Middle-earth: Shadow of War darkens our door

Tootle on your warhorn and coax your ghostpal back into body, as Middle-earth: Shadow of War [official site] launched overnight. Monolith’s sequel to 2014’s Shadow of Mordor brings more open-world action with orcs to antagonise, fortresses to capture, limbs to hack off, baddies to enslave (ikr?), faces to fill with arrows, spooky ghostpowers to learn, and a sexy spider to puzzle over. The sequel also expands the ‘Nemesis’ system which builds relationships with NPCs and changes how they react to you. This is great, Leif Johnson said in his Middle-earth: Shadow of War review:

“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.”

He was well into it, though not wholly pleased with its disregard for Tolkien’s books. And as for those microtransaction loot crates, whose presence is gross in a singleplayer game? They are at least, Leif insists, entirely unnecessary:

“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.”

Less of this nonsense please, publishers.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is out now for Windows on Steam, priced at £45/€60/$60.


  1. FizicsMcmanus says:

    Gonna wait on this one, see how it’s received.

  2. StAUG says:

    SoM was one of, it not the the, favourite game of 2014 for me. Without the lootboxes this would have been one of the few things I’d still have pre-ordered. As it is I might be waiting for a few more reviews and an Christmas sale instead.

    • Sian says:

      Same here, though I’ll wait for quite a while longer. I’m in half a mind to not buy it ever, even though I really, really want to play it. I’ll probably end up waiting until I can be reasonably sure that my purchase won’t show up in their statistics as a vote for their sillyness – and I can get a price drop of at least 75 %. Not because the game is too expensive for me (I really don’t mind shelling out money for things I like), but because they simply don’t deserve my money for including lootboxes.

  3. Ghostwise says:

    baddies to enslave (ikr?)

    Do not frame this as enslaving “savages” to use as cannon fodder in your wars while you count the moolah.

    Instead, frame this as offering a great professional opportunity to global collaborators, that they accept because of the great perks. Such as health care they’d die without and can’t afford on their own.

    • Bluestormzion says:

      And, to be fair, this isn’t enslaving, it’s Enthralling. Which I suppose is much, much worse. A slave is physically bound, but can still remain free enough in spirit to kick the living shit out of his owner when that owner pushes him off of a ladder for no reason. A Thrall just obeys mindlessly, thinking that his decisions are actually his own.

      But seriously, these Orcs would probably join of their own accord without Talion’s rather agressive “Sales pitch.” Because he offers full dental coverage!

      • Blastaz says:

        Thralls are just Viking slaves.

      • Ghostwise says:

        Because he offers full dental coverage!

        Ah, no. Actually, Talion has sincerely held religious beliefs against teeth. So, no dental.

      • Captain Narol says:

        The right term is neither Enthralling nor Enslaving, it’s “Possession”.

        Exactly like what The Devil does with some people in movies like The Exorcist.

        But it’s Orcs so who cares, right ?

        Better not think about it, even if I enjoyed the first game a lot…

        And that’s just games, after all.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Well, orcs don’t need healthcare or dental care any more than a bear living in the yukon. In fact people wouldn’t need it either(and didn’t thousands of years ago yet did fine) if they would just stop putting garbage into their bodies. This is your local internet psa.

  4. Jack_Empty says:

    I’m finding all this loot box justification is seriously turning me against games journalism. I dont often comment but this whole saga has got me quite riled up. If it’s not necessarily then pan them for putting it in anyway, it doesn’t add to the game and can only be a negative when reviewing, doesn’t matter if I can ignore it or not. It’s like someone recommending a cake to me, then adding at the end that the cake came with a turd sitting on it, but that it wasn’t too much of a problem as you could flick it off and you hardly notice it slightly tastes of shite. It is a good cake tho so give it the benefit of the doubt, it was the bakery that insisted on the turd not the bakers.
    link to petition.parliament.uk

    • dahools says:

      I’ve signed even though I don’t think it goes far enough.

      I encourage all UK residents to have a read of it.

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      DuncUK says:

      Uh, yeah, except it’s nothing like your analogy.

      What it’s really like is finding that the cake has quite a tough, toffee centre and that the baker will offer you mystery bags of ingredients which may or may not help soften the centre for you to eat. However, there are other simpler methods to eat it (e.g. using a microwave to soften it) or just chewing through it, so the mystery bags are not necessary. Distasteful perhaps, but not necessary.

      Now that’s a mad analogy as it’s not something that actually happens, but then neither is someone selling you a cake with shit on it.

      Nobody is defending the loot boxes and nobody that posts on RPS realistically wants them in the game. However, they’re entirely ignorable and currently quite inconsequential. Stop pretending otherwise.

      Incidentally, I agree with the petition although it’s arguably irrelevant here… Shadow of War is not a game for children, it’s PEGI 18.

    • Deano2099 says:

      No-one is justifying them. They’re just saying they can be ignored.

      To take your analogy, it’s like a really nice cake, with a serving of turd on the side. And you’re told because of the turd, you can have the cake cheaper. And every sensible person just throws away the turd and eats the delicious cake.

      What you’re doing is refusing to just ignore the damn turn, and smearing it on top of your cake just so you can go “it’s making my cake worse”.

    • Horg says:

      No one is justifying loot boxes, RPS have repeatedly commentated that they are a blight on an otherwise good game. I’ve signed that petition, honestly the only realistic way that in game gambling will ever be curbed is if laws change to prohibit it.

    • Shinard says:

      Except, no, it’s not that. They’re talking about it because people want to know. I, and many others, I’d bet, saw Shadow of War and thought “Man, I loved Shadow of Mordor! But loot boxes? Alright, if they force me to pay them after I’ve bought the game, not buying it. But what if you could ignore them and just play the game? If only there was somewhere I could go to find out…”

      I agree, including loot boxes was an awful, awful decision, and they can do nothing good. But saying review sites can’t talk about how you can ignore them, when one of the main questions on everyone’s mind is “can I ignore the loot boxes?”, just seems dumb. Shadow of War got a panning across the board for including loot boxes, there’s no risk of this undoing that. However, it will provide useful information. So… can you stop, please?

  5. ColonelFlanders says:

    Less of this nonsense indeed. It frustrates me that they’ve included this shitty system in their game, because it looks fantastic and I really wanted to play it. Sadly the only way to tell publishers you don’t like what they’re doing is to not buy their stuff. Ho hum. I suppose it’s not like there aren’t any other open world action games out there.

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      DuncUK says:

      Another way is to buy the game but not pay for the microtransactions?

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        I respectfully disagree with you there. You’re right in a way, but ultimately if a publisher thinks it can get away with adding loot boxes or other gambling elements without it impacting their sales they’ll keep doing it as long as there’s a chance some “whale” will spank loads of money on it. If it has a direct impact on their sales though, that might be a different story. I’ll never support lootboxes in paid games, so by extension I won’t support the games that have them in.

    • Kushiel says:

      “Sadly the only way to tell publishers you don’t like what they’re doing is to not buy their stuff.”

      Untrue. Not buying their stuff without telling them why you’re not buying their stuff is entirely useless.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Open world games out there? Lol, you almost had me. Tip of the brim :D

  6. Lars Westergren says:

    If they wanted to make lots of money, they should add a DLC where you can romance the orcs.

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      Drib says:

      Urk-thrash Knob-slobba is a popular legendary.

      • Lars Westergren says:

        Nah, everyone’s thirsty for Brûz.

        I mean, not me. It’s just what I’ve heard. About other people. Ahem.

    • empty_other says:

      Is there female orcs in LotR? Or in the game? Not that it would matter: If anyone is desperate enough to date an Uruk, gender can’t be an obstacle.

      • tnzk says:

        No mention is really made of female orcs. It’s not even insinuated.

        For all the adulation Tolkiens world building was given, there are moments like this (and more explicit mentions) that he didn’t have a nerd like obsession for his own creation. It was just a cute hobby he was really good at.

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          Drib says:

          I think it mentions orcs ‘breeding in dark places’ but I guess it doesn’t explicitly show any female orcs.

          But they’re supposed to be horrible, corrupt monsters, not redeemable people.

          Aren’t the Uruk-hai a cross between men and orcs? Does that imply female orcs, or just female humans and male orcs?

    • int says:

      One of the first orcs I met in the game was named Shag the Wicked. Now that’s an invitation if ever I saw one.

  7. nimbulan says:

    Sure you can ignore the loot boxes…unless you want to finish the last act of the game to get the real ending in less than 50-ish hours of tedious grinding. Why have so few journalists bothered to finish the game?

    And we can stop making excuses for loot boxes now – and yes calling them unnecessary rather than predatory is an excuse. They are predatory, period. They are DESIGNED to be predatory, that’s why they make lots of money and continue to be pushed on us harder every year.

    • Shinard says:

      …there’s an article linked, right above you, about how you don’t need loot boxes to finish the final act. Right there. From a journalist who’s bothered to finish the game.

      …did you bother to finish the game? Or are you basing that on what other people said?

      I do agree loot boxes are predatory, though.

      • Ghostwise says:

        If you expect people to read the articles they comment on, I have terrible news. You may want to sit down first. :-)

        • Unclepauly says:

          I want to stand, there’s a couch right behind me though.

  8. Moragami says:

    Was pleasantly surprised to see this had unlocked last night, instead of at 10AM as the steam countdown was indicating. I played a good two hours straight and really enjoyed it. It’s pretty early and they’re rolling out the new powers and abilities. The game looks amazing and I’ve already has a lot of fun killing and re-killing one particularly pesky Uruk-Hai who changed his name from Kukra the Meat Slicer to Kukra the Survivor. He looks more and more jacked up each time we fight. Good stuff.

  9. Sandepande says:

    Bought it. Will ignore loot boxes.

  10. AutonomyLost says:

    Just wanted to log in and say that I’ve played the game now for roughly three hours on the PC version.

    It runs flawlessly, is remarkably good-looking, has spot-on controls very much as the previous game, and seems to be offering a vastly improved playground in which to murder Uruks. I’m loving and look forward to booting it up tomorrow! I hope others are having positive experiences as well.

  11. racccoon says:

    I’m really not sure about this game, a demo would be cool. :)
    From some of vids you seem restricted..that’s where i’m not really sure about it. I mean don’t you want to run rampant with a giant elephant firing thing by yourself? lol I do.

  12. poohbear says:

    “Shadow of War’s approach doesn’t seem so much predatory to me as misanthropic.”

    Looked up misanthropic. Doesn’t seem to fit in the above sentence usage. But thank u for the new word!

  13. Menthalion says:

    Would have been an instant buy if not for the loot boxes shite.

    And RPS: Why would a company be misanthropic if there’s no money to be made from misanthropy ? To be predatory is the only logical motive.

  14. The Sombrero Kid says:

    But never once did I spend ‘real’ cash on a loot box


    Why in holy fuck is it so hard for reviewers to understand that games aren’t static, that the fact *they* never needed to spend cash doesn’t mean no one does. It’s very simple, these games are often rebalanced after the press has moved on to make microtransactions more appealing and almost no reviewer i’m aware of has even pointed this fact out.

    • Tigris says:

      Thats a really good point!
      Nowadays probabilities are even adjusted on a per player base.
      So it is to assume, that other players may need way more grind/ get less (good) drops.

      You as a reviewer should play the game on the computer of a normal player. if possible even from one who has spend games in microtransactions in other games!