It's the latest trend in modern gaming, and it's coming to a Middle-earth near you.

Loot crates, card packs, and micropayments were previously the realm of free to play mobile gaming, but like an army of angry Uruk hai, they're increasingly encroaching on premium AAA gaming as well.

The latest game to take up the cash-for-acceleration craze is none other than Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the amazing-looking follow up to 2014's Shadow of Mordor.

As a direct sequel, the game takes us back into Tolkien's Middle-earth, where the incredibly successful Lord of the Rings movies are set. Players will be able to leverage magical powers, stealth tactics, and brutal swordsmanship to bring the fight to Sauron, as you build up your very own orc army. This time around, however, you'll be able to build up that orc army by buying in-game accelerators in exchange for micropayments.

See at Xbox Store See at Amazon

Revealed during a live stream and later clarified in an official forum post, Middle-earth: Shadow of War's economy features piles of gear upgrades, special orcs to include in your very own army, and all sorts of additional boosts and benefits for the game's intriguing Nemesis systems, that now include customizable stronghold warfare.

Thankfully, everything can still be earned in-game without dropping a dime on a micropayment, but Middle-earth: Shadow of War will offer you the chance to skip the item and orc hunt by gambling on randomly populated loot crates. Here's what you need to know about the micropayments and Shadow of War's in-game economy.

The Marketplace

Shadow of War will have a marketplace dedicated to purchasing crates for items, XP boosters to help the game's main character, Talion, level up faster, and orcs to help bolster your army. It will feature two types of currency, one in-game, and one premium, paid for with real money. The items you can acquire vary depending on how you acquire them, but the game's developer, Monolith, says all content can be experienced through regular play.

Chests

  • Loot Chests will give you weapons and armor of random quality. They will also contain XP boosters to help you speed up the game.
  • War Chests will give you orcs of random power and quality to help build your in-game army. They will also let you speed up the levelling of your army.
  • There will be bundles to purchase, which Warner Brothers says represents "great value."

Currency

The game has two types of currency to leverage at the market place. One being Mirian, and the other being Gold.

  • Mirian is the in-game currency, found by defeating certain orcs, deconstructing obsolete gear, or finding caches throughout the game.
  • Gold is the "premium" currency, which you purchase using real money. It will also arrive in small amounts for participating in community challenges in-game, and at "specific milestones." The developer says they're still trying to work out how much gold will cost.  

Do you have to buy Gold?

The inclusion of micropayments into Shadow of War has already generated a bit of a furore across some internet communities. But Monolith is adamant that you don't need to pay a penny to have a great experience. Asked whether you have to buy Gold, this is what Monolith has to say:

No. Gold is awarded in small amounts at specific milestones and for participating in community challenges. It can also be purchased through the PlayStation Store, Xbox Store and by adding funds to your Steam Wallet using real money. Everything a player can buy with Gold can also be earned in the game over time for free, but Gold gives players the option to acquire these items faster. No Gold purchases are necessary to enjoy the complete game experience.

By simply engaging with the world and playing through Middle-earth: Shadow of War, you earn items like Gear for Talion and unique Orcs for your army. These are the same items that are found in the Market within Loot Chests and War Chests. Gold merely allows you to get your hands on them immediately, cutting down some of the additional time that would have been spent winning more battles, tracking nemeses, completing quests and assaulting fortresses.   On the question of whether Gold will give players any form of advantage:

No, Gold does not give you any advantage over other players. A player who invests enough time can progress the same amount and have access to the same content as a player who purchases Gold. Gold is not required to progress or advance in the game at all.

And finally, will loot chests contain special items that you can only acquire by purchasing Gold?  

No, all of the aforementioned items can be earned playing through the game. Gold merely allows you to get your hands on them immediately.

There's already a discussion raging over the game's micropayments, with some claiming the system is motivated by greed, while others are keen to point out that you don't need to pay to experience everything. Monolith says they're just offering players additional playstyle options, but, I'm not sure there's anyone out there who actually enjoys having to pay extra cash in exchange for time. Maybe I'm just out of touch, eh? Let me know in the comments.

At the very least, hopefully Monolith will balance time spent vs. payments appropriately to prevent cheapening the over all experience. Time will tell. Regardless, the game still looks absolutely incredible.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War launches on Windows 10, Xbox One, and Xbox One X as a Play Anywhere title on October 10th, 2017. It will also hit PS4 and Steam.

See at Xbox Store See at Amazon