Introduced in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor as a novel way for the game to track your actions, the Nemesis system makes villains of even lowly grunts. Any orc who kills undead hero Talion is promoted among his kind, becoming a Captain of greater power and strength. Every conflict with said Captains is logged by the system, and the game remembers who won, which tricks you employed and whether or not you ran away.
Monolith’s unique system has evolved in Middle-earth: Shadow of War into a huge beast, encompassing vendettas among the orcs themselves and Talion’s ability to turn Captains and Warchiefs to his cause and have them fight for and with him. You can even build an army and mount a Siege to claim enemy fortresses and extend Talion and Celebrimbor’s reign over the regions of Middle-earth. It got us to thinking about other franchises that would do well to steal elements of the system, either wholesale or piecemeal, in future releases.
Ok, so Grand Theft Auto already has its fair share of features to keep us coming back for more, and Rockstar still hold the crown as the reigning monarchs of the living open world. But just imagine for a second how cool this would be – particularly the Domination part. Not just content with disabling criminal cartels and law enforcement agencies, you’d now be able to corrupt them from the inside like a big old F-bombing virus. You could totally make it work with multiple protagonists, too, with one turning agents rogue through manipulation and bribery, another turning the local hoods against their bosses, a third steadily planting the seeds of revolution among the biker gangs or Mafia branch. Think about it for a minute. Just think about it.
Red Dead Redemption
Another Rockstar franchise, yes, but this would deal less with the Domination and more with the Nemesis system as it began in Shadow of Mordor. Outlaws in the Old West were a vengeful bunch, always riding out with their posse to settle some feud or vendetta. Imagine a gameworld set in this era with enemies who remember every slight. Every time you beat them at poker, fairly or otherwise; every time you insulted them in public, gave them a whoopin’, stole their horse. It needn’t all be about duels either; lynch-mobs, US Marshals, Pinkertons… Throw them all into the mix and see how long you survive.
Inquisition already gave us a fortress, right? A place to live, plot, scheme and henceforth command our armies. So why not give us a whole pile of enemy fortresses and let us build an army to take them, in real time, with a force we assembled from staunch allies and turned foes. Dragon Age already leans heavily on player choice, so having NPCs remember all your actions is no great stretch, but if you had to be absolutely sure who you could upset and who you to had to keep close in order to save Thedas from itself, that would be pretty cool.
When you get right down to brass tacks, this is a franchise about murdering individuals. Sometimes those individuals have armies, or bodyguards, or entire kingdoms. They all, with good reason, will want your player character dead at some point in the story. Assassin’s Creed has always weaved subterfuge into its gameplay (sometimes in the form of brick-subtle eavesdropping missions, but still…), so there’s ample opportunity to piss off the wrong guy or gal and have them put an APB (or the era-specific equivalent) out on your hooded hero. Enemies who fool you or evade you would be promoted, their defences strengthened, while those you succeed in turning would become informants or protectors. An Assassin’s Creed game where your actions affect the world, not just the story, would be incredible.
Bit of a no-brainer this one, really. Far Cry revels in dropping your solo hero into all sorts of hell-holes teeming with baddies whose bosses are almost always (actually scratch the “almost”) more interesting than your guy. A bit of power play here and there would be a simple thing to include in terms of story and structure. Instead of orc captains you’d have local gang-leaders and cartel enforcers just itching to get their hands on you. Destabilising a fascist or totalitarian regime from the inside while managing personal vendettas drawn against you would be so cool you wouldn’t even need to ride elephants. Unless you want to.