Wot I Think – Middle-earth: Shadow of War

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I never thought I’d be playing Pokémon with Tolkienian orcs, but here I am in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, standing with my army before the fortress of Khargukôr amid the snowy peaks of Seregost.

The orc in charge is a dainty fellow who calls himself Krímp the Rhymer, and I can’t help but admire his fashion sense in this grubby world. That immaculately crafted leather jerkin. That bycocket with the two red feathers that match the shafts in his quiver. Such style. I almost want to let him be. Fortunately he shatters that thought when we meet in person and he blurts the cringy battlecry “Your fate has gone from bad to worse / You face an orc who speaks in verse!” Some crimes can’t go unpunished.

I still need his fortress, and I’d love to spare him and make him a bodyguard, if only for the humiliation factor of rhyming my foes to death. So here’s the deal. The orcs I’ve caught tell me Krímp is immune to fire damage. I’ve brought along a few orc captains I’ve spared and recruited for my little invasion, but I’m certainly not going to bring along Târz Hot-Head, who wields two flaming axes and wears a metal hat with a portable bonfire. No, I’m going to bring along the decidedly non-stylish Olrok the Bloated, who summons dire wolf-like caragors into battle. I’ll also bring along the mountainous troll Ar-Benu Bone-Crusher, not only because I think he’s a badass, but also because he’s arrow proof and thus immune to Krímp‘s arrows. And it all works beautifully. I recruit Krímp to the cause. After all, I gotta catch ‘em all.

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Like so much about Shadow of War, it’s a step forward for the ideas that made 2014’s Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor so memorable. Shadow of War operates under the philosophy that more and bigger are better, and in action the approach usually works.

That’s especially true of the tweaks to series’ wonderful nemesis system, which creates an emergent storyline around the randomly-generated orcs you fight and sometimes fall to. The system makes me think the world could use more orcs especially in this tragically hobbit-free hellscape. Give me someone like Krímp over the two-grumps-in-one protagonist team of the ranger Talion and the elf Celebrimbor team any day. Celebrimbor’s rigid bitterness bored me, but I was glued to the screen when I met Ur-Gram the Tailor. Before Ur-Gram attempts to bisect me with his shield, he meticulously describes his technique for crafting vestments of human skin, which involves a careful blend of pounding flesh into dung and soaking it in caragor brains. Fascinating, no? I’ll even take Tûgog the Maggot, who takes time to show me the white slugs inching through his open sores. The introduction of tribes gives them further personality, such as the Dark Tribe and its fondness for ambushes.

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Time and time again, I loved seeing how they reacted to my actions. I’d ride past a huddle of orcs on my caragor, and Olrok the Sadistic would shout out that caragors don’t frighten him. I’d slice the arms and legs off one defeated captain, and Hûra the Amputator would pop up behind me in an ambush, telling me he could do it better and was ready to prove it. I’d find orcs who’d taunt me for my reliance on ranged combat. I may have been a ranger sharing a body with a grumpy elf, but moments like this make Shadow of War feel oddly real.

Taken together, it’s a substantial improvement. In Shadow of Mordor I really only had to know about an orc captain’s immunities so I wouldn’t waste my time with flame weapons on a fire-immune Uruk. Now, though, the new conquest system in which I bounce about from zone to zone capturing fortresses gives me a reason to “get to know” the orcs and olog-hai trolls I dominate. I find myself remembering their names and their strengths. It even gives me a reason to try to spare many of the captains I face. I can’t say I ever truly found the conquest missions all that difficult, but maybe that’s just because I always chose the right crew as we stormed through the gates and fought our way to the Overlord. It’s rewarding when it all comes together and I put my own choice of Overlord in place.

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Nor is the appeal of the approach limited to those missions. I can order my orcs (and the newly recruitable olog-hai trolls) to infiltrate enemy ranks as bodyguards, and they’ll then betray the captains they serve when you show up to fight. Alternatively, I might be seconds from death, ready to hit the QTE prompt, and one of my recruited buddies may show up and fight off the offending orc for me. I could also lead attacks against fortresses controlled by other players, but frankly there were too few people playing for me to get an idea of how well this works in practice.

I find I can’t help but admire most of Shadow of War’s Tarantino-esque drive to vaunt over-the-top at every turn, not only in its approach to the source material but in its embrace of fun action over the restrained magic of Tolkien’s legendarium. It’s everything Shadow of Mordor was but more. Talion doesn’t simply walk into Mordor here – he double jumps and erupts into an “Elven Rage” that recalls Neo knocking back waves of Mr. Smiths in The Matrix. It extends into the siege system, explained by a lovable Shrek-like oaf named Brûz the Chopper who should have had a bigger role.

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I found it, too, in the Batman: Arkham Asylum style of combat, which in this case is often less about coordinated attacks and more about bouncing from enemy to enemy, pressing prompts at the right time. In fact, it’s a little annoying in that regard, as I sometimes found myself wasting charged abilities on lesser orcs when I meant to use them on a captain. (Annoying, too, is Shadow of War’s penchant for making you dodge roll when you’re trying to leap onto a ledge.)

But new abilities improve the flow and pile on the panache, such as when I summon a spectral glaive and knock back 10 orcs at once or slow time in mid-air with Bird of Prey and fire headshots into seven orcs before I even land. For that matter, I might send a wraith to remotely kill a target or poison vats of grog from afar. Nothing, though, compares to picking up the last skill in the Mounted ability tree, riding into the battle on back of a dragon and burning orcs as I go. For extra fun, I might pick up the skill morph that keeps my drake from taking more damage.

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I’d go so far as to say story suffers slightly because of the spectacle, in part because the action-movie-trailer moments were seemingly imagined first and the narrative built around them. It’s a generally forgettable yarn about trying to keep a palantir from reaching Sauron’s hands that wins a few battles but never quite the war. As consolation, it remains entertaining because the story involves multiple narratives happening at once, whether it’s all that oddly sexy business with Shelob, some tangles with the Nazgûl, or helping a nature spirit undertake Mordor’s most ambitious environmental cleanup project to date. But never, ever mistake it as faithful to Tolkien’s work (or even Peter Jackson’s). Consider this:

“Little she knew of or cared for towers, or rings, or anything devised by mind or hand,” wrote J.R.R. Tolkien of the ancient spider Shelob, whom little Samwise Gamgee vanquished with the help of the elven equivalent of a Mag-Lite.

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Color me surprised, then, when I found her chilling in her lair, looking a little like a goth Arwen and regaling me about the days when she used to hang with front man Sauron during his elven glam metal phase. But wait, it gets better! Clearly changing her mind about the value of rings, she takes the second “One Ring” our hero Talion and his spectral buddy Celebrimbor made at the end of Shadow of Mordor and tasks me with hunting down a crystal ball in – you guessed it – a tower.

Cue the dragon riding! Cue brawls with Balrogs while perched on the shoulder of what I’m fairly sure is an ent-wife! Cue the assassin working for Galadriel and the sight of Talion embracing his inner socialist and shouting to armies of orc buddies from the ramparts of fallen fortresses in Mordor’s farthest tropical reaches: “Mordor belongs to you!” Here is a game that just does not give a shit about authenticity. It’s kind of glorious in its excess.

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No doubt my Tolkienist friends are already reaching for barf bags. But even they might appreciate the greater visual variety and larger zones than we ever saw in Shadow of Mordor, which basically was divided into “rocky Mordor” and “green Mordor.” Here, though, Talion ventures into shadowy forests that recall Fangorn, into snowy peaks studded with fortresses built with marble and gold, and into tropical outposts on the far southeastern reaches of Sauron’s domain. I geeked out a bit at seeing the Witch King’s fortress of Minas Morgul before the orcs moved in – anachronistic as that is – as well as scrambling about the foot of Mount Doom, amid armament factories with smokestacks that billowed soot over the plains of Gorgoroth as though this were Manchester in 1877.

The only real technical problem I encountered, I’m sorry to say, kept me from seeing what may have been the most interesting bits. One of Shadow of War’s optional collection activities involves finding Shelob’s memories, treating you to brief cutscenes featuring fan fiction about the pasts of Sauron and Shelob. Invariably, even when I cranked the settings for my GTX 980 down to the the absolute minimum, the cutscenes would crash back to the game after only only eight seconds or so. No other cutscenes gave me this trouble.

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And yes, there are loot boxes. But put down those pitchforks for now. Truth be told, I’m not really sure what the point of the paid versions is. An in-game currency called mirian drops like rain from quest rewards, random fights, and even from breaking down Talion’s old gear, which you can then use to buy an occasional loot box from the “Market” menu that gives you level-appropriate gear in a pinch. Never once did I feel the need to spend real cash on one of the better boxes, as I usually already had good stuff I’d looted from captain kills and collection rewards. I kept waiting for the need for better gear to overtake the cash flow, but it never did, not even when I discovered I had to pay 1,000 mirian to unlock gem slots for my weapons and gear. Sure, the most expensive loot boxes contain all legendary gear and orcish followers, but strikes me as a case of spending money for the sake of spending it. Maybe it’s worth noting that I didn’t play on the hardest of Shadow of War’s three difficulty settings, but I’m not convinced it matters.

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Developer Monolith must have felt the same way about the lore. I find it staggering that a game as irreverent to Tolkien’s canon could have emerged after all the hullaballoo over invented dwarf-and-elf romances in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. Next to Shadow of War, that kind of thing seems like a mere typo marring an otherwise pristine text. But perhaps Jackson and Monolith are onto something. Maybe, deep down, we all just really want to get into massive battles with piles of orcs, only occasionally stopping to dabble in elvish poetry (and in Shadow of War, you’ll even find some of that). Shadow of Mordor handles this well. It’s fan fiction, and of the type that leads George R.R. Martin to condemn the practice altogether. It’s the fast food of honored fantasy tradition, much as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was, and this is the king-size upgrade.

But by God, it’s delicious.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is released October 10th on Windows via Steam and Humble for £45/$60/€60.

92 Comments

  1. dangermouse76 says:

    “It’s the fast food of honored fantasy tradition, much as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was, and this is the king-size upgrade.

    But by God, it’s delicious.”

    I think I remember the NME describing an Oasis concert a little like this once; back when they were ascending the charts.

    Something like:
    Yes it’s shallow yes it’s vacuous, but when it feel this good who cares.

  2. Phantom_Renegade says:

    I think with regards to canon it’s the approach that matters. Jackson always made a big thing about how much he respected the canon and tried to be superfaithful to it, and then he took a dump over it.

    These Mordor games were never coy about their approach. Awesome over canon. I’m not a purist, but the Hobbit movies were shit. But this? I don’t care about this. It presents itself as fun, and apparently is.

    • Kitsunin says:

      This is exactly how I feel about adaptations of pretty much everything. Either admit you’re not really adapting the source and have a ton of fun, or be truly loyal to it. The only thing which is an utter insult, is to both try (or claim you tried) and fail to be loyal.

      • milligna says:

        If you tried adapting something, you’d realize these things are nowhere near that black and white.

        • welverin says:

          I want to argue with you, but the way Kitsunin worded things, makes it hard to find fault with your statement.

          I will say this however, the failing isn’t the issue with the LotR movies, it’s the haphazard and unnecessary changes that show a lack of understanding of the source material that make them bad adaptations. The Princess Bride and Fight Club conversely had significant changes, but are excellent adaptations.

          • fish99 says:

            I’d agree with that statement. When Frodo tries to give the ring to the Witch King, or when Frodo thinks Sam has betrayed him and sends him home, or when Faramir decides to take Frodo and Sam back to Minas Tirith, or when Arwen leaves for the Grey Havens, those are significant changes to those characters and their relationships, for the sake of a tiny bit of extra melodrama, and they show that Peter Jackson doesn’t understand the characters or care about the source material sufficiently.

            Then there’s crass stuff like the Elves turning up at Helms Deep just so he (PJ) can kill off Haldir, or Aragorn falling off a cliff for no reason. Even Wethertop was ruined since in the logic of the films they get attacked because Sam, Merry and Pippin were stupid enough to light a fire. Very different to the deliberate lighting of a fire for protection when attack is already certain in the book.

            Those changes just … annoyed me.

          • Kitsunin says:

            But being haphazard is what is disloyal, not changing things. For instance, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is much more loyal to the original work than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, despite in some ways changing more. The things they changed don’t mess with the spirit of the story. And the spirit of the story is where the loyalty lies, not the events therein.

    • Bluestormzion says:

      I treat these games as a separate universe. “The Shadow of Tolkien,” I call it. In many places, sure, it can brush up against what happens in the normal Tolkien universe. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that road.

      Like when Frodo tries to hide from the Nazgul with the ring and then HOLY SHIT THEY’RE NOT JUST ASSHOLES IN HOODS THEY’RE WRINKLE-MOTHER KINGS FROM HELL AND I’M STABBED!!! This game is that spirit realm. Just as real, but totally not what you see when you’re not wearing the most badass WMD that Sauron ever chose to stupidly stretch toward a dude with a knife.

      • April March says:

        In my mind all of these games are the backstory a munchkin-type RPG gamer wrote for his character.

  3. something says:

    And yes, there are loot boxes. But put down those pitchforks for now. Truth be told, I’m not really sure what the point of the paid versions is. An in-game currency called mirian drops like rain.

    Don’t care. Not buying. Won’t touch any game with loot boxes, on principle. There’s like a billion great games out there. This one’s as skippable as any of them.

    • ninjapirate says:

      Would love to see your top 1000 list of the greatest of the great one billion games out there.

    • Samudaya says:

      How can this site regularly tells us not to pre-order but to ignore microtransactions? It’s fundamentally wrong. If this becomes acceptable in SP games every major title will do it.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Yes, very puzzling, somewhat distressing, but sadly not unusual. I visit a lot of games sites and I don’t know of a single one that has taken a sustained stand against the post-purchase monetisation of games. Just a ‘well on the one hand..’ editorial here or there and a lot of ‘but it could be worse’ waving-through of the presence of loot boxes/cash shops in the reviews.

      • Nucas says:

        if the impact on gameplay is zero why should i stamp my feet and pout and refuse to play a fun game?

        • Cicero101 says:

          You really think the impact is zero? How on Earth is using mobile game tactics of putting content behind grinding to encourage using the shortcuts zero impact?

          Post-game monetization on premium games is bullshit. just imagine buying a car and then getting the option to play roulette to potentially get the radio you want.
          no one would make that deal

          • Roquen22 says:

            It truly is nearly 0 impact. I tested this myself. I decided to buy 8x mithril chests to see how it would help the grind in act IV. The mithril boxes made myself and my army slightly more powerful, but the grind still took a whopping 20 hours. Even if you had unlimited mithril boxes, you still need to grind out insane amounts of miran to upgrade every fortress fully. Plus some of those followers I got in the box died in the fighting pits even though they were legendary and they really should not have, and 3 legendary captains betrayed me, so all of that can happen as well, even with bought boxes. And the battles take forever too. So even if I had all the chests in the world I could not imagine them cutting my time by more than an hour or 2 at most. The grind is still incredibly awful and even if you throw hundreds of dollars at WB, the experience is still horrible. It’s just a horrible end game.

        • thehollowman says:

          Heroin addiction doesn’t affect me but I care about it. Gambling addiction doesn’t affect me, but I care about it. The world is full of things that don’t directly affect me, but I care about, because it’s morally wrong. All loot boxes do is make money. They serve no other function other than to make it easier to exploit people, so called “whales”. I don’t want features in a game that only exist to exploit money from people. I don’t want single player games to become more like the completely toxic mobile space.

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      DuncUK says:

      Personally, I’m glad that this review confirms my prediction that the paid loot boxes are an idiot tax… entirely unnecessary and purely there as as a secondary source of income from people with more money than sense. It’s unpleasant that there’s an element of gambling to them, in that you don’t know what you’re getting until after you’ve paid for it… but as it looks like the game will be gifting you plenty of them anyway, by the time Dumbo McRichtwat opens his purse he’ll be doing so knowing exactly what he’s getting into.

      On the basis of this review, I’m getting this game and I’m going to play through on the hardest difficulty because this is one of those rare games where I want to be challenged and will take the frustration… so I’ll see if there’s ever a temptation or need to to pay for loot boxes. As someone that never gambles or pays for microtransactions, I sincerely doubt it.

      • TheBloke says:

        That is assuming that what the reviewer saw represents the final game with regard to microtransactions.

        It would not surprise me in the least if they deliberately tuned down the importance of loot boxes and similar features in pre-release code, knowing that such code would only be played by reviewers who would then hopefully give out the desired “it’s not too bad” message.

        Then on launch, or a few days after, flick a metaphorical switch and now the loot boxes are far more enticing and perhaps far more essential.

        It’s happened before that pre-release/reviewer code lacked MTs that were then present at launch, conveniently meaning they were not discussed in initial reviews. They couldn’t do that this time because they’re selling them as a feature (god help us), but they certainly could fiddle with the settings so as to massage public perception.

        I would put nothing past Warner Bros – one of the seediest publishers around.

        • Titler says:

          Because not only might they, many companies have already done this exact thing… but people defending this particular game, or just their desire to purchase them will still claim it’s conspiracy thinking to point out this has already happened.

          But if a game has the framework in place to support microtransactions, but isn’t using them, why are they even there? Because they know later on most of the gaming media won’t go back and re-review the product as it actually is for most of it’s lifespan, so avoid the hit to ratings at launch, then return and shaft people as you intended when you’re no longer going to be held to account for it.

  4. ColonelFlanders says:

    Not buying; too many gamblings. Honestly I do like that it isn’t as egregious as it first appeared to be, but the only way to dissuade the practice of including microtransaction is to fuck off any games that use them. Which in this case is unfortunate, because this game looks totes fun :(

    • Vandelay says:

      Is it the best way to dissuade it though? The publisher/developer doesn’t know that you aren’t buying because of loot boxes. You could equally be refusing to buy it because you believe it is setting back Orc equality rights.

      Surely, if you want the game, but don’t want loot boxes, you buy the game and don’t buy any of the magic loot box keys. That must be a clearer message.

      • shocked says:

        Even clearer might be to not buy the game by any means, and then write their customer support a (polite) complaint about their business practices. If they lose 20 percent of their sales because of their loot gambling, they will listen.

      • BeardyHat says:

        Why bother though? There are so many games out there these days, why buy one game that you’ve essentially already played before? Whats wrong with simply skipping this one because it has Loot Boxes, if it’s a practice I don’t support?

        In a month, no one is even going to be talking about this game anymore. I’m not missing a once in 20-year solar eclipse or something.

      • DarkLord-Revan says:

        Actually it tells them, hey we can put this in a game and people will still buy it, they don’t give a damn, so why not put this in every game if they’re still going to buy it. We lose nothing from this.

        • Sandepande says:

          …and if the loot boxes are as inconsequential as in this, it doesn’t matter.

          But I get it. If their mere existence irks, there’s no point in torturing oneself. It’s only a game, easily ignored.

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            Wisq says:

            Bad business practices — even when they’re “done right” or they “have no impact on the game” — still embolden the rest of the industry to do the same. Good ideas can be copied badly; bad ideas are usually copied badly.

            Publishers have a hard enough time understanding that (for example) not everyone wants Gruff White Dude™ as their protagonist in every single game. Trying to explain the nuances between “acceptable loot boxes” and “exploitative loot boxes”, and why gamers are okay with loot boxes in some games but not in others, is not going to be particularly well-received.

            Plus, it also just normalises this crap.

        • welverin says:

          Actually, it does. They wasted money on something that brought none in and that is bad business.

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            Wisq says:

            It probably will bring some in. Maybe not from us, but it’s a bit of a jump to say that it’s not going to be worth the development cost.

  5. chrisol says:

    “Elven equivalent of a Mag-Lite” ?? Galadriel’s glass contained the light of the star of Earendil, originally one of the Silmarils, rescued from the dying Trees of Valinor and created by Feanor (kind-of step-Uncle to Galadriel). When you recall that Shelob was descended from Ungoliant – the giant spider that killed the Trees and covered the land with darkness, then it all becomes clear. Or perhaps I should get out more…

    • Keios says:

      So, it’s like the Elven equivalent of a can of bug spray then?

    • ThePuzzler says:

      Are you saying Mag-lites don’t contain the light of Earendil? I may have to write a complaint to the manufacturers!

      • Fade2Gray says:

        My world has just been shattered… Why have I been filling my house with Mag-lights?

    • noerartnoe says:

      Someone is channelling their inner Stephen Colbert… :p

    • Holderist says:

      You are perfect just the way you are.

    • ChainsawHands says:

      *Fëanor

  6. Someoldguy says:

    “I find it staggering that a game as irreverent to Tolkien’s canon could have emerged after all the hullaballoo over invented dwarf-and-elf romances in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.”

    I think it is fairly obvious, really. The films were supposed to be the book story adapted for film, with a few tweaks to improve the pace and flow for a cinema audience. A goal he largely achieved with the LotR trilogy, leading to expectations of a similar standard for his handling of the Hobbit material. When PJ made very significant departures from the text seemingly just for the hell of it, many Tolkien fans were understandably annoyed.

    The computer games based in Middle Earth have not generally been making any attempt to be accurate to the story (not even LotR Online.) There were a few back in the 80/90s that did, but the only ones I can think of since that even come close are the Lego games. This is just an action game wearing a thin Tolkien veneer, like many of its predecessors. I don’t expect anyone will be buying it expecting to soak in the atmosphere of inhabiting Middle Earth.

    • MisterFurious says:

      “seemingly just for the hell of it”

      It wasn’t for the hell of it. It was for the money. Three movies meant triple the box office take.

    • jeppic says:

      Technically the Lego games are trying to be faithful to the movie, which is trying to be faithful to the book.

      (The Lego Batman Video Game is even more meta)

  7. TehK says:

    Very nice to hear that the game is a good one and that those loot boxes don’t seem to be a hinderance or in any way necessary to buy. That said, those boxes are still where I draw the line. It’s an unattractive business model even in f2p games, but in a full price title? Nah, I’ll pass.

    Also, I think some pitchforks now and then are not the worst thing. I kind of hope people are not putting them down too quickly.

    • sosolidshoe says:

      See I found that teeny wee section of the review pretty odd, considering a few other places have stated that full completion does, in fact, *require* loot box purchases because by the end the game quite deliberately becomes an interminable grind to drive you towards the only plentiful source of max-tier Orc-pals; said paid loot boxes(they don’t come in the “free” ones).

      Sadly it seems like RPS has either not bothered to play that far or have chosen to gloss over it for the sake of future review copies.

      • Massenstein says:

        Yeah, I read another review and the boxes do seem more problematic than the review (and developers’ promises) led to believe. Still, I don’t want to miss what seems otherwise good game because of some horrible marketing decisions, but I guess this pushes it to ‘wait for 50% sale’ territory. That’ll also give enough time for more impressions to come in so I can get clearer picture of how big a detriment that stuff is.

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          DuncUK says:

          I’ll find out when I play it but I do hope (and doubt that) the best stuff in the game isn’t paywalled. I can’t believe that it’s impossible to complete the game without them either way, unless by “complete” you mean “have all the orcs”. If that’s the case then I can’t complete Just Cause 3 until I “own all the weapons” including those only available as a DLC purchase. The only difference is the gambling, which to be fair is a business model I used to be perfectly happy with back in the days when I used to buy Panini sticker albums.

          That said, if the only way to 100% the game is to get the best top-tier paid for orcs then I have to wonder what the point is, since people will only be getting them to 100% the game which they then stop playing, because they’ve done all the things.

          This review has convinced me that there’s more than enough in the base game to justify a purchase since I loved SOM so much. I’ll fight microtransactions by not paying for any, but the base game looks perfectly good so they can have my money for that.

  8. Gothnak says:

    Is the difficulty a bit skewy as in the original?

    i.e. it start off tricky as you have no abilities and gradually gets easier (apart from any mission involving mounting a caragor) and then becomes super easy when you are just blatting through crowds of orcs?

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      subdog says:

      I’m convinced that difficulty curve is an intentional feature of the nemesis system. You’re supposed to learn that the consequences of death aren’t a loss of power or progress on your part, but a gain of power and progress on the Orcs’ part.

      Without those early-game gains, the system wouldn’t be able to churn out a handful of recognizable nemeses for the player to have a vested grudge against.

  9. FurryLippedSquid says:

    From the Eurogamer review:

    “The fact these chests aren’t necessary, however, does little to diminish the awareness that they’re very much a part of the game, especially when you’re reminded of the market’s existence by way of an announcement carousel every time you pause the game. With the market itself lacking the same polish as the rest of the game – the market keeper is an unvoiced orc who quite literally rubs his hands with glee when you make a purchase, by the way – it feels like something that was tacked on late into development at the behest of the publisher. Would it have been easier to ignore if the backlash to the announcement hadn’t been so great? Possibly, but it still leaves a sour taste in the mouth.”

    Yuck. No ta.

    • Aetylus says:

      And from Polygon:

      “In Shadow Wars, however, things get more complicated. With all other side content drained, the only thing left to do is to play fortress defense missions (and collect more orcs to help with more fortress defense missions). Finding powerful orcs becomes the be-all, end-all focus of the game, and the easiest way to find powerful orcs is, cynically, to purchase them…

      …When you run out of in-game money, you have two choices: Make a huge time investment by hunting down orcs in your game world and earning chests via vendetta missions, or spend some real money to get the more powerful orcs you need now. Does the game ever force you to spend money? No. I’m sure you can get to the end of Shadow Wars without spending a dime, as long as you’re patient and persistent. But locking progress through this mode (and, again, toward the game’s true ending) behind either spending more money or doing tons of tedious busywork feels at least greedy if not predatory.”

  10. tomimt says:

    If you aren’t going to be faithful to the source, you can just as well go bonkers.

    Of course, you could always argue, why to use a license if you do aim to go bonkers and not care about the source, but then again, name recognition is a lot.

    • icarussc says:

      My feeling on the first Middle Earth game is the same as for The Hobbit movies:
      “It’s a great Dungeons & Dragons game! But I don’t understand why they decided to use all these names and places from Tolkien; that bit confused me.”

  11. Vinraith says:

    I adored the original, but I won’t even consider this one until a few years have passed. The loot box system isn’t just a problem in principle, it’s an obvious avenue through which they can screw customers who have already paid for the game at some later time. Put simply, I don’t trust any developer/publisher that institutes F2P shenanigans in a full price game – this is the very definition of a “wait and see” game.

    • Papageno says:

      “wait and see,” or more likely “wait till it’s 75% off.”

      • Vinraith says:

        First one, then the other, although if some of the discussion downthread about the “real” ending being unobtainable without loot crates or ludicrous amounts of grinding is true – maybe neither.

  12. Ghostwise says:

    Sexy Shelob is so sexy and so Shelob she breaks the game.

    It’s CTD-by-spider-lady.

  13. Menthalion says:

    Won’t play this if they haven’t fixed / made a setting for the short / long press overload of controls.

    Somehow through some hardware, software or wetware glitch I could never reliably do one or the other function on the same buttons.

    So instead of dodging in melee I would start drawing my bow 50 % of the time.

    Binding both to different buttons was nit possible,nor was there a slider to change the timing between a short and long press.

    Never had any problems with games like Batman AA and Hand of Fate that had similar combat.

  14. Heretic7 says:

    From a waypoint.vice.com article I just read

    Polygon reviewer Phil Kollar, however, noticed something more unnerving. When you “beat” Shadow of War, it unlocks a new postgame mode called Shadow Wars, where the flashy castle siege sequences are flipped on their head. Rather than trying to take over fortresses in Middle-earth, you’re holding onto the ones you have from invading armies. It gives players something to do in the world after the story is seemingly over. Except, in this case, it isn’t!

    Monolith hid the game’s “true ending” behind completing the Shadow Wars mode. Kollar didn’t feel any need to purchase a loot box in the campaign, but Shadow Wars was different. Here’s how Kollar explains the dilemma for players, given that Shadow Wars requires you to acquire more and more powerful orcs, in order to defend the strongholds you’re overseeing:

    When you run out of in-game money, you have two choices: Make a huge time investment by hunting down orcs in your game world and earning chests via vendetta missions, or spend some real money to get the more powerful orcs you need now. Does the game ever force you to spend money? No. I’m sure you can get to the end of Shadow Wars without spending a dime, as long as you’re patient and persistent. But locking progress through this mode (and, again, toward the game’s true ending) behind either spending more money or doing tons of tedious busywork feels at least greedy if not predatory.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      And this is why we read more than one review for any game from number of sources.

    • Rilcon says:

      As someone that has over 200 hours into SoM and deeply lamented how easy the game gets and the lack of purpose after finishing the questline, this makes me want the game more, not less.

    • Vinraith says:

      It had to be something like that, right? One doesn’t infest a game with microtransaction gambling and then give people no reason to gamble.

    • Sandepande says:

      I think I’ll just have to watch that ending off YouTube, then…

      • fish99 says:

        Yeah I was just going to say there’s more than 2 choices, the other choice is to beat the game then watch the true ending on youtube.

    • icarussc says:

      So, more or less exactly like MGSV? I loved that game, and wasn’t bothered a bit by the FOB mode that I didn’t use.

  15. ResonanceCascade says:

    It sounds like I’m going to like this game. I don’t much care about Tolkien’s holy text, I just want to be really mean to Orcs and make some of them my pets again.

    I do hope that the janky acrobatic system from the first game has been polished up a bit, though. I definitely remember getting stuck on ledges or accidentally doing a pirouette when I clearly meant to pas de chat.

  16. Massenstein says:

    I’m also unhappy that the loot boxes exist but, heck, the game sounds in every other way like something I need so I’m not going care, will buy it anyway when there’s even a small sale. I just wish other devs would have started to steal from Mordor already so there would be more actual options, because this is really something I want.

  17. crazyd says:

    Bullshit justifications of loot boxes like this are why in game transactions just keep getting worse and worse. Stop downplaying anti-consumer bullshit, I thought you guys were better than this.

  18. vorador says:

    I liked Shadow of Mordor, but i will give this one a pass.

    I don’t like gambling elements on mobile games, much less on full price ones like this one. I know trying to avoid this will get harder from now on, but as long as i can afford to avoid games with this sort of “feature” built in, i will.

  19. Yazu13 says:

    A Hat in Time came out today on Steam. Does RPS know about it? I’d love to see a Wot I Think. Wash the bad taste of Yooka-Laylee out of our mouths.

    • milligna says:

      Because there’s nothing more refreshing than the foul taste of JonTron.

      • Yazu13 says:

        Come on man, JonTron voice acted a single side character. He doesn’t define the entire game, which appears to be very good. Quit being so petty.

  20. Marclev says:

    not even when I discovered I had to pay 1,000 mirian to unlock gem slots for my

    WTF, what is this, a F2P mobile game?? According to Steam they want £45 for this, for that price they can go stick their micro transactions up their ass.

    The only way that publishers learn that this isn’t a tolerated business practice is if people don’t buy this shit.

    • Nevard says:

      Miriam is the currency you use in gameplay, not one that is purchased. It existed in the previous game also.

  21. Alberto says:

    Hated the first one’s main grumpy generic heroes #23 and #67.

    Rolled my eyes with the bullshit half-cooked assassins creed moves and the unreliable combat across a really ugly and unimaginative world. The stealth and the unlock system was infuriating to me.

    Loved the fun-having orcs and the nemesis system but I would never get to play as one of the captains so uninstalled the moment gollum appeared.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    To be honest, what I read from the review makes me think that the game is very very boring.

  23. LennyLeonardo says:

    These games ate like the silly school folder doodles teenage me drew whilst reading the trilogy. Therefore, to my mind, they are the most faithful adaptations of the books around.

  24. TauPhraim says:

    Has the “RPS recommended” badge just been forgotten ? Reading the review, it seems it might be deserved.

    • Pendragon says:

      If this gets an “RPS Recommended” badge I’m done with RPS. They strongly advocate against pre-order culture but micro-transactions in games you pay a premium price for are A-OK ?

      • TauPhraim says:

        If they are easily ignorable, and the game is still great, I’d still expect a small comment saying “it almost got a RPS recommended, except for the fact that…”

  25. KayAU says:

    I am not buying this, because:
    A) Shelob should be a freakin’ spider, an ancient terrifying evil, not yet another sexy goth chick.
    B) Loot boxes, pre-order exclusive content, the whole “triple A” treatment.
    C) Seriously, SHELOB IS A SPIDER.

  26. frymaster says:

    The original game’s approach to the canon was… interesting. The opening sequence features background chanting of the “one ring to rule them all…” poem in orcish, the loading screens had music which I’m pretty sure I recognised the lyrics of from Tolkien.

    On the other hand, there’s this speech which, while amazing, has perhaps a slightly different tone:

    All right, you stinking lot. Shut your gobs.

    SHUT IT!

    Got some terrible news, here. Terrible. Once again the filthy Humans sided with the Dwarves who had help from those sanctimonious bastards the Elves who were rescued by – and I am not making this up – the damned giant Eagles to slaughter thousands of our brethren in what we should all be calling the battle to unfairly gang up on the Orcs.

    Our lands get invaded, our chieftains killed, and our people murdered. Where does it end? Well, I tell you, it ends here. And it ends right now! They can’t stop the march of progress. They can’t stop us!”

    This is all the better for coming out just before the Battle of the Five Armies film

  27. LessThanNothing says:

    And from Forbes:

    This Shadow of War case is gross, though it isn’t the first breach in this area and it won’t be the last. But it feels different, like we’ve crossed some new line and descended one level deeper into microtransaction hell. I don’t know where the bottom is, if this isn’t it.

  28. bill says:

    I’ve always wondered why they don’t make the main character an Orc?

    Surely that’d make the whole thing make a lot more sense, plus it’d be fresh, plus it’d be a lot more fun.

    PS/ There’s no way this can desecrate the source material as much as the execrable Hobbit movies, so more power to it.

  29. Scandalon says:

    Repeating myself, but seems necessary:

    Everyone complaining, everyone saying they won’t buy it or will wait until highly discounted in protest – if you truly care, contact the company!!* Both Monolith and their publisher. Otherwise you’re just jabbering into the wind.

    *Ridiculous that I even think it, but in this culture/climate: That means a reasoned, measured, short message. Not a five page screed, and no *(&$_)! death threats for the morons out there.

    • Gamedick says:

      not giving them money sends an arguably bigger message, but you have a point nonetheless

      besides, they read this stuff, especially when launch sales aren’t as good as anticipated

  30. coverknight says:

    It’s pretty simple to me. If your product has to resort to gambling-style tactics in the form of RNG lootboxes and cannot offer full consumer choice when it comes to microtransactions i.e. a store front with items that the player/customer can pick and choose. Then it’s telling that you do not trust your product to stand on its own in terms of value.

    You want examples on how to do post-launch content right? Look at Witcher 3 or Titanfall 2.

  31. Gamedick says:

    loved Shadow of Mordor but shoehorned microtransactions and MILF Shelob has really turned me off to this one…i’ll wait for it to hit $30 or gets packaged up with its inevitable expansion

  32. left1000 says:

    I think I might like to see RPS mention in WoT what I think reviews, things like, did the reviewer finish the game. Especially from their journeymen contract writers (whom I don’t trust as much as say john or alec.)

  33. AutonomyLost says:

    I saw a similar comment, to the one I’m about to write, yesterday on RPS: “After installing the High-Res Texture Pack, Shadow of War runs even better!”

    I was incredulous. Yesterday, with everything on Ultra with the exception of AA because it genuinely looks better without it, on a 3440×1440 monitor, I got an average 82 FPS overall in the benchmark. Just a few minutes ago, I finished installing the High-Res pack and booted up the game. Everything, except AA, is officially on “Ultra”, clocking in at a monstrous 8.5 GB of VRAM. I run the benchmark, and hit 90 FPS (my max refresh rate) without a hitch. It doesn’t look as if a patch was rolled out.

    ANYway, TL;DR – Shadow of War High-Res Pack seemingly improves frame-rates on 1080 Ti graphics cards, in my experience, for no outwardly apparent reason.

    If someone has any insight, that’d be interesting.

  34. Vermintide says:

    The fact that they now act as lootbox apologists has completed this websites shark-jumping story arc.

    I’m not going to pirate this game, because I’m impatient and want to play it without waiting for a crack. I am, however, going to buy it at a discount from one of those super shady key re-sellers, and hope they were all stolen by some Russian hacker.