Ever since Warner Bros. Interactive revealed that Middle-earth: Shadow of Warwould feature loot boxes, fans have been skeptical regarding their implementation. With the game finally in players’ hands, accusations of the system functioning as a pay-to-win scheme are running rampant – particularly as it applies to the game’s true ending.
WARNING: Big ol’ Mordor-sized spoilers for Middle-earth: Shadow of War ahead.
Shadow of War is ostensibly about how good can easily become evil, how those with power become the corruption they once fought against – after all, you don’t go through hours and hours of enslaving sentient beings and come out the other side a shining example of purity. When it becomes clear to Talion that his ghost buddy Celebrimbor only seeks to replace the evil Sauron as the sole bastion of power in Middle-earth and not kill him, the two split up.
Since Talion has technically been (sorta) undead this whole time, Celebrimbor unlinking himself from our hero causes him to start dying again. In a last-ditch fight to stay alive, Talion puts on a ring taken from a Nazgul – thus granting him immortality while simultaneously binding him to Sauron. This begins the game’s final act, as Talion starts raising up his followers for what looks like a neverending battle.
And this is where loot boxes come in; the loot boxes sold in Shadow of War can contain strong Orcs which you add to your army. So at the end of the game, you can either grind through and dominate enough Orcs in order to successfully defend your way through more than a dozen extra siege battles… or you can spend money and instantly get you some sweet, sweet Orc. So yeah, there’s a choice there, but one requires a great amount of time and effort, and one requires that you just don’t get a coffee tomorrow.
While Steam’s overall score for the game is currently ‘Very Positive,’ a number of negative reviews are starting to float to the top. One user calls WB “anti-consumer” over the system, another says the game was “like playing a mobile F2P game,” another likens Shadow of War to a mansion with a welcome mat made of dog feces, and another calls loot boxes an “outright lie.”
I’ll let you decide for yourself how balanced Shadow of War is (I haven’t played through that far yet) but if it all sounds like too much hassle, some have already uploaded the game’s true ending for you to watch.