Round two with the loot box controversy, and here we stand with the forbearer to my previous thought.
It is undeniable that Shadow of War is a mixed bag. The world of Tolkien is one steeped with rich history ripe for the interactive experience of video games. But on the other hand is a crappy loot box system and a game which will eat you damn life away. I should know, it took 43 hours of my life away, and I haven’t even touched the story DLC. Yet.
But how far will a wonderful story take you? Will your desire to follow through push you through ticking enough boxes and collecting enough trash to make you question your life choices? Let’s find out.
The story follows on straight from the original, with Talion and Celibrimbor heading off to make a ring of power to combat Sauron. The second they do however a mysterious force comes in to kidnap Celibrimbor sending Talion off to rescue him. That mysterious force turns out to be Shelob, who is now a sexy woman.
Now it’s worth noting that Shelob is technically allowed to be a sexy woman, as it is her form in the wraith world. This only works because she has no classification, being the spawn of Ungoliant. So no need for any arguments.
Shelob offers to trade Celibrimbor for the new ring, which Talion reluctantly does and using its power she sends Talion to the last human stronghold in Mordor, Minas Ithil. The city is under siege due to the Palantir stored there, which would allow whoever possesses it to see anything they wish.
Talion head to Minas Ithil to protect the soldiers there, and quickly comes to odds with Celibrimbor who believes the city is lost and that they should simply protect the Palantir. With the Help of General Castamir, his daughter Idril and his lieutenant Baranor, the sabotage the efforts to break the city until Castamir pulls a fast one and betrays them. Castamir is killed, and the Witch King takes Minal Ithil, now called Minas Morgul, as well as the Palantir. Talion’s escape is only made possible by the elven assassin Eltariel, who has been sent by Galadriel herself to kill the wraiths. It is quickly discovered that Shelob has the new ring, and Talion barely manages to save her. In return she finally returns the ring, allowing you to finally do all the cool dominating you could do in the first game.
Now here is where the game moves from being a linear story to being a checklist. So instead of describing all of these in excruciating detail, I’m just going to bullet point them out for you:
- You dominate Orcs and take over fortresses
- You assist Idril in recusing Baranor and other Gondorian survivors
- You meet the nature beat Carnan, and help her defeat the necromancer Zog and the Balrog Tar Goroth
- You get betrayed by your follower, and with the help of Ratbag from the first game, you punish him for his betrayal.
- You help Eltariel hunt wraiths
- You piece together Shelob’s memories
- You relieve Celibrimbor’s memories
Plenty of box ticking to be had.
Eventually, when you have done enough of this you finally assault Sauron directly. After a lengthy battle, you come face to face with Isildur, who is one of Sauron’s Wraiths. Rather than dominating him Talion releases his spirit after seeing his memories of how he was corrupted by the One Ring. This leads to an argument between Talion and Celibrimbor, where his plans are revealed.
It turns out Celibrimbor planned to dominate Sauron, rather than destroy him, and in doing so dominate all of Middle Earth. Talion refuses to follow his orders anymore, which makes Celibrimbor strike a new deal with Eltariel, leaving Talion to die while they head to dominate Sauron.
As he begins to die, Talion is visited by Shelob in a vision. She informs him that if Talion and Celibrimbor had fought Sauron, they would have won and Celibrimbor would have taken over all Middle Earth. She implores Talion to keep fighting, giving him one last breath of life. Barely living, Talion picks up Isildur’s ring and swears to fight as long as he has his own mind. Using this newfound power, he marches on Minas Morgul, defeating the Witch King and taking back the Palantir.
Meanwhile, Celibrimbor and Eltariel march on Sauron, engaging him in battle. Just as Celibrimbor is about to dominate Sauron, he cuts off Eltariel’s fingers, taking her ring and merging with Celibrimbor, locking them both into a flaming eye as their spirits battle for control. Watching this through the Palantir, Talion decides to use Minas Morgul as a base camp to attack Sauron and keep him contained within Mordor.
The final ending occurs decades later, after the Shadow Wars (more on that later.) Talion succumbs to the power of the ring, and joins Sauron as a Nazgul, leaving with the other wraiths to attack Frodo at Weathertop. With the destruction of the One Ring and Sauron, Talion’s soul is freed, and the final scene shows him walking into the afterlife discarding his weapons and armour. Thus the saga ends.
What Happens Now?
Now technically the game ends first after Talion takes Minas Morgul. This leads to the Shadow Wars. The game recommends that you complete most, if not all, the other content before the end, so this will likely be the only thing left for you.
The Shadow Wars are a ballache, plain and simple. You defend your bases from Sauron’s forces. If you succeed, you keep going; if you screw up, well now you have the arduous task of reclaiming the base. There are ten stages, making between 30 to 40 sieges you have to defend.
The problem lies in that your Orcs are probably quite underleveled. Now the answer WB wants is you to buy loot boxes. The easier answer is to game the arenas, throwing weak Orcs in and dominating the challenger if they win. I did have to also buy some basic loot boxes to pad out spaces with stronger orcs. But play smart and this will be all that you do.
Other than the Shadow Wars it is just a matter of cleaning up remaining quests. Once you complete the Shadow Wars you get no more new content to play around with, and can just torture Orcs for your pleasure.
Thoughts and Wonders
The bother I have with Shadow of War is that it is a really good game. The story is, personally, one of intrigue and stunning delivery. The problem lies in the absolute grind it takes to get anywhere. While some of the main stories are interesting, particularly the return of Ratbag and hunting wraiths with Eltairel, the busywork around them doesn’t add to the game. Celibrimbor’s memories are challenges and Shelob’s memories are a useful story but just boring to do. It’s just padding, probably to make up for the lack of planned DLC for this release.
The level of depth in the story really makes me feel this is worth playing. The dispute between Talion and Celibrimbor is one which pervades much of Philosophy: If evil will keep coming, surely it is better to just be the lesser evil in charge. You can feel the strain in the relationship as Talion tries to help others and end Sauron against Celibrimbor’s wishes.
The loot box system obviously requires some attention. The game divides the money into in-game and fun bucks, as expected. But you don’t need to buy loot boxes at all, which is usually the trick I find with these games: Because of the focus of adding money services they miss ways to game the system. Firstly, you don’t need fancy Orcs, just Orcs with high levels, which the basic boxes can provide. Secondly, you can just game the arena, as stated earlier and build up forces that way. I can abide by no system like this, as it just aims to get more money as though people did not pay £60 on launch, and won’t be adding another £30 for the DLC anyway.
And WB knows this system is bad BECAUSE THEY ARE REMOVING IT. Come June Shadow of War will have no Loot Box system in place, instead of retooling the main game to make the progress easier. WB called the system integral to the game, and that was a downright lie. They caused damage to a game which would have been praised far more highly if they had not wanted to bleed every last dime from the player base.
But this does means for other people they won’t have to go through the hell I did to complete this. So… yay?
What’s it worth?
Shadow of War is a game I grew to like. It is slow to start, but I personally found the story and the ending very satisfying.
What was not satisfying was the amount of legwork it takes to get there: Multiple busy work quests, up to 60+ sieges if you really suck at them, and constant begging to buy into a loot system which just isn’t needed. There is plenty of content if you can suck up the hours of doing nothing interesting. Therefore I worth Shadow of War:
Shadow of War is the good game Shadow of Mordor was buried under publisher demands for more money. But despite that, it is worthwhile, a story as epic as the grind to get there. I really cannot hate the story told, only the storyteller.