's main quest is the only actually good story in it (sans the ending). See, an equivalent amount of effort will always produce a better written story than it will a randomly generated one.

I think it depends...compare XCOM and Skyrim

in XCOM my actions affect the game, Sarah "skippy" Brown my favourite solder who performs like a champ and turns out to be "the special" is the hero of my game,my actions affect the game, which solders live and die, their abilities... in skyrim I can craft the most engaging and awesome backstory but the game doesn't care

I have a rather troublesome "Buth the Poet" that has come back SEVERAL times and I cannot get a beheading on him at all. All my kills with him are arrows or simple sword strikes so he keeps popping up again.
That is the very soul of the "Nemesis" system.

Jandau:
The big problem with the Nemesis system (which I generally consider to be an awesome thing) is that it "punishes" people for being good at the game. You need to fail for it to really kick in. If you are too efficient and hunting down high ranking orcs you can easily end up pretty much amputating one of the game's major mechanics. And when I find myself saying "Alright then, let's get killed a few times to shake things up!", that kinda takes me out of it...

Again, I do think that Nemesis is a great concept and the implementation isn't bad, just that it (or other similar systems) need more work in the future.

As much as I love the game, I have to agree with this. Even more frustrating is that it's such an easy fix: as it is, the Nemesis system only progresses when you are killed, or if you specifically hit the 'fast forward time' button - which requires you to willingly forego whatever missions you have on the map, and no one wants to lose out on XP and content if they don't have to. The fix to this is to simply have time progress independently of your actions, a la Skyrim, or even just after you complete a set number of actions - with more actions available than you have time to complete.

That way, it doesn't take you dying for the Orcs to have one of their offscreen power struggles. Personally, I'd prefer a Skyrim style day and night cycle as it would reward efficiency - if you're quick in resolving a power struggle, you can use that time to interfere in some other orc's business. Conversely, it would really amp up the frustration (in a good way if you had a list of 'red' missions you'd prioritised to get down in that day, only to find one of them difficult and time consuming. You may eventually kill that incredibly tough uruk during his feast, but if he's delayed you sufficiently you no longer have time to assist your thrall in his duel with the captain above him, you're really going to hate that uruk. If he then comes back, well you've got another reason to call him your nemesis.

Such a simple change to the system, but I think it would open up so many more paths to crafting your own narrative.

To be honest, I thought that's how the system was going to be when I checked out their gameplay videos before release. I was a little disappointed when I realised the (awesome) weather effects and night cycle only seemed to change when I died, or entered a story mission.

I would also have happily accepted them placing certain captains on the map who simply can't be beaten until you acquire a certain skill, and having them there right from the start. I feel having to frantically escape when a captain you simply aren't good enough to beat shows up unexpectedly would add a much needed fear component to the Nemesis system - it's much easier to hate Pash Life-Drinker when you're scared he could show up anytime and wreck your plans. You'd then have that much more drive to boost your own power, working towards the satisfaction of one day finally besting him.

In most games, invincible enemies suck. In a game where you dying is allowed in and furthers the plot, I think they'd have been awesome. Especially when that game is open world, giving you chance to escape - and chance for them to track you down organically.

There's tons of room for expansion with the intel/strengths and weakness system too, but this post's already getting into TL;DR territory.

Even with its flaws, the Nemesis System is a great foundation for the obvious sequel this game will have, or even for other games to take similar paths. I'm sure it can be improved in tons of ways. One thing I would have changed, is that the Brand mechanic should have some form of time limit, or a % chance element that would alove an Uruk to snap out of it and ruin your plans. And it would also stop you from branding every single fella out there, which happened to me in the second map, turning it pretty boring :(

Jandau:
The big problem with the Nemesis system (which I generally consider to be an awesome thing) is that it "punishes" people for being good at the game. You need to fail for it to really kick in. If you are too efficient and hunting down high ranking orcs you can easily end up pretty much amputating one of the game's major mechanics. And when I find myself saying "Alright then, let's get killed a few times to shake things up!", that kinda takes me out of it...

Again, I do think that Nemesis is a great concept and the implementation isn't bad, just that it (or other similar systems) need more work in the future.

This pretty much. As someone who played the arena modes of Arkham City extensively I found the combat in Shadow of Mordor quite easy to get into. After maybe two deaths to a captain in the first hour I didn't suffer another death for the reminder of the game. This in turn meant that the supposedly climactic "Nemesis battle" in the end was me being pitted against that same level 9 Captain that had killed me twice in the first hour and had been completely gone ever since.

To me, the Nemesis system was a disappointment because of that. I slaughtered most everyone in the hierarchy of the first area and had dominated those I had two in the second area. Whatever procedural stories might have evolved from the Nemesis system was lost because I was too good at the game and instead of getting lots of cool stories about "that captain that kept killing me" all I have to tell is a bunch of stories about me killing or branding every captain I came across with only the occasional captain managing to escape.

So game developers can probably learn from this, sod the main story and just have one built like this Orc system in SoM. Well, I think it would be interesting to see the results of.

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