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.
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.
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.
- 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."
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:
And finally, will loot chests contain special items that you can only acquire by purchasing Gold?
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.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!