Paying for shortcuts and loot boxes in video games is nothing new. However, now more than ever, we’re seeing publishers attempt to seed their entire libraries with microtransactions, looking for ways to wring just that little bit extra from players. Sometimes it goes horribly tits up as demonstrated very recently by NBA 2K18 and the way it stunts progress for those who aren’t willing to pay up.
Shadow of War doesn’t go down that same route, thankfully. Still, when it was announced Monolith would include a marketplace where players could buy stuff with real cash, it set alarm bells ringing. Even when microtransactions are implemented in the “right” way, their existence in a £40+ game are still questionable.
As I wrote in our review, I never felt as though Shadow of War’s marketplace cast a shadow over my enjoyment of the game. In fact, if I hadn’t already been aware and wasn’t planning on writing this article beforehand, I probably would have ignored their inclusion entirely.
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s discuss why Shadow of War might even have microtransactions to begin with. Compared to 2014’s Shadow of Mordor it’s much, much bigger game that now has loot and an army-building features. You can find plenty of either by simply playing the game though there are times where you might want to quicken this process.
By spending Miriam, Shadow of War’s in-game currency, you can crack open chests to instantly add gear and captains to your inventory. Having the option to do so makes sense, especially given how much Miriam the game flings at you.
Chests come in three tiers (silver, gold, and mithril) but you can only pay for the latter two using Gold, Shadow of War’s premium currency. Put simply, these chests offer more items at a higher guaranteed rarity. For example, buying a bog standard silver war chest will grant two followers (at least one of them being epic rarity) while splurging on its mithril counterpart will lock in four legendary followers every time.
The better orcs you have at your command, the better your chances are of conquering fortresses or defending your own. Similarly, high tier weapons and armour will confer enhanced stats and perks.
That said, these unlocks will scale to your current player level. Splashing money on gold or mithril chests at any point before Shadow of War’s endgame is absolutely pointless as you’ll continue to find better orcs and equipment as you progress.
It only gets a bit shady when you consider Shadow of War’s online component. It’s not multiplayer in the traditional sense, but allows players to raid each other’s’ strongholds. This isn’t like Metal Gear Solid V’s F.O.B missions either where you can steal or destroy your opponent’s hard-earned possessions. These missions are essentially the same as the sieges found during the campaign, albeit testing one player’s army against another.
If someone were to spend loads of money popping open mithril chests it may give them an unfair advantage, swelling their ranks with the game’s best captains and warchiefs. However, given the no-stakes nature of these “online” battles, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t want to spend any extra money.
When Monolith said its microtransactions would be time saving shortcuts they weren’t lying. While we’d hardly call them altruists (other means of speeding player progress could have been implemented for free), Shadow of War’s marketplace is far less egregious than some may have feared and can easily be ignored.