Monolith Productions' Tolkien tie-in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is being sternly kept at arm's length from the official canon of the movies (which is why there's nothing about Lords, Rings or Hobbits in the game's title), and the game's story is pretty basic. The protagonist, Talion, returns from being murdered to find that he is an immortal warrior whose body is fused with an amnesia-afflicted wraith spirit, and the only way to solve their collective plight is to run all over Mordor chopping off orc heads and grabbing collectibles.
What really made Shadow of Mordor stand out was its introduction of the innovative and pretty ingenious Nemesis System, which can imbue any random enemy with a name, personality and fighting style, and upgrade their strengths and fortitude each time they successfully kill the player. While player upgrades are nothing new in action games, Shadow of Mordor is unique in the sense that the game rewards itself for beating the player by making their nemesis even harder to kill.
This celebrated aspect of gameplay is the subject of a new trailer for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor that was screened at the recent Video Game Awards, where Shadow of Mordor walked away with the prize for Best Action/Adventure Game. The trailer celebrates the best-reviewed aspect of the game, with the added bonus of giving it a bit of an extra marketing push as the gift-giving season begins.
Described in the press release as "fan-inspired," this trailer seems to be made up entirely of actual gameplay footage and "celebrates users’ unique experiences with their own personal Nemesis." Everyone who plays the game will find their own Nemesis and it's possible to build up an infinite number of mortal enemies, strengthening them in battle before taking them down at the height of their power.
It's the small touches that make the system work, such as the orcs expressing surprise at seeing a man they killed come back to life or pointing to a scar and reminding the player that they were the one to give it to them. Fight an orc enough times and they'll almost start to feel like an old friend - though probably not the kind of friend that you'd invite to a birthday party.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is available now for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC.