If you read one of my columns last month, you know I've been playing and enjoying the heck out of Destiny 2 (which some readers seem personally offended by for some reason, but that's a topic for another day). Something about the changes Bungie has made to the series have really clicked with me, and kept me coming back night after night.

However, the life of a professional gamer isn't that easy, and while I would love to indulge in the hedonistic pleasures of playing the same game forever and ever simply because I enjoy it, it is my sworn duty to evaluate and explicate on the latest releases for the benefit of my dear readers. Seriously – I swore an oath when I started working at G.I., and I don't intend to break it.*

Anywho, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is the hot new game this week, and while I originally intended to write another long and rambling impressions piece and then force Jeff Cork to proofread it, a clear focal point** has emerged from my play sessions: the Nemesis system.

I was a huge fan of Shadow of Mordor's procedurally generated orc hierarchy (or hierorcy if you will...You won't? Fair enough), and Monolith has clearly focused on improving and expanding the system for its sequel. Within a few hours, my in-game world was populated by a host of interesting and unique orcs who had all made the fatal mistake of getting on my bad side. So without further ado, here are my biggest nemesises in Shadow of Morewardor.

Note: You can click the images for bigger...images. You know what I mean.

Tarz The Humiliator
Tarz was one of the first orc captains I came across while trying to learn the bajillion moves and skills Talion has at his disposal, and he more than lived up to his stupid title; after cutting me down in battle, he cracked some one-liner about how easy I was to beat and then disappeared. I mean, I get humiliated in games all the time, but I'm not used to having characters call it out to my face!

The second time I tracked Tarz down, I gave him a good stomping, only to have him throw off my death blow and at sling more taunts at me. Then he disappeared again! How does he do that?! As you can tell by the picture, I finally got the best of Tarz, but I'm guessing he'll probably come back from the grave to give me more guff. Freaking Tarz.

Ronk The Tark Slayer
It didn't take me long to completely break Shadow of War. Ronk was just some random lackey orc who got in a lucky final blow while I was still learning the ropes. But unlike that jerk Tarz, there was something oddly endearing about Ronk. For starters, he seemed really happy when he killed me, and gave himself the title of The Tark Slayer, because I guess I'm a Tark. Maybe I'm just a sucker for underdog stories, but seeing him get a promotion kinda made me happy for him.

That didn't stop me from cutting him down the next time I ran into him, but he took the defeat well, and christened me The Tark Slayer Slayer. So maybe he isn't the brightest guy, but at least he's a gracious loser! In fact, when he popped up later in the game (orcs sure do cheat death a lot in Mordor), I was so happy to see him that I just ran away. I'm hoping I can keep getting him promoted all the way up to Nazgul.  

Noruk The Envenomed
This Gremlins extra-looking jerk has been way off in the southwest corner of Minas Ithil on a caragor hunting mission for the entire game so far, and I'm simply not going that far out of my way just to kill another orc. I think he realizes it too – look how smug he is! You can also tell by his complexion that he's been out in the countryside way too long. Put some sunscreen on, Noruk!

Bagga The Runner
Speaking of no-show cowards; I ran into Bagga once while flipping across the rooftops of Minas Ithil like a lunatic. I winged him with an arrow, and he instantly retreated. I haven't seen him since. Ah well, at least his title is accurate.

Hork Man-Breaker
Hork, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. I can't remember for certain, but I think Hork was part of a main mission, and was way more powerful than me when I went up against him. Rather than taking him head-on (pun somewhat intended), I baited a giant graug, which pounded on Hork until he was almost dead. Unfortunately, the two idiots chased each other out of the mission zone, and when I followed to finish him off, I failed the mission.

I restarted it, and apparently must've beheaded him at the end of the battle? I'll be honest, I barely remember any of it – I'm not a great hero, and I definitely shouldn't be entrusted with the One Ring. Or the Second One Ring, which Celebimbo can apparently forge whenever he damn well feels like it because nothing J.R.R. Tolkien wrote matters anymore.

Ushak The Agonizer
You certainly can't tell from his appearance, but this is the character that Kumail Nanjiani plays, and he wasn't lying when he told Conan O'Brien that Monolith screwed him over – he doesn't sound anything like an orc! They just put his normal voice in there! It's so embarrassingly out of place that he's painful to listen to – maybe that's where the "Agonizer" title comes from?

Regardless, I wasted no time putting Nanjiani out of his misery, only to realize immediately afterwards that I should've waited until I unlocked the domination ability so I could recruit him.*** Thankfully, Nanjiani popped back up later in the game, and I've been running away from him ever since just to keep him alive.

Ogbur The Undaunted
Awww. I don't even remember li'l Oggy, but I like his confidence; despite being small and sickly, he still named himself "The Undaunted." Unfortunately, he's dead now. Mordor is a mean place.

Coming Up Next: A bunch more orcs I'll be exacting my revenge on. In theory, anyway...

*Granted, I wrote and pledged the oath to myself while Andy repeatedly told me it was unnecessary and weird, but it's still an oath, dammit! (back to top)
**Although, a secondary and equally important talking point is the fact that Shelob is a now sexy Milla Jovovich lookalike for some reason. What the hell is that about?! I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings nerd, but even I know that Shelob is supposed to be a giant freaking spider! And yeah, maybe she has some magical shapeshifting powers, but of all the things she could change into, "half-naked white woman" feels just a little too in line with some corporate executive's idea of what the stereotypical mouth-breathing Gamer wants to see. I'm surprised it's not included as a bullet-point on the back of the box. More importantly, though, if Shelob can turn into a sexy woman on a whim, why isn't she ALWAYS a sexy woman? Trapping human snacks would be a helluva lot easier! (back to top)
***Quick side note: What's with all the weird sexual nomenclature in this series? You're always dominating someone or humiliating them or pinning or mounting them...something weird is going on at Monolith. (back to top