The Nemesis System first turned up in Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Defeated Orc heroes could return in future missions to shout insults and seek revenge. They had strengths, weaknesses, and defined personalities. Some were cowardly and sneaky, some were huge, brawny brawlers. It's a great system that generates great stories, and more game series should steal it. But which games would benefit from the system most? The PC Gamer team has a few ideas...
Chris Livingston: Cities: Skylines
I'd love something like the Nemesis system in a game like Cities: Skylines, where an unhappy citizen (I always have many, many unhappy citizens (opens in new tab)) could stand out a bit. Since you already get citizen complaints on Chirper (Skylines' version of Twitter) it would be cool if one citizen would really step things up if he was unhappy with garbage collection problems or that fact that his home was waste-deep in sewage and corpses. They could stage protests, wave angry little signs, write petitions, refuse to pay taxes, maybe even attempt to oust you from office. Bulldoze his house and maybe he'll return after buying a skyscraper or taking over one of your town's biggest businesses. I tend to get obsessed with NPCs as it is (opens in new tab), so it would be nice if one of them would get obsessed with me from time to time.
James Davenport: Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
Because I'm an idiot and chief of all Moby Dick fan-fiction, I'm thinking a whaling sim set in the Dick Universe that uses something like Black Flag's sailing tech would be a fin-tastic use case for the nemesis system. First, you spec out your mad captain, pinning down their particular fears and origins, from which Nemesis Whales™ will be generated to harass them during the workday. I have no idea what you'll do between whaling ventures, but in combat scenarios, I imagine something like Shadow of the Colossus encounters, but with a Mass Effect party system in which you can stop time and switch characters to queue up specific attacks. Queequeg might be in a smaller boat circling the big bugger with handheld harpoons, while the Ahab archetype stands behind the wheel and issues dodging or ramming commands for the Pequod.
Whales will resemble the colossi in that they'll come in all species and sizes—everything from porpoise to those big blue ones I've come to fear—and they'll require unique tactics to take down. Also, the name generation system will combine short adjectives indicating size with simple nouns. Tremble in fear, for Great Forearm swimmeth.
Jarred Walton: Fallout
The Nemesis System is such a great tool, and it generates some awesome stories, so it's difficult to imagine a game where it wouldn't improve it in some fashion. Imagine dropping it into just about any true RPG world and the results would be glorious. Fallout with Nemesis could end up with battles against raiders that actually mean more than yet another generic shootout. You go into a city where the raiders have been happily picking off passersby for years, wipe them out, and discover one of them lived and now holds a grudge against you and your settlements. Or what if one of the thousands of ants, radscorpions, or bloatflies was to come back with his friends? Even better, a deathclaw nemesis that comes back stronger and uglier each time you defeat it would be terrifying! Please, Bethesda, make it happen.
Tom Senior: Metal Gear Solid 5
I would say XCOM, but War of the Chosen did a nice job of giving us bad guys to hate last year. The Nemesis system is great for giving faceless goons the illusion of agency, and in that sense I think that Metal Gear Solid 5 could actually benefit from of that. The series has very good supervillains—wouldn't it be great to see them emerge from the rank and file soldiery that you're evading and assassinating every mission?
Imagine a captain who, having all his prisoners stolen by Snake, embarks on a journey to thwart him, turning up at inopportune moments in future missions to ruin Snake's day. And imagine that with each appearance the captain's dress and mannerisms become more erratic until they fit in right alongside The End, Vulcan Raven and Revolver Ocelot. They could also receive procedurally generated alter egos with randomised, Metal Gear Solid names like Hornet Dark, Mona Lisa, Bad Giraffe—plus suitably gimmicky weaponry to match.
Austin Wood: Dark Souls
Someone had to say it, and lord knows I'm game for a tailor-made Dark Souls nemesis. Death is very much baked into the Souls recipe, which could be a good opportunity to play up the "You thought I was dead!" side of the Nemesis System and iterate on returning nemeses. I was ecstatic to see Shadow of War expand on that, and Dark Souls' black phantom system is the perfect MacGuffin.
I'm reminded of Patches the Hyena, the merchant who's been kicking hapless players into pits for, what, three games now, Demon's Souls included? Imagine if, instead of an annoying bastard chasing you through the series, you had a tenacious bastard chasing you through the world. They would get harder each time you defeated them, and you'd never know when their phantom would spawn in and throw a wrench in otherwise simple fights. Similar things have been done with NPC questlines already. My mouth waters at the thought of personalized bastards.