Why doesn't every open world game use the Nemesis System?

When Shadow of Mordor came out, I felt that was the most revolutionary thing that had happened to video games in a long time. My mind lit up with all sorts of possibilities for open world games and ever since then I’ve been disappointed when one doesn’t implement their version of this system. The idea of NPCs that can remember you and become important if they happen to get a lucky shot on you and you can go and get revenge on them SHOULD have rocked the gaming industry. But, it just ended up being a one-time thing that only Shadow of War actually built upon? Why didn’t more games try to crib from that system?

I really started thinking about this when Crackdown 3 came out to lackluster reception with the primary criticism being “It’s basically just Crackdown 1 all over again”. Like, if any game would benefit from this system AND have it be narratively justified, it would be crackdown!

The larger question I have at hand here for everyone else, though, is what systems or tech have you seen in games that should have been revolutionary but ended up just showing up in one game and were never seen again?

Other things I remember along those lines, but am not as fixated on, was the Euphoria engine tech (if it could run on the 360/PS3, it should have been MUCH more widely implemented this generation), and Geomod 2.0 (though with that one I know it’s because it’s copyrighted, which, I think tech shouldn’t be copyrighted because you shouldn’t be able to patent MATH but whatever).

Could you imagine how much better that Mad Max game could have been with the nemesis system?


Preaching to the choir here. Maybe Max’s “deaths” could have been that he was dragged out into the wasteland and you had to make your way back to civilization to get your revenge. And with how creative and memorable they could have made your post-apocalyptic nemeses it would have been an absolute joy instead of a grind fest.

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I don’t remember which of the very many lego games had it, but I remember seeing video of this one had couch coop where if the characters were close enough together it would show them on one screen and if they wandered off it would splitscreen and every single third person couch coop game should do that no exceptions.

an example of it about 30 seconds in here: https://youtu.be/x1AYUXoEyZ0


I never understood the notion that the nemesis system be a mechanic that is widely adopted. I mean, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Shadow of Mordor, but even if you liked that game I’m still not sure how it would translate to other games. To have a nemesis system, you need quite a few things in place:

  • A strong hierarchy of enemies, each with their own unique flavor
  • Relationships between enemies in the hierarchy
  • Repeated encounters with each enemy
  • Adaptation of enemies based on information gained from previous encounters
  • Lore explanation as to how you and the enemy can survive repeated encounters

Essentially, to implement a nemesis system properly, you’re making a Middle Earth clone. And with the single player AAA market what it is currently, do developers really want to fight with Warner Brothers over a a small slice of a shrinking market?

Of course, there have been games that have tried their versions of the nemesis system, with XCOM: War of the Chosen being my favorite. But even then, many would rightly consider it a partial implementation of the system. Still, it’s likely the best we’re going to get for the foreseeable future.


I’d really love whatever the next Batman game may be to use this Nemesis system. Imagine having Batman’s rogues gallery, and instead of orcs leveling up, they’re thugs who work for Penguin or Joker or whomever. And the amount of control over Gotham the different arch-enemies have depends on how you, as Batman, play. So there could be similar systems where taking out one villain’s gang means another villain’s gang gets more powerful, and that will alter the endgame. It could be really cool to have a Batman game that had a story where the ultimate villain isn’t entirely pre-scripted, but determined by how you play.


The nemesis system was terrible to be honest. I know everyone sings its praises constantly but its an empty and boring system attached to a genuinely awful video game.


Don’t forget it was also really resource intensive and they had to cut it out basically entirely from the 360/ps3 version.


This would really work in an Assassin’s Creed style game, where you’re removing people of power and either putting people you want in control, or seeing who takes the place of the person you killed.

I still want that Edo period AC game where you’re manipulating the warring clans with assassinations.


Remember that weird leaked footage from last year of what may or may not have been a Warner developed game in the Harry Potter universe? Monolith could implement the nemesis system there pretty easily if they decided to just use the world like they did with Mordor and stopped focusing on the books/movies.

The lore supports enemies coming back because magic which cases death is pretty strictly regulated there, there are hierarcic secret organizations which can be revealed and taken down etc etc. Kind of meets all the criteria other than having swarms of insignificant baddies to defeat.

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The nemesis system is better thought of as the implementation of a specific idea than it is a template to plug other games into. The seed of the idea: what if every single non-player character was a person, with seemingly unique personality traits and attributes? is actually what’s interesting about the nemesis system, rather than the features people have highlighted in this thread that define that system’s implementation of the idea: a hierarchy of enemies, relationships between those enemies, repeated encounters etc.

Why don’t all games implement this idea then? Because it’s costly and time-consuming and hard to market when it’s not about murdering outlandish hierarchies of baddies and Middle Earth did that already. Much like Gears of War, they’ve got first-movers advantage on that shit.


Euphoria was very cool, but if I understand correctly it was also very expensive and involved a lot of work to make it look like it did in GTA4.


My guess is that a nemesis system would inherently require more work on the character design front that would take resources away from the overall design of the game world. I enjoyed Shadow of War immensely but the two game worlds were pretty generic and it didn’t look like much had changed from the sequel based on the two hours I played of it.

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I popped in here to basically say what @keydemographics said. The thing about Shadow of Mordor was that game essentially WAS the nemesis system and while a lot of people fell in love with it immediately I know I’m not alone in having gotten through a chunk of that game and being like “That’s all there is huh?”

A game populated with unique and dynamic NPCs would be the height of cribbing the nemesis system, but I imagine you’d have to sacrifice a lot of other elements to get that to work or your game would just take forever to make and would cost a bajillion dollars. I would liken it to how in order to effectively copy what was so beloved about Breath of the Wild you’d have to at least sacrifice some traditional narrative elements.

All that said … yeah it totally would’ve made sense in Crackdown 3 and they probably should’ve done that.


It is in and of itself something of a cartoonish imperialist system - and one not suited to creating open worlds with dynamic mayhem like a Just Cause game. I was really sad when I finally found my first bounty hunter in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and just kicked him off a roof a couple times - I know nothing about that guy and didn’t get a good fight out of it. I think Rockstar’s games might benefit from abandoning authored content and focusing on this sort of design, but they also would cease to be Rockstar’s games to do so.

The aspect of dominating the NPCs and recruiting them into your own army is…well, again, it’s just imperialism simulation, even if it isn’t about literal enthrallment and slavery. And while many games are successful imperialist fantasies, and some disguise the real world implications better than others, there are also many open world games that AREN’T about that. As someone who doesn’t like Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the best feelings the game evokes is being in town and hoping nobody catches on that you’re planning to fleece the place. It’s a rebellion simulation - and one where I don’t like the rebels much - but not one about constructing a new empire, just one about keeping your family out of the machine’s treads.

As many have noted, the most interesting idea here is having many enemy NPCs with identities, character, and (potentially) cadres that move around the world more dynamically or with more intention than just being part of an authored sidequest. Sometimes, these could work more effectively like bounty hunters in games like Elder Scrolls or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which are flawed implementations. As pointed out above, War of the Chosen does a great job with the Chosen and the Alien Kings - these randomly appearing super powerful enemies that can take a milk run and make it a nightmare.


Mercenaries 3 with the nemesis system.

Do it you cowards!


Would you mind expanding on why it was terrible (both the system and the game)? Is it a meta textual thing or do you just personally dislike it?

I agree the brainwashing elements of Shadow of Mordor/War only make sense/are justified ONLY within the text itself but falls apart on any analysis beyond it.

In fact, I would have liked a system more like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Non-lethal takedowns of enemies and then simply asking them to join you after the fight is over. Though I’d do away with the whole “you can accidentally kill knocked out enemies with a wide swing of your weapon” and replace that with a contextual option.


Since the plot is nonexistent and exists solely to frame the game within its overarching ideology that murdering thousands of random goons counts as some sort of honorable, righteous revenge, the Nemesis system also exists purely to reinforce this as Correct because, you see, they all want to be the leader and any one of them could have given the call to kill your wife so its fine if you go on a murder rampage with no real rhyme or reason. The characterisation that the Nemesis system gives to the orcs is also basically nonexistent, with the only real differing personality traits being the level of comedy on the Comedy Slider that they were set to, because theyre Evil Orcs and doing bad things is just in their nature or whatever.

Meanwhile you’re given ridiculous superpowers where you get to “dominate” them (to the side of ‘good’ of course) with absolutely zero self awareness as to how you have basically no moral stance outside of “kill people who wronged me” and much like the orcs are Automatically Bad you’re just Automatically Good regardless of your actions. You ‘free’ people enslaved by the orcs by opening their cages and leaving them to run through THE ENTIRE OF MORDOR ALONE (its fine though you already filled your Good Person Quota its their problem now), and pretty much all the Good Guy things you can do are almost a parody of good actions in video games. The entire game is so ridiculously black and white in its morality in such a way that it doesnt matter what anyone actually does because all the sides are already decided.


i’m inclined to agree - and in addition would say the scripted characterizations are equally flat, the mission design is mediocre, and the game does little to differentiate itself from an Ezio Assassin’s Creed Game where you’re already so empowered that the Nemesis system’s a little irrelevant to the game itself