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.