Team Ninja Should Reinvent The Morale System For Rise Of The Ronin

It has the potential, but needs a significant overhaul.

Story Highlights

  • Rise of the Ronin is almost here, and it is more of Team Ninja’s gameplay goodness but in an open world this time.
  • Wo Long’s Morale system was pretty creative but full of flaws too, such as tedious flag hunting.
  • Rise of the Ronin has the opportunity to take the best parts of the Morale system to create a more well-balanced implementation.

Samurai and Shinobis have always fascinated everyone interested in Japanese culture, and I’m certainly one of those people. Thus, getting to play as one was such a blissful feeling. Games like Tenchu, Ninja Gaiden, and Onimusha are some of my most cherished childhood memories. Speaking of which, what I wouldn’t give to see FromSoftware work on another Tenchu. Sekiro, too, was inspired by it, and we all know how much of a masterpiece it is. 

Although these series are works of the past, Team Ninja has brilliantly kept the ninja/samurai fantasy alive in the modern era. Nioh proved to be one of the best Souls-like works, and it also takes many liberties to spice up the formula. Next was Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, which took the setting to ancient China and introduced certain creative mechanics like the Morale system. And now, we’re back to the samurai roots of Feudal Japan in Team Ninja’s Rise of the Ronin.

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An Open-World Samurai Game By Team Ninja? Take My Money

This year’s TGA was one hell of a ride. It was filled with intense showdowns against 2023 many giants, but above all, it was jam-packed with exciting reveals and showcases. Although I was saddened by the absence of Elden Ring in it, Souls-like fans had certain other treats to enjoy. These included Black Myth: Wukong and to some extent Rise of the Ronin. The latter is not exactly your conventional Souls-like but is more of a Samurai-focused action game characteristic of Team Ninja.

Team Ninja has stuck pretty closely to the whole shinobis and samurai premise, as I mentioned earlier. Its big names include the Ninja Gaiden series, Nioh, and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, and you can see the pattern here. At first glance, Rise of the Ronin might seem like more of the same, but there’s a twist this time around. Team Ninja is leaning slightly towards the Ghost of Tsushima style, as well as Elden Ring, and going full open-world.

Rise of the Ronin New Info: A Mix of Assassin’s Creed, Ghost of Tsushima, and Dark Souls, Romance Options Planned, Numerous Side-Quests.
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Whether this will be for better or worse remains to be seen, but I’m certainly excited. If one thing, Team Ninja hasn’t messed up the combat in its games. The mechanics have a steep learning curve and are somewhat complicated, but when it all connects and you achieve mastery, there’s nothing more satisfying. And Team Ninja’s combat style in an open-world setting filled with stuff to explore, areas to traverse, and being the baddest Samurai in town is a potential I’m betting everything on.

It's only glimpsed, but Rise of the Ronin looks like another brilliant Team Ninja combat showcase.
It’s only glimpsed, but Rise of the Ronin looks like another brilliant Team Ninja combat showcase.

Wo Long’s Morale System Was Creative But Flawed

As excited as I am for Rise of the Ronin, I feel like it should take some pointers from its predecessors after omitting their flaws. One such mechanic that can suit Team Ninja’s latest venture is the Morale system of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. It was an ingenious addition that made the game stand out from the established Souls formula and gave the combat an additional spice. However, some of its choices were pretty flawed, and I hope those can be fixed.

The Morale System
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So, what exactly is this Morale system? In a nutshell, it was Team Ninja’s attempt at WB’s Nemesis system. Since it couldn’t be blatantly used because of the patent, Team Ninja found a roundabout way to introduce a similar but weaker version of the system. How it works is that both you and the enemies have a number, which represents the Morale. Enemies with higher Morale than you are pretty difficult to take out, and if someone kills you, their Morale shoots up.

You can slowly build up your Morale by eliminating enemies, but if you die, you end up losing it to the enemy unless you save it by finding a checkpoint. It feels like a complicated difficulty layer, but it shouldn’t have been as complex as the game made it. Similarly, tying Morale’s progress to checkpoint detection, and having to do this all over in NG+ was a pretty critical flaw. Just to stand a chance against higher enemies, do I have to go flag-hunting?

The Flag / Morale system is incredibly annoying in NG+
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Rise Of The Ronin Should Make The Morale System More Natural Than Forced

I want Rise of the Ronin to adopt the Morale system, as it has a ton of potential, but not without making some very necessary changes. The first thing is to remove the Morale system progress link to the checkpoint-hunting process. Since it is an open world, it won’t feature the Souls-style checkpoint system anyway, and it’s the prime opportunity to rework the Morale system, too. It should be naturally integrated with the game’s mechanics.

How can that be done? Here’s my suggestion. Your character should start with a fixed Morale value, and each successive region’s grunts should have a set base value. You could kill the enemies to keep raising your morale, but if you die to an enemy, your morale should be reduced significantly, but not below the base value of that particular region, and the enemy who killed you should get a large Morale boost. 

In this way, you can either go straight to that enemy and keep trying to eliminate him, as even if you die you can still complete the region since your Morale won’t drop below the area’s minimum. Or you can farm for higher Morale and get your revenge. This should keep the mechanic a lot more natural and versatile, as compared to Wo Long where you need to get all flags to stand a chance as the enemies’ Morale keeps on increasing.

Tying Morale to the checkpoint system was a bad design choice.
Tying Morale to the checkpoint system was a bad design choice.

Morale Shouldn’t Make Skill Irrelevant In Rise Of The Ronin

This is another one of my major complaints about Wo Long’s usage of the Morale system; it practically governs everything in a battle. Once an enemy’s Morale gets higher than you, he essentially becomes a monster. He’ll take meager HP and stagger damage, and dish out a ton on you. Because of this, you’re practically forced to go and hunt for flags, as having a flag prevents your Morale from falling any lower.

I love the game but I think the flag mechanic is annoying over the long haul
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As I mentioned earlier, the first thing Rise of the Ronin should do is put certain rules on the Morale gain and loss based on the area you’re currently exploring, but another important aspect is to make sure it doesn’t overwrite everything you learn about the game’s combat. You should be able to beat enemies with higher morale than you if you’re skilled enough in the game. Morale should buff an enemy, yes, but not to the extent that it makes everything else irrelevant.

Moreover, once you survive the storm of the game’s NG, the Morale system should reflect your growth in how it carries over to the NG+. Wo Long has you hunting for the flags all over again, which is highly tedious. My suggestion to remedy this would be to start NG+ with the maximum Morale value possible in NG, and then scale the enemies to this new base value and raise its maximum cap. This would be a very efficient solution and make the system a lot more valuable to combat effectiveness.

I'm not the only one who finds this concept's implementation flawed.
I’m not the only one who finds this concept’s implementation flawed.

I Couldn’t Get The Nemesis System, But Morale Has The Potential To Be A Strong Alternative

After all that, you must have gotten the idea of how keenly I observed the Morale system to come up with possible solutions to its problems. It’s all because I’m a massive fan of the original Nemesis system. Although I loved The Lord of the Rings in general, the thing that fascinated me the most in Shadow of Mordor was without a doubt the creative enemy AI system. Seeing a game world and its inhabitants grow in real time was an overwhelming feeling I can’t describe.

The Nemesis system was one of the most fascinating gaming mechanics I came across.
The Nemesis system was one of the most fascinating gaming mechanics I came across.

And what use was it? Its fate was to be locked away by WB. It’s honestly a shame, WB has such a creative mechanic, yet it refuses to use it properly. I can name several titles that can use this system to its best, but will it become a reality? I don’t think so, no. Any hope I had of its proper return till now has been snuffed, too, as WB is now all about live-service games, and it’ll use even the Nemesis system to make more cash.

The nemesis system in Middle-Earth Shadow of War is the best gaming innovation in the past 20 years and it’s insane that WB is doing nothing with it
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You know what’s even more cruel? WB didn’t let anyone make good use of the Nemesis system, either. Before someone could give the mechanic the implementation it deserved, WB patented it. It’s precisely why I hate the patent system when it comes to game mechanics. The Morale system shows how much good Team Ninja could’ve done with the proper Nemesis system. But, no use lamenting it now, Team Ninja has the chance to make the Morale system a splendid mechanic in Rise of the Ronin, and it should seize it.

Rise of The Ronin has a release date now, arriving exclusively for the PS5 on March 22, 2024.

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Hanzala is a dedicated writer who expresses his views as opinion pieces at eXputer. He's always been fascinated by gaming, and an avid consumer of a multitude of different genres for over a decade now. His passion for games has him eager to encounter the latest RPGs and actively look for new Soulslike to challenge. He puts forth his experience and knowledge of gaming into captivating opinion pieces. Experience: 8+ months

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