Middle Earth: Shadow of War is a remarkable game so far: in all of it’s quirks, complexity, and it’s ambition and perhaps it’s stupidity when it comes to Loot crates ( you might have heard of that.)
When the first game launched all the way back in 2014, it was a complete surprise and it was one of the most groundbreaking games in decades and astounding game design: The Nemesis System. Monolith Productions ( F.E.A.R, No One Lives Forever, Condemned and Condemned 2.) has, of course, returned this brilliant system in it’s sequel, Shadow of War. The armies of Sauron that normally would be nameless and bland are transformed into horrifying and colorful enemies. Warchiefs and captains are filled with personality that makes you laugh and kinda cringe a little bit, stories emerge procedural then just a cutscene and each experience is different from a different player.
The nemesis system was something to be delighted about back in 2014: It was fresh, new, and innovating and Shadow of Mordor was so good that it landed on My Game of the Year list which ultimately went to Alien: Isolation that year. Now the system has expanded to include more orcs and more interactions to build your army.
Shadow of War picks up shortly after the end of the original game and that weird ending. The undying human ranger and his ghostly companion have forged a new ring, a powerful weapon that can defeat Sauron and his armies of Orcs. Along with building your army, Talion must team up with bigger allies including an Eleven assassin. The game bridges lore from the Hobbit and LoTR trilogy and yet it takes liberties with the established lore to fit gameplay and world building.
To be quite clear I’m not a big fan of LoTR, I only know of LoTR and The Hobbit because of the movies and I don’t really care for the lore and history of Mordor. I’m only a few hours in so I can’t really explain the whole story except sometimes it’s predictable and self-serious in a way and in a way, it isn’t like many of the open-world games that are out right now: Everything that you do feeds into the overall structure of the world and the larger quest to defeat and conquer evil.
Shadow of War is also a stupid game, a messy one when it comes to a certain feature like Loot boxes and the first act. The first act is a mishmash of the original game, a piling on of features that was first introduced in the original and with the assumption that you have played the game since 2014. Around the end of ACT I, I started to feel a little bit more comfortable with the game and now I’m at the beginning of ACT II, the game is starting to open up a little bit and I’m getting myself into a rhythm. Things started to click in.
The bigger problem with this game and the one feature that makes it so stupid is the addition of microtransactions. From the get go, you can dive into the hype machine and buy a dozen loot boxes but there’s really no point of them and I don’t see the reason why they implemented it into the campaign. You can find armor and weapons around the world if you look hard enough and on top of that, the game encourages to you buy loot boxes so you can get Orcs that are extremely powerful. Does the game forces you to buy them? No. But locking progress and especially locking a second ending because you refuse to buy loot boxes is something that I have a issue with. It feels alot like a mix of greed and predatory.
If you can get past the microtranscations which you can see is my biggest disappointment with this game, especially implementing them in SINGLEPLAYER, Shadow of War looks and seems to provide a meatier and lengthier playtime.
Stay tuned for my review.