When the Halo Infinite campaign gameplay premiered last year at the Xbox Games Showcase, one thing was clear (apart from the technical issues): this was a more open world Halo, with opportunities to find and make your own stories. But don’t take just my word for it, listen to Joseph Staten (Head of Creative on Halo Infinite) in his first Inside Infinite article:
‘Everywhere I looked, I saw choices: Do I explore off the golden path? Assault that Banished war base guarding the valley pass? Follow a flight of Forerunner Sentinels into that unexpected cavern? Rescue a squad of marines dug-in and desperate halfway up that mountain? Or do I keep pulling the mainline story thread that feels epic and intimate at the exact same time?’
This potential for finding your own moments, such as was epitomised in Halo: Combat Evolved with open missions like The Silent Cartographer, got me thinking when they then teased a look at some of the enemies you’ll be facing in Infinite.
Meet Jega ’Rdomnai, a ‘mysterious and battle-ravaged Sangheili warrior’, introduced in an August issue of Canon Fodder last year:
‘In hushed whispers throughout the ranks of the Banished, Jega ‘Rdomnai’s name is spoken of with care. The blademaster’s history is shrouded in rumor and half-truths. Some say he was an experiment, an affront to his own kind. Others make mention of a clandestine ambush gone wrong. Very few know the truth, fewer still speak of it. One thing is certain: he has hunted demons before, and as the first recruit welcomed into the Hand of Atriox, he will do so again.’
This almost certainly means that these high-ranking members of the Banished will be visible on the world map for Master Chief, or the player, to hunt down. With the personality shown in Escharum, the current war chief of the Banished, and their leader on Zeta Halo, we can surely expect the same character instilled in these captains, right?
But this is all very familiar, and perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. What other game features captains with their own personalities that you can hunt down on the map? Oh, that’s right: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. You might be wondering, then, at the relevance of the title to this article: how on earth does a game from 2014 impact Halo Infinite?
Well, it’s all to do with Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System, which was successfully patented by Warner Brothers this year. For an in-depth analysis at what the Nemesis System is and what it does, I recommend watching Mark Brown’s video: How the Nemesis System Creates Stories. If you’ve never played Shadow of Mordor, though, it’s basically a system by which in-game enemies interact with the player based on your gameplay choices and their consequences.
For instance: run away from a fight, and the Uruk captain will taunt you about it next time you meet; kill the captain, and they have a chance to reappear with scars; burn them, and they will reappear charred; or let them run away, and they will express shame next time you meet. This is an over-simplification of the system, but you get the point: each enemy has a memory of their encounters with you, making your playthrough unique to you and how you play.
Now that the Nemesis System is patented, where does that leave games like Halo Infinite, which could clearly benefit from having high-ranking grunts, elites, and brutes remember their encounters with the Master Chief? Well, it leaves me with the disappointed feeling that these Banished captains will just be markers on a map to go to and simply shoot down. For fans of Halo, I’m sure this is an exciting enough prospect, but what was special about Shadow of Mordor was its theatricality. Every time you encountered a captain, they’d make a speech that was infused with their personality and what they thought of the player’s character, Talion.
Halo has had some great villains over its seven mainline games, such as the Prophet of Truth, Gravemind, and 343 Guilty Spark – all superbly voice acted, and wondrously flawed. The thought of actually getting to experience some of the personalities of the alien factions within the Banished is genuinely exciting. While Chief can’t die and resurrect like Talion in Shadow of Mordor, it would still be fun to explode a brute chieftain with a fusion coil and see him return – his armour burned and pocked with shrapnel, scars adorning his face.
What about the more comical faction of the grunts? A particularly elusive grunt who always gets away, or one that keeps showing up hopelessly determined to defeat Chief would have injected Infinite with such an element of fun and humour.
Shadow of Mordor hasn’t quite maimed Halo Infinite, but the fact that it’s unique Nemesis System is unavailable to use definitely hurts what could have been a truly novel Halo experience. Looking at the concept art for Hyperius and Tovarus from a May issue of Canon Fodder also heightens this point. While it’s possible that 343 Industries could secure a licence to use aspects from Warner Brothers’ Nemesis System, I find it unlikely – and that’s a shame, because it would have been so cool.
But all this ultimately leads to is a larger question on the content in videogames, patenting, and what instances of copying are plagiarism. Recently Epic Games were criticised for launching their Fortnite: Impostors mode, a blatant rip-off of Among Us, a small indie game that rose to popularity through streaming. Marcus Bromander, Co-Founder of Innersloth (developer of Among Us), expressed frustration in a tweet at the instance of plagiarism: ‘We didn’t patent the Among Us mechanics. I don’t think that leads to a healthy game industry. Is it really that hard to put 10% more effort into putting your own spin on it though?’
We have yet to see more of Halo Infinite’s campaign, and so we can’t say for sure how these high-ranking Banished enemies will appear and be implemented in the game. One thing’s for sure though: Shadow of Mordor dug the path for engaging villain interaction, and its influence is still being felt today.
Would you like to see a Nemesis System in Halo Infinite? What are your thoughts on copying elements from other games, or perhaps taking inspiration and evolving them? As always, we’d love to hear from you across all Robot Republic socials.
Furthermore, if you would like to read about the recent Halo Infinite multiplayer flight, be sure to read my Gaming Sandbox article: Halo Infinite Multiplayer Preview - Aiming to Please.
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