You know what may well be the worst trend in modern gaming? It’s the over monetisation of games and the relentless shoe-horning of microtransactions into full priced titles that absolutely do not require them.
Warner Brother Interactive and Monolith Studios have announced that their highly anticipated, singleplayer RPG Middle-earth: Shadow of War will be getting loot boxes and a marketplace. The announcement comes via their official blog which you can read here or check the video below (starts at about 7 minutes 30 seconds), but I’ll try to summarise things more concisely.
An in-game store (marketplace) will be available for players to purchase Loot Chests, War Chests, XP Boosts and Bundles. Loot Chests contain armour and weapons of varying rarity (which enhance your abilities) or XP Boosts (to level up faster). War Chests on the other hand contain Orc followers of varying rarity which can be used as part of your Orc army or they’ll contain Training Orders which are used to level up your Orcs.
These items can be purchased with two different forms of currency: Mirian or Gold. Mirian is exclusively found within the game itself, whereas Gold can be purchased with real money. Gold appears to be a more valuable form of Mirian with players able to purchase “higher level Loot Chests”.
No content is strictly inaccessible without paying real money for it, but obviously those who do pay real money are more likely to get higher level loot and will get loot much faster.
So what’s so bad about this system? Well first and foremost Shadow of War is a full priced single-player game. The enjoyment of a game like this comes from the challenges the game throws at you, the enjoyment of engaging with the game’s mechanics, and the achievement of overcoming adversity or progressing a story. When you throw non-cosmetic microtransactions into that formula you completely imbalance the experience and muddy up what could have been clear and crisp water. If you can straight up buy power then the developers no longer know how strong you are at any given moment of the game, meaning content may be too hard or too easy and ruin the experience. With weapons and armour that “enhance Talion’s character abilities” it also means that those who don’t have access to that loot don’t have access to potentially more engaging and more dynamic abilities.
Not to mention that one of the most anticipated features of the upcoming game, the expansion of the nemesis system and Orc followers, is now being gated by randomised Loot Chest drops. Yes, all content may be acquirable for free through in-game play but let’s be real for a second. In order to make real money transactions tempting to the player then the content they want to buy has to be far enough out of their grasp that earning it through in-game methods becomes a hassle.
“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.” In other words, pay real money or grind through a tedious ambient quest system.
Shadow of War isn’t the first game to throw non-cosmetic microtransaction into a full priced singleplayer game, but it may just be the most egregious example. Last year Deus Ex: Mankind Divided allowed you to buy skill points for real money which never sat well with me. The idea of buying direct power is stupid because the game is developed with a particular power level in mind, which means one play-style (purchasing skill points or not purchasing skill points) is doing it wrong, or maybe both are.
What makes Shadow of War so much worse is how comparatively fleshed out their system is. Extra development time was dedicated to not only creating a Loot Chests system but to create the content to put in those chests. And if development time wasn’t dedicated to creating those items specifically for Loot Chests then that means those items were already created for the game and then locked away behind a randomised pay gate.
It just seems greedy and gross.
Obviously we will have to wait and see how it all pans out but from my perspective things aren’t looking optimistic. How do you feel about the whole situation?