How do you follow up a massively popular breakout hit? That’s the question that has faced Monolith Productions since the release of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor in 2014, a game that was incredibly well received by critics and fans alike.
The answer? Expand on everything:
“Shadow of Mordor was our first game open world, third-person action game, so of course we learned huge amounts. So we wanted to take the things that were good about the first game – the combat was strong, the Nemesis system and the Orcs were great, this world and this universe in Mordor were great.
So we really just doubled down on all of those things, just expanded them massively and polished them. Within the combat we added an entire layer of progression, gear, player customisation, new weapons [and] new skills. The Nemesis system we expanded that massively to include not just these unique personal enemies but also followers, so you’ve got whole new types of relationships, even friendships, betrayal, loyalty.
That seems to be the winning formula. Take what works in the first game and expand on it for the second. The Nemesis system was a great addition to Shadow of Mordor, though it definitely felt like the first version of a brand new gameplay system.
It would occasionally create some fun snippets of dialogue with Orcs you’d tussled with before and was great for driving the game forward, but it never quite created that dynamic world or personal relationships that both Monolith and the players wanted. For Shadow of War, Monolith have doubled down on using it to craft those moments:
“You can disappoint them and then dominate them, then piss them off again, then shame them and cast them out, then murder them, then have their best friend turning up wanting to avenge them and then do it all again.”
It’s all about creating a living world that doesn’t just exists as a playground for the player to rampage through, but rather one that the player is a part of.
The core driving principle of Shadow of War is that two players will not have the same experience with the game. The map will be the same, the combat will play the same and the game will still contain the same enemy types – but the Nemesis System, which now drives outposts and fortresses as well as the Orc commanders you’ll encounter, will ensure that no two playthroughs will be the same.
It’s the same promise as Shadow of Mordor, turned up to 11.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War launches on October 10, 2017 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.