One Thing to Ruin It All: Shadow of War's Microtransactions
Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Okay, so Monolith has its work cut out for it with Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The first game in the series had one selling point. Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System is great. It would promote Orcs who killed or survived an encounter with the player and would make them stronger, giving people specific leaders to target to destabilize Sauron’s army and acquire runes. But, that ended up being the only real exciting point of the game. The rest was rather ordinary, as evidenced by its price dropping as low as $2.49 during Steam sales.

You would think the main focus for Shadow of War would be making the game more engaging and memorable. Because having a AAA game’s price drop 94% within three years isn’t exactly great. I mean, it isn’t terrible. The game is coming up on its third birthday. But it seems like Monolith should be focusing on fixing things people took issue with last time, instead of making sure microtransactions are in there the moment the game launches.

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Yes, that is among the latest Shadow of War news. Rather than make guarantees that previous issues will be addressed, Monolith is making sure an additional revenue stream is in place first. That means people will be able to buy gold to make themselves stronger, faster. That means you can buy XP boosts to level up Talion, your avatar, War Chests with Orc followers and Training Orders to boost their experience, and Loot Chests that offer XP Boosts and rare and epic weapons. While these can be bought with Mirian, the in-game currency, or Gold, Monolith made sure to mention that Gold will let people buy higher level XP Boosts, Loot Chests, and War Chests.

Already, this is problematic. In part, because there are other issues we needed assurances about instead. Shadow of Mordor got to be repetitive after a while. Especially since there were no “real” villains with personality, instead only new Orcs that had managed to make something of themselves due to surviving or getting in lucky shots. The plot wasn’t anything amazing, since it was basically sending you to go to a place, kill little guys, kill a big guy, then go to another place to do the exact same thing. Talion and Celebrimbor. Instead of being assured of more personality from Nemesis System Orcs and more purpose, we’re getting microtransactions.

Worse, the Shadow of Mordor microtransactions sound like something that could break a game. While Monolith has made assurances in its forums that the game will be balanced, so someone doesn’t have to pay real money to get these Loot Chests, War Chests, and XP Boosts to keep up, the Social Conquest and Ranked Online mode says otherwise. In Social Conquest, you prepare a captured fortress, purchasing upgrades and placing overlords and captains from their followers there. Don’t you think people using Gold on those microtransactions will have more formidable fortresses? Or that someone assaulting another’s fortress and spending money on their army would get a higher place in the ranking? 

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Considering ranked mode will also kill any of the attacking army’s followers permanently if they fail, people who pay will be in a better place to keep assaulting others. The extra followers they will get from War Chests will keep their armies from dwindling. They will have the extra XP for these new orcs. Even if they fail against your fortress, they can immediately come back, perhaps stronger than ever. And will it really be fun to challenge others when you know some fortresses will have real gold behind them, backing them up?

Some people may wonder if Monolith is attempting to sabotage Shadow of War. Making sure a microtransaction system is right there at launch, so it is possible to immediately start taking money from players for instant power, can feel quite greedy. Also, why would this be one of the major talking points ahead of the game’s release? Shouldn’t it be focusing on why the sequel’s story will be more engaging and villains more unique? It is a shame that the dialogue is about what extra things people will be able to buy, rather than the ways in which the game will build on its predecessor.

Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada
JMariye

Site Editor
Date: 08/08/2017

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