Players are loving their orcs in Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Like the first game, Shadow of War features a Nemesis system. It's a system filled with intelligent foes that feel as if they have minds of their own, and most importantly, have a memory like an elephant. Once they meet you, you're likely hard to forget. And they'll keep coming for you, until the end of time. Sometimes, not even death can beat them.
Shadow of War's Nemesis system has been widely expanded for the sequel. There's more orcs than ever before; plus there's trolls now that you can bring over to your side. That's really the core of Shadow of War: making friends with orcs and other beings (at least somewhat, you are technically brainwashing them which is kinda uncomfortable, to be perfectly honest). You recruit them to fight by your side, defend your honor, and in some cases, they sacrifice their own lives for yours.
And then there's the actual enemies. The ones who antagonize you throughout the game. The ones who rise from the dead. The ones who love to get in your face, and pop up when you least expect it. These enemies are smart too, they remember when you last fought, they remember your face clearly. They have scars where you once injured them. They all hold vendettas too. For a lot of players, this is the purest joy to be had from Shadow of War: in the emergent relationships that are borne and broken repeatedly by the Nemesis system.
Redditor TheeAJPowell recalled a special tactic they used on a rescue mission, where after using a the "Poison Tendril" ability, a camp's grog (or, alcohol) supply was tainted. "So he takes a big swig of Grog, wanders a way, starts vomiting etc, and he's down a quarter of his health. And then he goes back for more," writes the Reddit user. "On the third go, he ended up being enraged by his mortal wounds, and taking out a few of his men. And then he walked back over, took another drink, took two steps, then collapsed dead. What made this even better was, some grunts went over to investigate his corpse, but were distracted by the grog. So they drank a couple of cups, and keeled over." The Captain that was the target of TheeAJPowell quite literally drank himself to death.
Others are being reunited with their orc buddies from the first game, Shadow of Mordor. For Redditor HEADQUARTER6wastaken, they remembered the swell times they had with their branded uruk Ratlûg the Blue, executing war captains, fighting other war chiefs, "looking at real estate near the cliffs," they write. Then Shadow of War came around, and the two happy pals were separated. But not for long.
"When I discovered [Ratlûg] during a story mission, I was happy. I freed him, leveled him up, gave him a bunch of upgrades, cursed weapons, his very own gang of warriors, etc..," they wrote. "And then... He betrayed me. He fought me, I got his health down to the point where I could dominate him, I tried to re-recruit him but he had Iron Will. So I shamed him to lower his level and try again. Except, when I shamed him again he became a Maniac. Now I have an unstoppable Level 55 ex-best friend hunting me down across all the regions of Mordor, all while laughing [maniacally]. Every follower I send to try and kill him gets slaughtered. There is no stopping him."
Shaming is a new feature in Shadow of War. Instead of bringing a foe over to your side, say if they have a strong sense of will and are unable to be properly brainwashed, they can be "shamed." Shaming them usually makes their levels plummet, and cause them to become deranged. Alternatively, there's a small chance of mania settling in, making a foe skyrocket levels higher to become an almost-impossible to defeat foe that will hunt you across the ends of Mordor, thirsty for revenge. That is what befell this poor Reddit user's former friend. And they're not alone.
Another player had a similar experience. Redditor RothCrown2 carried their most loyal Shadow of Mordor pal over to the sequel, elated at sharing the journey with them again. Things turned tragic though, Thrak the Destroyer ended up sacrificing himself for anti-hero Talion. The moment was so heartwrenching, that RothCrown2 wished they were the one that died in Thrak's place. So they went on a mission: to avenge Thrak.
The quest didn't go as planned. As RothCrown2 writes on the Shadow of War subreddit, "I found the Orc who killed Thrak. I decided to add him to my army. After a long and hard fight between us, I struck him down to his knees and I had the option to kill him off. But I decided that revenge wouldn't bring Thrak back. I won't kill him but I will kill what made him who he was. I'm putting him on the path to redemption." But then things got hairy, in a second update to the post. "FUCK. THRAK IS BACK AND HE WANTS MY HEAD." All's well that ends well.
There are dozens more stories players have shared about their experiences with Shadow of War. The great thing about them is that no two are the same; they all have their own unique, intricate details, their own friendships forged and broken. They show what made the innovative AI system so groundbreaking and noteworthy in the first place. I, for one, hope to see more developers dance with Nemesis-like systems of their own, like XCOM 2: War of the Chosen has.
Do you have magical stories of friendship and despair to share? Share your own orc-stuffed tales from Shadow of War so far in the comments!