Press X to kiss your wife
I was reading Weird Dad Andy Astruc’s loving look at Shadow of Mordor‘s menus, which is basically praise for Mordor‘s Nemesis system. The same system left our own Nic Rowen giddy and, uh, shitfaced. Nemesis’ mechanics, with its ironed out Final Fantasy XII target lines and mind control induced revolt, ties neatly into Mordor‘s story as you set about rounding up an army and organizing a coup d’état.
And playing insurrectionist is fun. It’s fun for the personal stories that can come of it, like Nic’s. It’s fun for the neatly designed system that makes you feel grand orchestrator parallel to individual acts of [Peter Frampton talk box voice] assuming direct control. But then you leave that cool little laser sight trisected screen and have to Assassin’s Creed yourself over to the next random bit of Middle-earth, Red Dead some local fauna along the way, and then Batman counter a bunch of uggos. Because, as Chris Carter noted in his review, the Nemesis mechanic is the only original bit in an otherwise standardized, cannibalized game.
Yes; slick, competently made. Maybe even fun. But still cannibalized, standardized.
When Andy suggested that the next Mordor should be a “Middle-earth open-world dating simulator,” it clicked. The Nemesis mechanic makes so much more sense as some sort of reverse Catherine with you playing Cupid to, in this setting, a bunch of Orcs, or the tiny less creepy halves to The Good Son, or whatever other dumb idiots are in this world. Sean “I’m the asshole in Ronin and also I starred in a bad Hitcher remake” Bean. All them folk.
See. Twitter is for more than just goofing off.
It would be like an omniscient visual novel. You would be Patrick Swayze in Ghost, but with the goal of helping others grind it out on a potter’s wheel instead of being a selfish jerk, not letting Demi Moore move on and almost getting her and Whoopi Goldberg killed. At which point they all would have had to notify Next of Kiln.
You can even keep and repurpose parts of the existing design. Gross invasions of privacy through ghost stealth to pick up on a character’s love interest’s interests. The skill system would be a progression of rom-com tropes. Ghostly-whispered in-ear suggestions for dialogue and game spitting. “My you seem to have bathed in the blood of many Humans today!” You could use the doll display Nemesis menu to send two potential lovers to run into each other at the same quaint, locally owned bookstore. If you level up the skill, they will literally run into each other and share an awkward but endearing dialogue session.
Fuck it, keep the killing in there and intervene like hell when some bigot Elf Dad doesn’t want his daughter marrying a human. Kill the fuck out of that guy.
Mordor has one good, novel idea and it’s couched within a restrictive “fight things” framework that is a pastiche of every major, successful “fight things” frameworks of the last generation. It feels weird to get nostalgic for the PS2-era, but that videogame industry doesn’t exist anymore. The one where “AAA” development could manage “fight things” frameworks that are at least distinct from one another. Some borrowing, maybe, but not copy-pasting with the “orc” slider turned up and the “historically dressed idiots” slider turned down.
The world of Resident Evil 4, God Hand, Viewtiful Joe, Okami. Yes, we have our Demon’s Souls and our Vanquish these days, and we should be happy to at least have that, rather than laud reskinned doppelgangers hammering conventions into place down to control schemes and button mapping. That’s when you start getting the uncanny mimicry of Resident Evil 5, a bad game for bad people. That’s when crap like “detective mode” vision gets shoehorned into everything. Every game becomes a chest-high-wall shooter.
But maybe there is no more large-scale market for Bushido Blade and standalone, learn by doing mechanics rather than console-FPS standardization. There wasn’t even enough of one for Pimp Hand -> Reverse Hell Kick -> Granny Smacker when Godhand launched.
If Mordor signals something for a “new gen” that has taken a year to build momentum, it is a continued conservatism in big-budget design. The glowing reactions to its one original design idea signals our thirst for something alive and new, not, “Like [popular franchise] but [mild difference].”