The newest entry into Talion and Celebrimbor’s saga, Shadow of War, recently released amidst what I can only describe as the microtransaction plague. But, are those microtransactions really that bad in Shadow of War? Is the end game really locked behind a pay/grind wall? Do they make the game suck? Let’s look.
Since Shadow of War released, I’ve put a few hours into running around Mordor invoking Middle Earth justice as the Bright Lord. Right now I’m nearly done Act 2 and I think I’ve gathered a lot of intel on what’s what thus far. I have to say, I’ve actually really enjoyed playing it so far, much more than Shadow of Mordor.
Microtransactions and Loot Boxes
First things first, let’s talk about the loot boxes and microtransactions in SoW. Yes, they’re there, yes they can make your life easier. But no, you’re not forced to buy them to progress and real money isn’t your only option. The in-game currency is very easy to come by, significantly easier than I had thought it would be. Lots of missions award very reasonable amounts of currency for completing the bonus tasks, and you can also break down old gear for what I consider a very reasonable return.
So far, I really haven’t felt the need to buy anything extra and I’m sitting with somewhere around 10,000 of the in-game currency, or enough to buy 8-9 loot crates.
Yeah, the options for what loot boxes you can buy without real money are limited, but like I said I haven’t felt a real need to actually spend any real dollars here; unlike NBA 2K18 where it was literally impossible to progress without paying more money.
Even there, finding good (Legendary/Epic) gear in the open world is not a difficult task. So far, all of my gear is purple (Legendary, the highest rarity) and for the most part are higher levels than I am at this stage. Maybe this will change nearing the end of the game, but I honestly can’t imagine that it does. Recruiting Epic or Legendary orcs from the open world isn’t difficult either, find one you really like? Let him kill you a couple of times and he’ll be Legendary before you know it, step 2 recruit him, step 3 ???, step 4 profit.
So, long story short, yes there are microtransactions in Shadow of War, but they don’t feel forced or even necessary. It’s very easy to earn enough in-game currency to supply yourself with the basic crates, unlike the vast majority of other games that have implemented loot crates and made their currency essentially impossible to get without buying.
The gameplay itself is tons of fun. In my opinion, it’s a huge improvement on Shadow of Mordor in basically every way. My biggest gripe is how often you’re running around and how few fast travel towers there are when compared to Shadow of Mordor.
The combat seems to have stayed pretty much the same with the exception of a few changes to how certain mechanics work. The animations aren’t much different (why would they be, its the same character?) but there are some new ones that were added in, some pretty cool executions as well – I effectively turned my Shadow of Mordor nemesis (they transfer over) into something resembling Darth Vader by removing some choice limbs the very first time we encountered each other in this new area.
Building up your orc army adds a huge level of added depth that Shadow of Mordor couldn’t come close to. That said, this is where the vast majority of the grind comes from as you’re effectively “recruiting” or killing every Captain/Warchief in the area.
Going back to the MTs, I don’t feel that the gameplay has been hampered at all by the addition of loot boxes. Like I said previously, I really haven’t felt the need to buy anything yet, but that could definitely change as I get closer to the end.
All-in-all, Middle Earth: Shadow of War feels like a solid addition to the series as it greatly expands upon what Shadow of Mordor offered. The fact that there are loot boxes and microtransactions really doesn’t bug me; they are simply there for the convenience factor, not once have I felt that my only option was to buy a crate to progress, unlike most other games that implement loot boxes.
The gameplay has evolved since the first one, the core mechanics have been expanded upon, and you can not only summon but ride drakes. Not quite the same as riding a dragon like Smaug, but a drake is still pretty awesome.
If you’re completely put off by the MTs, I can understand that. We’re not so different in that regard, I’ve written about my disgust for MTs before and I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before I do it again, but Shadow of War doesn’t give me much reason to complain. I haven’t felt forced, or even required to buy a loot crate yet, let alone spend a penny extra than what the core game cost.
If you don’t have a lot of self-control and you can’t keep yourself from buying MTs, simply don’t play games that include them and you’ll keep more of your $ in your pocket. But, if you can ignore MTs and just play the game without them (assuming the game can actually be played without them *ahem* NBA 2K18) then I think you might actually enjoy Shadow of War.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!