This Skyrim mod recreates the best part of Shadow of Mordor: the nemesis system

Skyrim man fighting wolf
(Image credit: Bethesda)

As a heroic adventurer, it's easy to cleave your way through mobs of enemies, leaving a wake of anonymous corpses behind you. Who were they? What were their names? There's little reason to know or care. And even if one of them is tough enough to defeat you, you can just reload your last save and try again until you kill them, the ultimate cheat code.

But 2014's Shadow of Mordor added a compelling wrinkle with its nemesis system. When an uruk or orc defeated you, it would receive a promotion and rise within Sauron's ranks. It'd grow in power and get a catchy nickname, becoming far less anonymous. Your nemesis suddenly felt like an actual character, turning combat with them into bitter grudge matches. Random orcs even became famous in some circles.

Now you can experience those grudge matches in Skyrim too. The Shadow of Skyrim - Nemesis and Alternate Death System mod makes any enemy who defeats you into your nemesis, from dragons to trolls to bandits to, yes, even mudcrabs.

The biggest change is that now when you fall in battle you don't actually die, you're just knocked out. Instead of reloading your last save, you'll wake up somewhere else on the map. Some of your gear may be gone—in fact, your nemesis might actually be using your weapons and armor if it's superior to their gear. You may also have a debuff: for example, if your nemesis defeated you with a power attack, you might gain the "off-balance" attribute meaning you're more susceptible to being knocked down in combat. Your nemesis, meanwhile, has grown stronger and may have improved stats and a new buff of their own, making them even harder to defeat.

And of course you have a new quest in your log: revenge. Find your nemesis and destroy them. It's the only way to remove those debuffs, and you won't stand for some bandit jerk to be out there using your favorite sword, right?

I've played with Shadow of Skyrim a bit today and while it's not perfect (especially the respawning system), it's still pretty darn enjoyable. Outside Whiterun with my level 1 character, I let a wolf defeat me. I woke up unarmored in a cave, and most unfortunately, there was a troll standing about five feet away. The troll instantly mauled me and I woke up somewhere else, this time thankfully with no enemies around.

But I had my first two nemeses! They were shown on the Shadow of Skyrim menu as "Confident Wolf" and "Dangerous Frost Troll" and I had the ability to track them as quests. I also had two new debuffs: one made my attacks against animals weaker, and one lowered my encumbrance. I quickly found my lost gear and defeated the wolf (it wasn't using my weapons, probably due to a lack of thumbs), then tracked down the troll and killed it, dispelling my debuffs.

I also tried it with human enemies. I strolled into Warmaiden's and started punching Ulfberth War-Bear until he drew his massive hammer and beat me to a pulp. When I woke up in Dragonsreach he had a new title, "Ulfberth War-Bear Belly-Piercer," which doesn't really inspire fear. A nameless Whiterun soldier I picked a fight with also beat me, and his name became "Guard Mickal the Sunderer," which is a bit better. And naturally I let a mudcrab defeat me. It had to be done. It was given the name "Gargantuan Mudcrab" even though it remained pretty teeny. But I imagine it's got quite the confidence boost now.

Shadow of Skyrim is a bit of a bear to get installed if you're starting with a clean vanilla version of Skyrim Special Edition or Skyrim Anniversary Edition (or Skyrim SEVR). Shadow of Mordor has a half-dozen other mods it's dependent on, like SkyUI and SKSE, and some of those mods have their own dependencies, plus there are different versions of several of the mods depending on which version of Skyrim you're running. Start at the Shadow of Skyrim mod page, which will tell you what you need to get it running. I'd also suggest using the Vortex mod manager.

There's also currently an issue with random encounters—if you're defeated by some nameless rando they'll vanish from the world along with whatever gear they've taken off you. If you're worried about losing your precious stuff, you can also turn off this feature in the mod's menu.

Here are some interesting additional details from the mod's page:

  • In order to prevent issues, enemies that are quest-related, essential, or summoned cannot become your Nemesis.
  • By default, enemies 25 levels above the Player will not become your Nemesis when they defeat you. This is meant to prevent you from having Nemeses that are too difficult to beat; this option can be disabled/customized.
  • If you are defeated somewhere you cannot re-enter, the game will have autosaved and you will die normally and return to the Main Menu so that you can reload your last save. Returning to the Main Menu prevents the Save Reload bug.
  • If someone (like an NPC) also kills your Nemesis, or they die, the Player's Debuff will be removed, but no Reward Buff will be awarded since you didn't kill the Nemesis.
  • You may have up to 5 Nemeses at any given time. If your Nemesis slots are full, no new enemies can become your Nemesis. This is to prevent the Player getting rid of undesirable Debuffs by dying over and over again.
  • Reward Buffs and Debuffs are only permanent until your 5 slots are full. Afterwards, the oldest Reward Buff/Debuff will be replaced by the newest Reward Buff/Debuff
  • Your followers can optionally revive you if you fall in battle. Followers have a limited time to defeat your enemy and revive you. When revived, you will not suffer any defeat penalties and you will recover a portion of your full health.
Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.