Do you need loot boxes to complete Shadow of War’s final act?

Shadow of War's Shadow Wars 1

I hate defending fortresses in Middle-earth: Shadow of War. I hate it so much, in fact, that when an army of orcs from the Machine tribe showed up at the gates of my fortress in Núrnen in Mordor’s sunny southeast, I just went to the menu, clicked “Leave Mission,” and let them have it.

And so it often went with Shadow of War’s controversial fourth act – called The Shadow Wars – which involves a 10-stage series of battles over different fortresses before you can reach the “real” ending. Some say it’s essentially impossible to complete without using purchasable loot boxes stuffed with legendary quality gear and orcs for your army if you run out of money, with Polygon going so far as to say that the system is “predatory.” I, on the other hand, said in my own Shadow of War review that I didn’t get the point of the loot boxes. I never felt the need to use them. After playing a lot more of Shadow Wars, I feel the same way, and although I mainly came to that conclusion by pulling stunts like the one above, that “stunt” made the game more fun. I sincerely believe developer Monolith Productions could remove the boxes right now and it’d make little tangible difference to the game.

Why? As I said in my review, the in-game currency of mirian “drops like rain” from missions, bonus mission objectives, random enemies, and from Talion’s old gear when you break it down. I had over 50,000 mirian when I finished Act III—which counts as a “soft” ending—and this was after spending a few thousands to unlock all gem slots for my gear. Keep in mind that I had no idea that the Shadow Wars were coming. I just saw no reason to spend my mirian as loot drops were already so plentiful and orcs were easily recruitable. That’s just the amount I ended up with.

When Act IV came along, I spent most of that on defensive and offensive upgrades for each fortress I had to protect or assault. A cavalry of caragor riders costs 700 mirian, while the ability to have a drake fight for you costs 950. That’s not too bad, and they’re permanently unlocked each time you fight at that fortress. Spending mirian wisely (and picking up around 10,000 more from loot dropped during the Shadow Wars), I still had around 10,000 by the time the Shadow Wars ended.

But here’s the big point. You don’t need loot boxes to get legendary orcs for your fortress’ assault or defense. You don’t even need to hunt for them “in the wild.” That’s a waste of time. The most important rule of Shadow of War is that you should never kill an orc – particularly a legendary quality orc – if you can recruit him. And so you can pick up new orcs during the siege itself, whether in offense or defense. And if you do end up killing them, well, there’s your legendary loot drop for gear or weapons. Even better, I found that killing level 23 legendary captains in the open world when I was level 54 still gave me level 54 gear.

There are numerous other tactics involved to ease the path, such as equipping gems that boost recruited orcs by one to five levels depending on the gem’s potency. Set the three morphs for your combat skills to suit your enemies (for free). Make sure you use the right upgrades for your fortress, so you’re not spitting fire on the largely fire-immune Machine tribe. Bring the right bodyguards and mounts. Keep in mind that orcs for your army are often more important than gear for yourself. Figure out all this – and it’s not hard – and the Shadow Wars are actually kind of easy.

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To illustrate this in practice, let’s go back to why I abandoned Núrnen. There’s a method to my madness. With the new orcs in charge of the fortress on the defensive, I could more easily take the keep, recruit more powerful orcs to my cause, and complete the mission and move on to the next stage of the Shadow Wars.

And so, alone, I undertook separate missions that allowed me to take out the five sub-commanders of the fortress one by one, much as I would with a regular captain mission in the open world in earlier acts. They’re often fun in their own right, as they require challenges like using a graug to throw a boulder at a keep’s door or killing 10 enemies without raising an alarm in order to make the boss appear. The markers to start the missions were all conveniently in front of the fortress gates. Each time I’d defeat a captain and complete the mission, one of the fortress’s defenses would fall with him. I defeated Gruk the Brander, and in doing so removed the threat of molten iron pouring from the walls as we tried to climb them. I defeated Garl the Thinker, which removed fire archers from the ramparts.

As noted above, I wasn’t simply killing these foes – I was recruiting them into my own army. When I abandoned the fortress, I had only a ratag team of level 30-somethings facing off against a mass of level 40s and level 50s. But Gruk was level 47, and Garl the Thinker was level 54, and I was making them mine. I’d get them close to death and then slap my glowy hand on their terrified faces and yell, “You fight for me now!”

And generally they would, gaining four levels for themselves in the process because I’d equipped a “Wealth” rune in my ring for that specific purpose. Garl was even legendary, which means that he came with an extra perk. I was, in other words, preparing to assault the fortress with a more powerful force than I’d originally found myself facing on the other side of the walls.

But Râsh Slave-Lover resisted. He was an legendary Level 54 orc who resisted my brand with his “Iron Will,” and so I killed him. No big deal, although he would have been great in a fight because he was immune to seemingly everything but blades. I got a legendary sword of out the deal, a decent upgrade over the sword I was using before.

Soon I’d knocked out everyone but the overlord. And so I started the mission to retake the fortress, with almost all the former captains who were in charge in my command. With all of the defenses gone, the fortress fell quickly, even laughably so, especially when I started using my ability to raise the dead to turn them against their former friends.

I reactivated some offensive loadouts that I’d bought with in-game currency in a former siege, such as sappers who charge the gate and knock it down and drakes who bombard the defenders from above. Because I’d already bought them before, they were free. I probably could have done without.

The only real challenge was the overlord himself, Dûgz Flame Monger, whom I had to fight solo in his throne room. I’d thought ahead, though, using the intel I’d learned from sifting through the minds of grunts, and brought along the beastmaster Khrosh the Lurker as a summonable bodyguard who could take advantage of Dûgz’s weakness to beasts. I also learned Dûgz was immune to arrows, so I changed my skills – for free – to freeze him in place while I waylaid him with relentless strikes. The fort fell. The mission completed. I never even thought about buying a loot box, and this specific siege took place during the eighth mission of the Shadow War.

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So why do I hate defense? It’s too unpredictable and, to circle back to our original concerns, it’s expensive. I could almost guarantee I’d be fine if I plunked down 7,500 mirian on metal walls, but I’d have to do that for each fort. (The much cheaper reinforced stone walls do a great job, too.) The one time I did it – along with wall spikes and poison war machines and fire mines – the opposing army never took the first checkpoint. But if you don’t take such precautions, the enemy is going to get through the walls, and if they take one point, more named orc bosses appear. You can, of course, recruit the invading named orcs you defeat and bolster your own forces, but I just found it simpler to immediately flip the mission to offensive if I felt my chances were slim. Nothing, however, made defensive sieges more annoying than twice finding myself facing an orc who could kill me with a “No Chance” [of survival] kill when I was at the “last gasp” QTE prompt. All that preparation, and for nothing.

I realized how much easier the offensive versions of the missions were after my first failed defense, as they let you knock out the defenses and six of the seven named orcs in charge. While I would go on to win a few more defensive missions, I kept them limited to the two forts I’d already lightly upgraded (which were also staffed by all those high-level orcs I’d recruited during other successful sieges). Even in failed defensive missions, though, I usually managed to keep most the high-level orcs I’d recruited during the battle after the loss (although my overlord is always captured and must be rescued), and so I wasn’t pushed to loot boxes even then.

Is it impossible to defend against sieges without buying all the upgrades? Certainly not. The upgrades aside from walls are much more reasonably priced, such as the 950 mirian for a war graug. I opted for offensive sieges because my main priority was finishing this massively long section of the game, and they’re more of a sure bet. Even so, I can’t say I hated the experience.

Maybe I’m crazy. I readily accept the possibility. But I find this little dance entertaining – this “Pokémon” of Tolkienian orcs as I called it last week, collecting them and deploying them as needed. I enjoy the little puzzles involved in figuring out which offensive and defensive upgrades will work best for my fortress, the need to figure out the best bodyguard, the question of whether my summonable mount should be a caragor or drake or graug, and how I should set my loadout of skills. These are the options that truly matter – not loot boxes. For that matter, I loved the improved action of Shadow of War: the double jumping, the twirls of the glaive, and the seven headshots I could fire off in the same jump. Altogether, this, to me, is the “fun” of Shadow of War. I get to do all this while getting gear and new orcs, so why would I want to skip that with a loot box?

The problem with the loot boxes lies in their very randomness. Sure, you might get a legendary orc, but you have no idea what his stats will be and whether his weaknesses will make him a burden in the upcoming fight. When you hunt them in the fields or in the sieges themselves, you know what you’re getting. And as for loot? I already had plenty of legendary weapons and armor from legendary orcs who resisted my attempts to recruit them, as orc captains always drop loot corresponding to the quality of the orc. They’re not that rare at all: I once saw three in a single assault. If you feel like spending money on a loot box, paradoxically you’re perhaps not having that much fun with Shadow of War anyway. They’re only a valid shortcut if you’re absolutely at a loss for time.

Shadow of Mordor already did great things with the Nemesis system, but the tribes and fortresses of Shadow of War give that system new meaning. Whereas before our little emergent stories largely centered on one orc, the siege system in its best moments creates stories built around entire clans, which sometimes gets particularly interesting when one of my dudes decides to betray me mid-battle.

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I like to think of what we see in Shadow of War as a new spin on end-game replayability. Normally, once a free-roaming game like The Witcher III or Assassin’s Creed IV “officially” ends, you’re free to run around collecting a few odds and ends, but there’s not much of a point. Shadow of War, though, gives you a point; something to work toward. If the first act through the third is the leveling journey in World of Warcraft, the Shadow Wars are the raids. And there’s certainly an “ending” of sorts at close of Act III – one so absurdly irreverent to the lore that anyone who fancies themselves a Tolkien scholar will probably delete Shadow of War in disgust right then and there anyway. (But c’mon, it is kind of awesome.)

My main complaint is that the Shadow Wars do go on for too long, even with my easily conceived “optimal” approach. I was already getting weary of them at the end of Stage 8, but I know much of that was the pressure to get through the whole thing with just a week or so before the embargo lifted. Were I to take the experience more leisurely, I may not have felt the same way. Even so, cutting back the Shadow Wars by half or even merely three stages would have made it far more appealing for everyone involved.

But never once did I spend “real” cash on a loot box, save to see what happened for the review. (It was crap, honestly.) Never once did I feel the need. I had over 40 legendary weapons and armor pieces at the end. So again, what’s the point? The very fact that I’ve written all these words to show that’s it’s not so bad in Shadow of War demonstrates how thorny the issue is and why it probably shouldn’t have even been implemented in the first place. Yet as we already know from the news of players spending billions on loot boxes and similar items in Blizzard games, someone’s going to buy this stuff.

Shadow of War’s approach doesn’t seem so much predatory to me as misanthropic. It merely makes it easy to get stuff that’s already easy to get, and that, ultimately, is what leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

103 Comments

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Makes you wonder if the devs rebelled against the publisher.

    • SaintAn says:

      You have to buy the loot boxes if you want the best endings, or grind your ass off, so no, they didn’t rebel.

      • Nelyeth says:

        Did we read the same article ?

      • Deano2099 says:

        If by “grind” you mean “play the game” then yeah, sure. Essentially, it seems after you finish the story campaign you get a final act that’s a big open world “grind”, which is a way of putting an element of progression into the normal post-game “mess around in the open world” shenanigans. If you get bored doing that you can… well, stop. There’s nothing else after that, this isn’t in the middle of the game with half the story missions still locked off. Uninstall and watch the ending on YouTube.

        Whereas if you’re still enjoying playing the game then it’s not a “grind” is it?

  2. Sheng-ji says:

    Kinda reinforces Jim Sterlings idea that “AAA” games aren’t about budget or polish, but about culture – every AAA games right now has to have loot boxes regardless of it’s impact for better, worse or indifference on the game because that’s what the AAA culture is right now. (Zeitgeist, is that the right word?)

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      Drib says:

      Sorta like how they all have crafting after Minecraft?

      I think that’s certainly part of it. Someone in a boardroom goes “my kid likes X game because Y, so we should have Y” and it gets stuck in regardless.

    • Archonsod says:

      It’s not just AAA. Game design tends to iterate far more than it innovates. Part of it is audience expectation as well – make a single player game these days and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a swathe of people requesting multiplayer, whether it fits the genre or not. Similarly release an RPG without crafting and you’ll get a whole lot of people asking why it’s missing.

    • Someoldguy says:

      Did it start with AAA? I have the impression that it was the runaway success of certain phone games that made some developers and publishers realise that a small but affluent part of the player base will spend, spend, spend if you give them any incentive to do so. If it works for them, publishers of AAA titles where development costs run into the millions would be unwise not to capitalise on this, provided they can do so in a way that doesn’t result in overwhelming negative reaction.

      If it’s now acceptable to have people spending hundreds, if not thousands a month on every flavour of tribal clash of the dragon warlords, why not offer similar services in other games for those players? Is it only ok in pvp games that many of us just dismiss as pay to win and strictly for fools? I know I don’t particularly want this guff in my games, but if developers that do it make money and developers that don’t risk bankruptcy, I’d rather see my favourite developers go with the tide and remain in business to make more games of the kind I prefer.

      • Archonsod says:

        “Did it start with AAA?”

        “Insert Coins to Continue” :P

        In a sense we’ve actually come full circle. Even down to the “game is designed to make you spend” fears.

      • treat says:

        The problem with this stance is that my favorite developers tend to have some integrity, while the publishers I wish would collapse into the rubble of their own ineptitude are the ones who wouldn’t bat an eye at this type of skeevy shit.

  3. crazyd says:

    This site has been putting in a lot of effort defending shitty loot box practices. I’m starting to believe you guys have lost your objectivity, and am wondering where the “sponsored post” text is. How about instead of bending over backwards with huge articles about how they aren’t so bad, you actually do the consumer friendly move of NOT advocating and downplaying the addition of pay to win elements in games?

    • CameO73 says:

      Come on, “bending over backwards”? The article even states:

      The very fact that I’ve written all these words to show that’s it’s not so bad in Shadow of War demonstrates how thorny the issue is and why it probably shouldn’t have even been implemented in the first place.

      • crazyd says:

        You’re right, it’s way easier to do a limbo than it is to right up a big ass article like this justifying anti-consumer actions. They aren’t bending over backwards, they are putting in far more effort than that. And, a few bones thrown about how they are unnecessary doesn’t counter the damage RPS is doing to their reputation putting out shit like this.

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          DuncUK says:

          If you read this article and saw a defense of paid loot boxes, then you’re a fool. It is emphatically not that. What it is is a defense of the game Shadow of War that openly criticises the need for their inclusion at all. It’s clearly hugely divisive and according to Leif the loot boxes are in fact a rather inefficient way to complete the game, given their randomness and financial cost. He’s not defending their insertion, he’s actually making it clear what a PR blunder they are given how irrelevant they’ll be to all but the most spendthrift idiot.

          Do you always make your mind up at the earliest opportunity and then view the world from an openly biased viewpoint? Try taking your brown tinted glasses off from time to time, the situation isn’t nearly as shit as you seem to think. The way to fight paid loot boxes is not to pay for them.

    • Movac says:

      Warner Bros. probably didn’t commission an article that describes Shadow of War’s loot boxes as pointless and “misanthropic,” saying that they “probably shouldn’t have even been implemented in the first place” and “[left] a sour taste in [the writer’s] mouth.”

    • grimdanfango says:

      I’m inclined to agree…

      Just because you deem that a game works perfectly well without microtransactions, doesn’t mean their inclusion isn’t predatory.

      It’s *always* predatory.

    • Jeremy says:

      Conspiracy theories are fun and all, but I think they’re simply trying to calm the fears of those who are worried this is pay to win, in an effort to get them to play a game that’s actually pretty great. If a person’s line in the sand is “no loot boxes” then that’s perfectly fine, that line doesn’t change after an article like this is written. But let’s not be so precious about our opinions that we start to assume any difference in opinion from our own must be bought and paid for.

      • grimdanfango says:

        But why even attempt to calm the fears of those who are worried this is pay to win?

        If they felt the need to include this crap in the game at all, nobody should bother trying to clear up whether or not there’s a good game buried beneath it.

        If people stopped doing that, and enough games suffered poor sales simply because they included microtransactions of any kind, publishers would soon stop including them.

        If they insist on making the bed, let them damned well lie in it.

        • Jeremy says:

          I can’t necessarily speak to the why, but I know that I’ve been excited about games in the past and have pulled the “just slog through the first 30 minutes and…” card numerous times. It’s not an exact 1:1 comparison, but when you really enjoy something, it can be sad to see people pass on it for reasons that don’t line up with your experience of it. I’m still sad that Alec refused to play Nier Automata because of the first 20 minutes, and his argument was somewhat parallel. Why play a game that has a garbage initial 20 minutes? They should have fixed those 20 minutes. It’s a fair critique, and loot boxes are lame is also a fair critique, but I can see why someone who really enjoys the game would want to assure people that it’s not pay to win, while still balking at their existence.

          • grimdanfango says:

            That’s entirely fair, but not the point I’m making. If it’s worth playing through a bad bit of game to get to the good bit, that’s great, and great that someone makes it clear.

            When a game has an intentionally anti-consumer element shoved in specifically to exploit people, I then see no reason why anyone should go out of their way to point out that there’s a good game beneath it. It’s deeply cynical to put those elements in, I think people should be equally cynical in their coverage as a response.

            If everyone did that, those cynical practices would practically end overnight. The more people tolerate and excuse it, the worse it’ll get.

            I’ve got nothing at all against singing the praises of a flawed gem however.

        • Horg says:

          As the overwhelming critical consensus is that you do not need to buy a single box in order to complete the game, we can safely conclude that the implementation of loot crates is no worse than Team Fortress 2, over which the internet outrage lasted about 5 minutes. Similarly, Mass Effect 3, which failed to capture the ire of anyone in particular. What Warner / Monolioth have done is neither new, original, nor predatory if you can exert the bare minimal amount of willpower to avoid buying something you neither want nor need.

          I should explain that I also hate loot boxes. It’s a shitty way of selling content, occasionally ruins games by being effectively mandatory, and should be regulated as strictly as a form of gambling deserves.

          That being said, the best way to show a publisher that you don’t want loot boxes in your games, is to not buy loot boxes : | If you don’t buy the game itself, the publisher has no idea that you were even a potential customer. They will see low sales as a red flag to wind down the series. However, if the game sells well but only a small number of players actually spend extra cash on gambling boxes, they can see that data and interpret that it wasn’t worth the cost to implement in the first place.

          Shadow of War sounds like a worthwhile purchase in spite of the boxes, and the number of credible voices saying they are not required is good enough for me to ignore their existence and justify a sale. You wont kill loot boxes by getting mad on the internet. You might kill them by not buying loot boxes.

          • grimdanfango says:

            That being said, the best way to show a publisher that you don’t want loot boxes in your games, is to not buy loot boxes

            Certainly not the best way. A better way is for game coverage and review scores to be given a negative bias, with clear disclaimers that it’s because of anti-consumer practices. Combined with people who don’t buy the game being clearly vocal on forums, citing en masse the reason they didn’t buy the game.

            Most people not buying boxes is already factored into their plans. The business model doesn’t rely on lots of people buying loot boxes, it relies on a few people buying lots of them, and everyone else putting up with it and excusing the practice. So long as the money they make from a handfull of “whales” is more than they lose due to negative coverage, they’ll keep on doing it.

          • Moragami says:

            That’s a smart response, couldn’t agree more. Buying the game, but not buying the loot boxes, is exactly the message I want to send.

          • aepervius says:

            @morogami , @horg, no the message you send by buying the game and no loot box, is that you are FINE with their inclusion, as it did not impact your buying ! They got your money and you are simply at this point in time not their market, that is you are NOT influencing whether in future game there will be loot box or not.

            As for RPS, you know this (biologically wrong) story about the boiling slowly the frog ? IMO they intentionally are doing it that way, add loot box which are not required first , then slowly boil the player by making them slowly more essential in future games. And you are playing RIGHT INTO the hand of publisher. Shame on you.

        • Foridin says:

          So, to be clear, you’re saying they should stop being objective, and instead provide an incomplete view of the game in order to push an agenda?

    • Halk says:

      I feel that you should read the article before commenting.
      Let me put some quotes from the text above to ease it up, and these are all in regard to lootboxes:
      “I never felt the need to use them”
      ” I get to do all this while getting gear and new orcs, so why would I want to skip that with a loot box?”
      “It was crap, honestly.Never once did I feel the need”
      “is what leaves a sour taste in my mouth.”
      “it probably shouldn’t have even been implemented in the first place”

      not the most positive or “sponsored” text..

      • Deadeye666 says:

        But that´s how the internet works, right? If you are not part of the outrage machine then you are a target.

        Are lootboxes a shitty way to implement microtransactions? Sure. Do I wish no publisher/developer would every implement microtransactions in their games? Yes. But to automatically assume that a website basically threw away every shred of integrity and professional ethics for a few quick bucks from a publisher because they don´t happen to share your outrage is just mindboggling to me. Besides if you think so little of the people running this site why do you still read their articles? Don´t you have better things to do with your time?

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      Graham Smith says:

      Sigh.

      Just because you disagree with or don’t like an article does not mean it’s corrupt. If it was sponsored, we’d legally have to say so. We do not, have not, will not ever accept money for editorial.

      This article came about pretty much as the intro describes. Leif wrote in his review that he never felt the need to use loot boxes; some other sites said they were necessary in the game’s Shadow War mode; I asked Leif to spend more time in that mode and write something more in-depth about both it and loot boxes.

      The article is full of criticism, both of the mode and the loot boxes. It’s honest and fair.

      I know some people hate loot boxes on principle. That’s fine – here’s some more information about their exact role and purpose within this particular game. I can’t speak for Leif, but personally I judge loot boxes on a case-by-case basis. I don’t know that they’re ever going to feel good in an already expensive game, but if I can ignore them and enjoy the game as before, I don’t mind. That’s just me talking.

      We’re not trying to calm anyone down, though goodness knows the internet could do with a dose of calm every now and again. We’re just stating our opinion and hoping to be informative and entertaining at the same time, as always. And as always if someone else on the site ends up feeling differently when they play the game, or wants to write a full-throated excoriation of loot boxes as a concept, they won’t be shy about doing so.

      • grimdanfango says:

        I agree that there’s no justification for claiming corruption.

        But honestly, can anyone name a single instance where lootboxes, or just about any other for of microtransaction, actually added something worthwhile to a game? I mean where it wouldn’t have been clearly better to either scrap it entirely and balance the game accordingly, or add it to the base game.

        I don’t think it’s a stretch to state that microtransactions in general, and lootboxes specifically, *never* provide anything of value to anyone except greedy publishers.

        So why even have a dialogue about their worth? In my view, you tacitly justify their inclusion simply by asserting that they’re worth talking about, rather than condemning them as a matter of course and moving on.

        You’re in a position to see clearer than most the damage that publisher greed does to the medium over time. Why not take a harder line in speaking out against it?

        • dangermouse76 says:

          I get what your saying. But there is a politicisation / polarisation of thoughts and practises there that doesn’t quite gel for me.

          On the one hand you understand and state that corruption allegations are not justified here, then suggest that their approach should be to take a definite position on these practices being wrong and damaging to games and to dismiss them out of hand.

          “So why even have a dialogue about their worth? In my view, you tacitly justify their inclusion simply by asserting that they’re worth talking about, rather than condemning them as a matter of course and moving on.”

          I would have a problem with this site-wide approach to the issue as much as I would if I thought they had been sponsored for this article.

          Unless I’m misreading what your saying in which case I apologise.

          Again I understand you want them to take a strong position on this, one similar to your own probably. But I wouldn’t be interested in that personally.

        • PHPH says:

          Overwatch? It arguably started this awful lootbox trend, and it remains a perfectly fine and fair implementation of it. The items dropped are all purely cosmetic have no bearing on gameplay whatsoever.

          Further, that monetization has allowed Overwatch to have great continuing support for the game.

          Lootboxes can be fine, they’re just usually not.

          • grimdanfango says:

            Even then, do Overwatch’s paid lootboxes add anything to the game that wouldn’t have been better as rewards you earn ingame, without any microtransactions?
            Even if they don’t affect the game balance, they’re still exploitative by design.

            If they wanted to provide extra content for a price, they could just do that – give people a one-time paid DLC containing a collection of cosmetic items. I don’t see anything wrong with the notion of paying someone for ongoing work.

            The fact that it’s microtransactions means the content is created not because they want to offer a product in exchange for money, but specifically to exploit certain people who are most susceptible, to get more money out of them than they would by other, more honest means.

            I just can’t see what’s remotely justifiable about that. Perhaps it’s a practice, like advertising in general, that we might feel we have to wearily accept as a part of the medium, but when the singular goal is to psychologically manipulate people for money, why does anyone feel the need to actively justify the practice on behalf of publishers who aren’t even giving them a cut?

            That’s the daft thing here… I’d actually understand the point *more* if RPS or other journalists *were* getting paid off :-P

          • April March says:

            Even then, do Overwatch’s paid lootboxes add anything to the game that wouldn’t have been better as rewards you earn ingame, without any microtransactions?
            Even if they don’t affect the game balance, they’re still exploitative by design.

            OK, I’ll put my devil’s advocate hat on and say: they give the satisfaction of knowing you gave money to people who you think are doing a great job.

            Now I’ll take the hat off and say that anyone who does that with regards with a behemoth like Bethesda is off their fucking rocket. But I do that, often, with indies. I’ll buy their games on itch.io even if their game is cheaper on Steam because they’ll get more money that way, and they need it more than Steam does.

            That said, I don’t think microtransactions by themselves are evil and anti-consumer. I think they’re just daft and annoying. I have a problem specifically with the gambling element of lootboxes. I would find TF2’s model perfect if there were no crates, for instance; that is the specific part of the model I find aborrhent.

          • grimdanfango says:

            As I’ve mentioned elsewhere – I’m in no way advocating people don’t pay for a developers’ ongoing work. I often buy DLC packs/expansions for exactly that reason. Hell, I sometimes buy whole games that I don’t even get around to playing just to support a promising looking dev.

            It never needs to be microtransactions. The only reason it ever is, is to manipulate a small number of people into getting carried away and spending a fortune.

          • Deano2099 says:

            Well there’s two ways of looking at this “getting a small number of people to spend a fortune” thing. One is that it exploits the vulnerable. The other is that it lets the rich pay more to subsidise the less well off. That’s where the benefit comes in.

            If you have a piece of content that “costs”* $100,000 to make and you have 20,000 players, yes you could charge everyone $5 – but not everyone will be able to afford that. Or you could get the richest 5% of players to pay $100.

            The problem is of course when people who can’t really afford it still spend the $100 but that’s a bigger problem than just in videogames.

            *”costs” in this case includes wages and the expected profit margin a publisher will want to see as a return on their investment. Whether those margins are too high/low is another debate entirely.

          • fish99 says:

            IMO paid lootboxes are not OK in the way Overwatch does them, because they’re still manipulative, designed to get you to spend more money than something is actually worth to you by giving you a very small chance to get what you actually want. At the point you spent $10 and didn’t get that cosmetic you were desperate for, you feel compelled to keep spending so your $10 wasn’t wasted. It’s a guilt trap.

        • Jaeja says:

          OK, I’ll bite.

          Foreword: paying real money (directly or indirectly) to roll on loot tables is gambling, in the strong sense of the word, and if the games industry does not want to be regulated as such it should stop flirting with it. There are more ethical ways to boost revenue.

          In answer to your question: it is an entirely reasonable assumption that at least some (and, I would say, probably most) games that include microtransactions of all kinds had a larger development budget than they would otherwise have had, even if you subtract the cost of implementing the microtransactions, because development budgets are generally strongly influenced by expected profits, and microtransactions tend to substantially increase profits.

          In at least some cases I’m sure it’s entirely cynical and development budgets are unchanged, but I’m equally sure that there are great games that wouldn’t have gotten made, or wouldn’t have been as good, without the promise of increased profits from microtransactions (or game prices at least rising in line with inflation). The whales are subsidising your gaming.

      • crazyd says:

        I don’t think this is actually corrupt, just slimy as hell no better than if it were (and clearly labeled as such). You guys could instead be a force for good, and actually work to fight against practices like this, but if you are just gonna act like a PR department and try to justify WB’s shitty decisions, you might as well get paid for it.

        • Hartford688 says:

          We got it. You feel that loot boxes are the beginning of the end of Western Civilisation, and that anyone who does not outright condemn it in all cases is guilty of moral debasement. Now please let it go.

          • crazyd says:

            We get it, you are a short-sited idiot that can’t see that lootbox implementations have just been getting worse and worse, and that further justification of their usage will just trigger publishers to make them increasingly high impact. Now, please stop being a patronizing asshole and just move on if you don’t like my comments. There’s a big ol’ Block button and you never need to see my posts again.

          • grimdanfango says:

            The one inevitable constant in the AAA publishing industry is – if they try (X) and find they can get away with (X), they sure as hell won’t stop there.

            Sure, most microtransactions are only horrible and pointless at the moment, but this is just the tip of the iceberg if people don’t bother to voice their objections.

            Whatever the state of AAA business practices, it’s *always* just the tip of the iceberg.

          • vahnn says:

            @crazyd

            This entire writeup is literally about how the implementation of lootcrates in this game is not “increasingly high impact.” Not only that they are unnecessary, but not even a little worth it. The author is agreeing with you that lootcrates are dumb in this game, and even showed how actually playing the game and using the tools it gives you completely negates the need for them, and actually makes it seem stupid to waste money gambling for an item when you could just get exactly what you need, and that you’re better served by not spending your money on them.

            You are clearly not understanding this. You also seem incapable of understanding that a game can be great despite having a stupid lootcrate system. It’s worth knowing that, in this case, you can fully enjoy the game without even thinking about lootcrates.

            Also consider this: if you don’t buy a game because it has lootcrates, the devs and publishers don’t see a lost sale due to lootcrates. They don’t see anything, except less sales, which may actually indicate a decline in interest in that game or franchise, and maybe end it. But if you buy a game and never touch a single lootcrate, they see that. In fact, by not buying the game and ignoring lootcrates, it increases the percentage of players who DO buy lootcrates, which tells devs/pubs that, hey, people love this lootcrate stuff!

            I mean, maybe.

          • Norion says:

            I’m not an opinion Nazi, so I highly appreciate articles like these, that fully explain the extent of the necessity of buying lootboxes in .

            If I feel like I won’t get to see the full extent of the game without tossing extra dollars, I probably won’t buy the game. But in this instance, the lootboxes appear to only be a method of hastening your journey to the end in the event you don’t have a bunch of time to play this game. (Even then, I’d probably not buy them just because it merely lengthens how long it takes me to beat the game, which isn’t exactly bad and minimizes my game-hopping activities.)

            I’ll still buy the game, even though they did the unimaginable and added lootboxes, because nobody has ever done that before. It’s not really a big deal. Everyone else is doing it, so why should I condemn a developer I actually like, just because they did it, too? The game still looks incredible, and the lootboxes appear to not be required in any way, so I’m going to enjoy this amazing game despite the MT Wars.

            It is slightly irksome that they didn’t simply not include them, but lets ask ourselves: how many developers are far worse about these kinds of things? Just about every ‘Mobile Strategy’ game I’ve ever played is a thousand times worse in how demanding they are about paying extra for premium boosts if you want to keep pace with your enemies.

        • Premium User Badge

          Godwhacker says:

          Come off it, the premise of the article is that the loot boxes are pointless in this game, because you actually can get by without them. The author then gives a solid strategy as to how he avoided buying them, and filled in extra reasons why he didn’t want to- namely, they would have spoiled it for him.

          It’s a different perspective, and one worth hearing. RPS are not doing PR work for WB. This is the site that constantly reminds you that you should never pre-order.

          It seems what you want is a flat condemnation of loot boxes full stop, and that by not receiving it you assume the author, and the whole site, must therefore be in favour of them. That’s not really fair, is it? The text doesn’t support that, nor does RPS’s general editorial stance.

          I imagine that when it comes to Star Wars Battlefront 2 they’ll be ripping into loot boxes proper, because the implementation is very different. But please don’t confuse an article that doesn’t quite align with your viewpoint for one that is directly opposed.

          • Hartford688 says:

            @crazyd

            Well indeed I was a sarcastic lad, so inevitably you followed up suggesting RPS were getting paid, then morally corrupt by calling me and idiot and an asshole. So I’ll take you up on that block offer.

            Frankly your foaming at the mouth rant deserved a sarcastic response. Wake up and see there is grey between black and white. And that is important because the vitriol should be saved and directed at really egregious behaviour for best effect, not applied willynilly where it dilutes the effect.

            The are loot boxes in Overwatch- but are cosmetic and don’t affect anyone’s gameplay. Some people enjoy it. So let them. There is effectively something similar in DOI.

            Then you have this game. It can boost you in game, which is not good, but for the vast majority of players will only impact single player (how many will really play ranked pvp?) and this article – in detail- explains why you don’t need to buy a single one to fully enjoy the game. Hopefully, with more articles like this, the sales will be low and discourage Warner from wasting money building it in. I don’t like the practice (of impacting gameplay) but it is avoidable, and some measured criticism is good to see in reviews. It is deserved.

            The you get poisonous stuff such as in Star Wars Battlefront II – you can buy loot to give yourself an advantage in multiplayer against others who do not play. That is plain obnoxious and deserves a public lashing. For me it means I will not buy the game, although I definitely would have without this feature. If I buy it, but then did not buy crates I would be at a disadvantage playing the base game. That is unacceptable and ruins the pleasure of the game.

            Save the histrionics and name calling for the last one.

            Anyway, thanks for reminding me to block you.

          • plebman182 says:

            To me it still sounds like despite the loot boxes not being necessary, the strategy he had to employ to get through what sounds like an extremely tedious final act (which is offputting to me even if I didn’t already think WB were cunts) sounds like it’s been designed in a free 2 play mobile game way. You don’t HAVE to get the boxes but they sure might possibly speed up that tedious ending.

      • Premium User Badge

        Mungrul says:

        Hey Graham; I never attribute to corruption what can just as easily be attributed to enthusiasm. When playing a game you enjoy, even if some of its systems are particularly egregious, gamers have a tendency to develop something akin to Stockholm Syndrome; I know, ‘cos I’ve done it myself.

        And I think that’s what’s happening with Leif.

        There are a few things that on top of this make it more of a contentious article:

        1: Leif’s a relative newcomer that most old visitors are unfamiliar with, and hasn’t had a chance to define his written character.

        2: RPS is under new management. Doesn’t matter how much you tell your readership that nothing’s changed; people are going to worry that more commercial attitudes are going to become prevalent.

        3: And probably the most important part; the attitude in the article is out of step with other messages and attitudes the site has expressed in the past.
        The one that immediately srpings to mind is the consistent message that people shouldn’t be pre-ordering games. Microtransactions in full-price games prey on the same instincts that pre-orders do, yet are at the same time far more insidious. They are implemented expressly in the hopes of catching “whales”, an abhorrent term adopted by sociopathic business managers to dehumanise people with a lack of financial control in order to better exploit them.

        Given the vibe of the site in the past, I think people feel betrayed when they see someone defending this practice, and therefore start looking for reasons that explain the change of tone.

        Personally, I think it’s simply down to lack of experience on the writer’s behalf. People in the comments for the review called out Leif for playing down the microtransactions, so he, still probably enjoying the game he’s just spent so much time reviewing, felt the need to defend the game, effectively also defending his character.

        But the article shouldn’t really have gotten past editorial vetting.

        • Deano2099 says:

          Right but it’s all in context though. RPS is against pre-orders because they think you should wait for reviews. For the past few days, RPS has been telling people they should buy Shadow of Mordor. Guess what? It only came out today. Effectively, they’ve been encouraging people to pre-order. Just, y’know, after the reviews came out so we know the game is good. There’s no harm in it.

          Same thing here. Yes, the loot crates could be bad, but it turns out the implementation here is fine. If it wasn’t then I am sure this site would pull them apart for it.

          And that’s what a lot of us want from a videogames site. I know some of you hate the entire concept of loot crates in any game ever, and will avoid on principle a game that contains them. Which is fine. And other sites share that view. But for me: life is too short to miss out on good games just because they contain a system that, while shitty, can be ignored. Articles like this are useful because they let me know the crates won’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the game. Which isn’t something I would be able to find out if they took a more fundamentalist approach.

          • Premium User Badge

            The Almighty Moo says:

            Here here.
            Said more eloquently than I ever could.

      • Jack_Empty says:

        For shame RPS, I thought better of you all. This comes off as misguided at best and downright slimy at worst. You cannot defend this game by saying the loot boxing is not a ruining factor. Just because a 40 something game journalist can game the endgame systems does not make it ok. How would someone who hasn’t read about this box/mirim b/s know to play the game like that? The reviewer games the fort system by forgoing the tricky defenses in favour of the easier assaults but the game pushes the concept of defense of these forts, and building up their expensive walls etc. so why would the uniformed do otherwise until it was too late? In another review I’ve read they spent all their Mirim on fancy walls only to discover that the Mirim suddenly stops ‘falling like rain’ and now they only had the options of grinding or paying. It is rare the informed gamer would get gouged by these disgusting practices so they are designed to exploit the uninformed aren’t they? How is that a defensible practice? The counter argument that boxes mean you get more game is morally indefensible too. If you get more game by having other gamers exploited as Whales then how can you honestly enjoy your entertainment knowing it’s probably ruining the lives of not just the Whales but all their associated families as well? Games publishers should just should just make games £5 more expensive for everyone and drop this loot box shite if they want to boost profits. Oh wait they’ve done that already and now we’ve got boxes on top. If they struggle so much for profit look to cut costs not double down on the gouge.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      Nurse ! Nurse ! They’re out of bed again.

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      Loot boxes are an unqualified blight, but as a consumer I do expect reviewers to tell me, in the context of an admittedly terrible and shamelessly exploitive system, just *how* bad a given implementation of them is. Because there’s a pretty big gulf between “loot boxes can be used to grease the skids in an otherwise drawn-out endgame sequence” and “you need loot boxes to even see the game’s ending” (this was the scuttlebutt going around certain forums on reddit and elsewhere for the past week). So: loot box mechanics suck, but they don’t all suck equally. Reviewers can and must recognize this distinction to properly do their jobs.

      • DoctorDaddy says:

        I am in complete agreement. A trusted site giving the breakdown on a game’s model is nothing but useful for the reader.

    • Herring says:

      You’re thinking too small with just loot boxes TBH. With RPS’ reach and gargantuan influence they should make a stand against ALL the anti-consumer practices that have negatively impacted gaming
      and which _still_ cause justifiable outrage among gamers;

      Steam
      Online-only games
      Multi-player only games
      Games which don’t allow the difficulty to be modified.
      Games which allow the difficulty to be scaled down
      Games which release with a different feature-set than was shown 3 years previously in an off-hand dev interview while he was coming out of the loo.
      Anything that’s ever been listed on the same page as Peter Molyneaux.
      Origin
      Any game that has been ported to or from consoles. Or by a developer that has ported games in the past.
      Games that have non-male characters, developers, writers or artists.
      Games with a right-wing political agenda.
      Games with a left-wing political agenda.
      30 FPS locked games
      60 FPS locked games
      Games that don’t support 21:9
      Games by EA/Bethesda/Activision/ any other publisher that has ever spat in the face of gamers with a crappy release.

      Just think about all the comprehensive articles about Grimoire they could be running while still waving the flag for angry people everywhere.

    • hungrycookpot says:

      As long as it’s not mandatory, or gives you bonuses you can’t get by playing, I don’t see how it’s predatory. If idiots want to waste their money to skip the gameplay they already bought, that’s their business. Same thing as having VLTs in a bar, its another avenue to make money and nobody has a gun to your head.

  4. BooleanBob says:

    Gross.

  5. Banks says:

    I can tolerate lootboxes when they are only cosmetic and you get something in exchange (free characters or maps, no community split), but this is just abuse. I won’t ever buy a game that insults me in such a blatant way, I had enough with the last Deus Ex.

    • MattM says:

      I can tolerate lootboxes when I run out of other great games to play that don’t included them.
      Even if its the sequel to some game I really liked, including stuff like this pushes it back from “buy when the gold/goty ed is $30-$35” to “buy in bundle with 5 other games for $10, if ever.”

  6. pauselaugh says:

    I get it that it’s my option to “not read” something like this, but what is the impetus to completely ruin a game that isn’t released yet because you already played it, aside from “someone might want it” or “you feel responsible to alert the gameplaying public that when they play it x, y, z happens?”

    You have a very well informed opinion that literally less than 1% of the world has, since they haven’t even gotten past the “preload now” option at best.

    Great!

    • Dewal says:

      I’m not sure what you mean.
      Are you angry that a game journalist gave a review of a game before it got out and before “normal” players even had a chance to play it ? Isn’t that the entire point of doing a review ?

      And what did he ruin ? For the most part, his reviews about the game say that it’s very fun.
      But people were worried about the loot box, so he explained that they weren’t necessary to have fun &/or finish the game.

      Did you read the article ?

      ———–

      Anyway, thanks Leif. I liked the first game and was concerned too about the lootbox problem. I’m still not sure I’ll buy the game (bit afraid that even the appearance of the marketplace in the interface may annoy me), but this second article was necessary.

  7. Dromph says:

    Even if you don’t need the lootboxes to complete the game, you at least have to wonder how they influenced the design process regardless. What if the Shadow Wars are as pointlessly long as you said just to make it more of a drag and loosen up the wallets of more impatient customers?

    • Chewbacca says:

      Are there really people that spend money to finish a single-player game, that they paid for, faster? I would just stop playing at that point and buy an other game instead. I see how that “skip for money” mentality works in F2P games. But why would you pay money to skip the last part of a game?

  8. dangermouse76 says:

    Interesting article cheers. Food for thought certainly.

    Do have any thoughts on the wider integration of micro transactions and loot boxes into games in general ?

    Some games commentators seem to think the practise is becoming the new norm for mainstream game releases.

    And that the trend could be unhealthy in a game design sense, and also that games become about more than the initial purchase price.

    • Archonsod says:

      To be fair games have been about more than the initial purchase price ever since someone figured out you could knock together a bunch of new levels and call it an expansion. Microtransactions are just the latest entry in that trend.
      I don’t think you can call it out as being unhealthy just yet though. There was plenty of controversy regarding expansions in the early days, when those morphed into DLC the same followed (and to an extent still happens). Generally the idea will be kicked around, poked about a bit and shuffled until we get to a kind of ‘acceptable balance’ between the publisher’s desire to milk the IP and our desire to consume more content. Some will screw up, some will do so badly (horse armour anyone?), but eventually someone will hit upon an implementation that the majority of the audience find if not enjoyable at least acceptable.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        There are many shades of grey to this issue aren’t there ?
        I love DLC expansions to my favourite games. Fallout being an example.
        But I still bounce off micro transactions in games entirely. The idea of them in a single player experience doesn’t appeal to me. But that’s because I like to buy a game, play it, then maybe down the line buy another big chunk of content for it.

        If you’re a young person now though, you have grown up with mobile gaming and AAA micro transactions. Also older people with kids or busy lives are more likely to pay to get through grinding in a game when they have limited time for gaming.

        I think the growth of the gaming community, and having a wider age range than 10-20 years ago ( plus more women are drawn to gaming than before ) has gone along way to the current financial market we see.Plus companies like to make money obviously.

        Gaming is worth so much money now.

        But in the end customers must choose what they are happy to pay for I guess. But sometimes you have to be informed of your potential choices in order to make an informed decision.

    • Bforceny says:

      I think it’s an unhealthy trend but at the same time every time a Minecraft, Rimworld, Stardew Valley, or Subnautica comes out for $10-$15 it makes me feel happy and hopeful that there is room for everyone.

  9. BewareTheJabberwock says:

    I loved the first game and was excited about this one, until the lootbox inclusion. Glad to see that they’re not as intrusive or necessary as was feared (at least for one reviewer), but their very existence makes this a wait for a GOTY edition for a tenner in a year or so.

    Curious if you have to put in some sort of payment info to even begin the game, tho. Bkz if so, I’m out completely.

  10. Yachmenev says:

    I don’t think for one second that RPS are corrupt in any way. But, the tone of the article feels weird. Can’t exactly put a finger on what it is, or where, but it does have a degree of apologetical tone, that rubs me the wrong way.

    It could be that I’m just old, and don’t understand this new breed of “games as service” influenced (or sometimes even focused) games. But it’s a bit too much “no biggie” as a response to a lottery based mechanic, built in a full priced AAA game, that already tries to sell DLC from the go with three different prices when sold.

    I think RPS isn’t quite as pro consumer as they were before, where the dipshit moves from publishers were heavily covered. Nowadays you feel a bit dissapointed over that things like Denuvo, where a hidden third party gains more and more authority over our purchases, is repeatedly shrugged off, and loot boxes now are judged as “yeah, maybe they shouldn’t have been there, but come on?”.

    But again, it could be me, that I’m not moving with how games are changing, and maybe things like that are perfectly natural now, and it’s me who should head over to the comfort zone at GOG and stay there.

    • April March says:

      I don’t know, the tone of the article feels fine for what it is – an in depth explanation of a point raised in a previous, different article. Maybe it feels weird because it’s a lot more mechanics-heavy than usual RPS fare?

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I don’t think the tone is apologetic. In fact, the point is that loot boxes in Shadow of War are pretty stupid, but the reasoning is not that the practice is “predatory” but that it’s inane and useless for the game. I don’t have a strong opinion about all this, so perhaps that’s why I’m seeing the same criticism (loot boxes are bad in this game) in a different form instead of an “apology”, which is why you can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that bothers you, I think. In other words, it’s not there, it’s a different opinion, perhaps not what you wanted it to be, but that actually approaches the same points in a manner that to you and others who have a strong standing on this seems counterintuitive.

    • Shaileen says:

      I had a strange feeling after reading it too. But what confuses me is that the overwhelming majority of game journalists is never really (as in top 1%) good at games – they have played a lot of them, surely, but usually lack the amount of hours played that you need to completely discover all the tricks and nuances in them. I remember reading awful articles full of mistakes about World of Warcraft and its PvP scene during its height.

      But now this article basically states “If you have skill (and, by extension, time), you don’t need loot crates”. That’s quite an unusual sight in my opinion. I don’t think that RPS are corrupted by any direct means, but even things like let’s say having a bit low ad income the last months and not wanting to stand out as a site that shoots sharply against consumer-hurting practices can influence their decision on which kind of articles to publish.

      And one thing is clear: Loot boxes is a way to abuse the consumer. They work in the same addictive way as gambling; humans are simply vulnerable to it. Real gambling is restricted by laws – they just haven’t caught up yet, although Valve is very close to getting hit with that due to skins working like a pseudo-currency.

    • Deano2099 says:

      I guess it’s hard to be angry about DRM in the way they used to be when Steam is pretty much the entire PC games retail industry. Denuvo just looks like nothing much more then.

      But the site has always looked at the shades of grey in between things, rarely taking a genuine absolutist position (except in jest). They’ve looked at the game and said the loot crates don’t get in the way, and you don’t have to buy them, it works just fine without them. So on that basis, they don’t impact your enjoyment of the game if you just ignore.

      Notably, they’re not pretending they don’t exist. They’ve written an entire article about them. So clearly they don’t think loot boxes in generally are “no big deal” – the very existence of this piece demonstrates that. But it also means in this case it’s not a huge problem. If it were, I would imagine they would call it out. That seems more helpful to me. People who are opposed to loot crates on principle aren’t going to buy this anyway.

  11. Tazer says:

    But how’s the gameplay?

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      I’d recommend reading the review published last week.

  12. Imperialist says:

    Its ironic, that the constant war over microtransactions is essentially the western world’s divide over ideologies. One side wants the able to spend their money, and have it be worth something to them, and the other side wants to not spend money, but get the same benefits. Is this a devilish scheme to rake in more money? Is this a good thing to let people spend money where they see fit, even if choosing not to handicaps the consumer?
    I guess the answers lie in what you consider digital goods to be worth.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Woah, where to start?

      “Benefits” That’s where.

      Randomised Lootboxes, even in non-PvP games, are pretty sinister. Essentially, the lootbox purchaser is gambling that whatever is in the box is worth the money he or she spent. And there is a group of people who think that, maybe, gambling with real money should not be something in the game industry.

      The same can be said for purely cosmetic lootbox rewards. The purchaser gambles that the contents of the box will be a costume (or part of one) that he or she wants to collect.

      If I can get back to the original article, the thrust of it seems to me to be that lootboxes are unnecessary, since the rewards from them can gained from killing orcs or hunting for legendary leaders out in the wilds. And that’s great, if you have the time to do that. It looks like the lootboxes are set up here so that people who do not want to spend time hunting for whatever it is they want can spend money on the lootbox roulette.

      This post has already gone on too long. I am not going to touch on the subject of paying for lootbox content in a game that you have already paid for.

      • dahools says:

        I believe I am part of the group of people who believe gambling in games should be regulated and identified as aggressive appropriate.

        However as popular as it has become is it any different from when we were young. Sticker books, collectors cards? Were they just not loot boxes sat on the shelf at the paper shop? Will I get a shiny? Or a card I am missing in my collection.
        Perhaps it’s just a modernised version of what was always there really.
        Many of those childhood collections had a game that went along with them even if it was too trump’s or some equivalent.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      You’re quite forgetting to mention that the side who want all the content without paying a penny more than rrp are (if they are all grown up) more than happy with representitive rrp’s i.e. if the price was £150, but you got every piece of content, gated by pure game design, rather than profiteering, then suddenly both sides start to look like they actually want the same thing, and the only divide is caused by those who would profit from it.

      Just like the ideological divide :/

  13. pelwl says:

    The article and the comments barely touch on my biggest concern over loot crates – how this trend might affect game pacing. The article itself says “My main complaint is that the Shadow Wars do go on for too long…cutting back the Shadow Wars by half or even merely three stages would have made it far more appealing for everyone involved.” Perhaps they made it longer deliberately so that people would feel the need to pay for the loot crates?

    I think it’s taking advantage of another trend – pandering to those user reviews which praise a game not for any inherent quality but simply because of its $ paid to hours played ratio. Warner Bros’ Mad Max is a good example of what could have been a great 15 hr game that was doubled in length with unnecessary bloat and grind.

    It must seem to publishers that this gives them the best of both worlds – get the “value” buyers on board and allow those with more money than time to pay extra if they want to cut the bloat. It stinks.

  14. MaxMcG says:

    I have a question for everyone:

    If hacks become available (I doubt there are cheat codes) that give you unlimited in-game currency, will that be regarded as piracy by the publishers?

    • Herring says:

      I doubt it as you can get the Legendary orcs by standard gameplay. TotalBiscuit’s poorly worded tweet implied Legendaries were _only_ available in the paid boxes (which caused a bit of outrage) while a better way to phrase it would be something like; “only the paid version of the lootboxes can hold legendary orcs (though they’re available through standard gameplay as well)”.

    • SaintAn says:

      Anything that interferes with a corporations profits is piracy. No one should worry about what brainwashed corporation worshipers and corporations think though. The system is anti-consumer, so pirate the game and use a mod to pirate the loot boxes too. They brought it on themselves.

  15. Lobotomist says:

    Its really not question if you can.

    There are lot of MMORPGs right now for example (EVE, ALBION, WILDSTAR …) that let you earn monthly subscription trough ingame currency. And many players on these game forums will boast its “so easy”. But in fact its tedious gamebreaking chore, that you do instead of enjoying gameplay.

    So, real question is : Is this the way the game is supposed to be played ?

    You maybe can devise strategy to pass the game without any lootbox. But in same venue i seen people pass certain RPGs without killing anyone, or pass levels in FPS without shooting at all.

    But is this intended gameplay ? Or are Lootboxes integral part of the game mechanic ?

  16. LennyLeonardo says:

    I found this very informative. Like some, I’d like to play this game, but am only happy to do so if the paid rewards are skippable, which they seem to be. I understand and respect those who will not buy the game on principal, other than when they proselytise their views and attempt to deride or discredit those with a more moderate approach. If you advocate respect for consumers on the part of publishers, please practice the same yourself.

  17. Ghostwise says:

    Clearly, this article was written by order of the Illuminati, which brings us to this inescapable conclusion – “Leif Johnson” is a pen name for Beyoncé, and Jay Z was J.R.R. Tolkien’s ghost writer.

    WAKE UP SHEEPLE !

  18. skyturnedred says:

    The internet’s need to comment before reading never disappoints.

  19. Jack_Empty says:

    link to petition.parliament.uk
    Please sign this petition and purge this filth. The morality of loot boxing is corrupt and I have never seen an argument for their inclusion that just charging a bit more for the game wouldn’t have solved. You get something cheaper but that’s only by the exploitation of a minority.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Charging more for the game will move it out of reach of some people, thus depriving them of the game. Getting rich people to pay more for the game seems a legitimate approach, it’s no more morally corrupt than socialism

      • Rorschach617 says:

        So sell a basic version of the game and then sell add-ons and DLC, explaining at each point exactly what the player is going to get so that the player can make an informed choice.

        Hiding content behind randomised lootboxes is not “free-market vs socialism”, it’s gambling. You can get the loot you want after one box, you can get after 500 boxes, you might never get it.

  20. BaronKreight says:

    The thing with you journalists is that when you say something controversial, something people don’t like you tend to raise your hands and say “Calm down, it’s only an opinion. Don’t read the article, move along”. But you journalists tend to be influence peoples minds – developers, gamers, investors. So you gotta be responsible for what you say, you gotta stand by it. And you behave like a pretty girl who says something and then runs away.

  21. TheButler83 says:

    That seems a lot of words and strategy going into making loot crates seem palatable. If you have to go to so much effort to defend something as not that bad perhaps it shouldn’t be defended?

    Microtransactions I can tolerate. It happens in other industries. Want bacon on your burger that’s 50p. Want alloys on your new car that’s 1k.
    Does it have to be in games? No. But at least if you spend a fiver on horse armour you get the damn horse armour. Loot boxes are just awful as they ask you to spend a fiver for the chance of horse armour. Oh you didn’t get it? Spend another fiver to try again. :evilgrin: it’s gambling and should not be defended no matter how much you can ignore it. You wouldn’t tolerate spending money on random items in any other field of life I can think of apart from a casino.
    And I can’t believe I am using Oblivion as an example of the good old days. There is proof of the slippery slope if anyone needs it.

    Review sites don’t have to go OTT but just marking a review down 1 increment (For those sites which use scores) for this will hit a AAA devs meta critic score, impact the devs bonuses and reward games that avoid loot boxes altogether who get their full score.

    • Deano2099 says:

      They’re not defending loot crates though. Just saying that they didn’t impact on the enjoyment of the game at all for them. The other way of reading this article is that “you might as well get rid of them as they are pointless” which seems very anti-loot-crate to me?

  22. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Considering these two opposing views I’d think Polygon should learn to play the game without loot boxes.
    Having said that: hated “defense missions”, having 10 samey battles as the final act sounds incredibly boring like most final acts in games are boring because the devs had no more time and money.
    Implied boredom/ bad ending makes me dislike the game already even more than loot boxes.

  23. Ham Solo says:

    This industry is in dire need of another big crash. Looking forward to it.

  24. Unsheep says:

    It’s a single-player game, why would anyone actually pay money to get less game-time and less gameplay?

    • FunkyBadgerReturns says:

      Well, judging by this thread – there are plenty of stupids around.

      • FunkyB says:

        The article literally says that buying loot crates in this game is silly and doesn’t really help.

  25. Unsheep says:

    Certain types of gamers are over-reacting as usual.

    This article is evidence of that; you can get the ending you want through rational planning ! … wow, what a unique never-before-heard-of idea in gaming [sarcasm]. You have to do that all the time in strategy games and most RPGs.

    Controversy sells, whether you are Polygon or TotalBiscuit. It brings in the money. This is just another hyperbole to summon the hyperactive masses around.

    I’ve never made in-game purchases in my games and I still managed to beat them just fine.

    Sure, using loot boxes and such cuts corners in the worst cases, but so does using cheats and taking advantage of glitches.

  26. moridin84 says:

    Microtransactions are bad, games with microtransactions are bad, RAWR RAWR.

    … might have been universally valid in 2011 but a more nuanced opinion is needed in 2017.

    While microtransactions can be exploitive, they can also simply be a way for consumers to support developers in maintaining and adding additional content for their games.

  27. Preciousgollum says:

    To sum up – In-game monetisation (or ‘lootboxes’) is like a tape-worm:

    You might lose some weight, things might appear healthy, and another life-form wants to live at your expense, but are you really going to be comfortable when you KNOW that a parasitic organism is crawling around your innards?

    Keep those tape-worms out of unsuspecting game innards.

    P.S It seems that people have forgotten that debug modes and cheats exist, so essentially, instead of the game designers implementing ‘cheat modes’ quite easily, to solve people’s problems, The Publishers (most likely) have decided it would be far easier to develop a payment system to harvest money, because nothing screams FUN! like having a corporate payment system imitate the whimsy of play at your expense.

    It is ethically negligent, because it means a company is taking a complicated route to squeeze their customers of money, instead of implementing simple ways to benefit the customer.

    It would be like this: instead of paying road tax to get pot-holes fixed, you pay per-mile driven, and THEN the council decides to make roads longer and more loopy in order to increase their revenue, at the expense of everybody getting places slower, and paying per-mile for the privilege.