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Middle-earth: Shadow of War has micropayments, here's how they work

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 (opens in new tab), 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.

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.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for 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!

17 Comments
  • I find this extremely disappointing.   Bad Monolith.
  • Just greedy and unnecessary. Why go on about all the time and effort they've put in to perfect the nemesis system and then deliberately break it with micro payments.
  • And that's why I won't buy this game until Game of the Year edition comes out and is discounted to $5 like first game recently was. No hurry in gettting it earlier despite having fun with the first one.
  • I'm inclined to do the same. Shadows of mordor was one of my all time favorite games and the full price I paid was well worth it, but companies that throw microtransactions in their games that you're potentially paying $60 plus DLC need to be punished and the only way to do that is with our wallets.
  • I see this from a different side. Some people don't have time to play through at the designed rate of the game. They want to play casually but you can't get the whole experience playing for limited times. Paying to "accelerate" progression in a single player game can be nice. Now... I am not one of these people. I like playing through everything and am a bit of a completionist. But I have friends that definitely like these kind of features. They are working professionals with plenty of money and less time.
  • I absolutely agree with your comment, like you, I like playing through the game but at the same time I may not have all the hrs a regular player can have so having this option is a win win for me.
    This is just my personal opinion.
  • They used to offer this for free, it was called easy mode.
  • Yeah, and thats what cheats were for in all single player games; until greedy publishers decided why allow a cheat mode when we can charge for it. Yeah, no thanks.  
  • Those working professionals shouldnt have to pay for this. They should be able to set the difficulty level lower or enter codes to skip levels (yeah I'm that is school).
  • Ok, that just made it very easy to take the game off my wishlist; no way I am supporting this BS of having microtransactions in a $60 AAA game; F-off Monolith, never getting another games from you at full price.  
  • Lol for the lazy gamer. I just hope there is not an achievement for buying a crate because I am a gamer who would rather work hard to earn the "special" items rather than PTW
  • If the developer / publisher, thinks the game is so boring that i will pay my way trough, i will pass the game instead.
  • I feel unbothered by this...Provided that it is true that goods gained through Micropayments can be earned through gameplay events and milestones. As game balance is something I always worry about concerning games with micropayments built in, it can make or break a player's experience with a poorly tuned balance. The presence of micropayments cast a shadow over this game, though with luck Monolith has kept the game balance truly intact. Monolith shouldn't poke the bear more than necessary, as I can live with micropayment systems provided no tampering with drop rates is found.
  • I will avoid this game because of it, maybe pick it up in the future when much cheaper. I won't buy a AAA game that has micro transactions to help you win. Want to charge money for extra content like a DLC or expansion cool. Want to make your game free and charge for skins like League of Legends, I'm fine with that. But this is just a sad.
  • Total garbage. The one game I'm still interested in for 2017, and they're turning it into pay-to-win? I'll never buy into these things, and the real concern is that many such games sell these power-ups by making the game an unbearable grind without them. It's getting really irritating to throw $50-60 at a game and essentially paying for the right to spend more to finish the game without mind-numbin monotony as punishment for not being a "real fan" and spending $200 on what you thought was a $60 title. I'll still get it, but I'll definitely have this junk in the back of my mind when I think about whether or not they've hurt the game with grinding as punishment towards the "regular" paying customers. However, since their limited edition is GameStop-excluisive, stupidly expensive, and lacks compelling content, there really isn't a compelling reason to not just change my mind on spending $60 on the game and waiting for a sale. Maybe I'll wait for a $40 price drop around Black Friday, rather than the immediate purchase at launch.
  • This does have online play right?  That's where it'd bug me.  If it's just offline, who cares?
  • As far as I'm aware this is a single player only game, so it literally has no bearing on a person's enjoyment of the game who doesn't want to use the microtransactions, they just simply don't have to use them. People will get butt hurt over anything these days.