Middle-earth: Shadow of War is ditching loot boxes

The evils of capitalism, like Sauron, have been dealt a blow. Six months after it launched, Monolith has announced that Middle-earth: Shadow of War’s Orc-filled loot boxes, or war chests, are going to be plucked out of the open world action romp, along with all traces of microtransactions. You’ll need to wait a little bit longer for Middle-earth to be free though, as the changes aren’t happening until July 17. 

Shadow of War’s loot boxes were widely criticised at launch. The system encouraged players to buy war chests with currency that could be purchased for cash, unlocking allied Orcs instead of finding them in the wild and converting them. It wasn’t just a way to scrape more money out of players, it also reduced one of the best parts of the game to a monetary transaction

Monolith’s impending removal of war chests, gold and the market isn’t an admission that microtransactions in single-player premium games are sort of crummy, but rather an acknowledgement that making Orcs purchasable diluted the Nemesis System. 

“The core promise of the Nemesis System is the ability to build relationships with your personal allies and enemies in a dynamic open world,” reads Monolith’s blog post. “While purchasing Orcs in the Market is more immediate and provides additional player options, we have come to realize that providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game, the Nemesis System. It allows you to miss out on the awesome player stories you would have otherwise created, and it compromises those same stories even if you don’t buy anything.”

When criticisms about microtransactions are brushed aside, it’s usually because you don’t need to engage with them. In Shadow of War, for example, you can finish the game without spending any money or using the market. There are arguments that the mere existence of these systems has an impact on the game, however, even if players don’t use them. After six months of feedback, Monolith now recognises this and how it can negatively affect one’s immersion in the bloody game of recruiting a foul army. 

So you’ll have until July to spend any gold you’ve got left, but if that’s still not enough time, don’t fret. All gold will be converted into items once microtransactions have finally been excised from Middle-earth. 

Another one of Shadow of War’s less-than-lauded systems is being overhauled as well. The end-game, known as the Shadow Wars, sees the game culminate in a series of large sieges, 20 of them, leading to the final and true ending. It’s a slog. It takes quite a bit of grinding to get tough enough armies and defences to withstand the constant sieges, and then the Shadow Wars itself feels like it goes on forever. I ran out of steam long before then. 

Monolith says that this whole section is being changed. New narrative elements will be introduced, and we’re promised a more cohesive experience. Though if you quite enjoy the grind, the Endless Siege mode that was introduced in November will be sticking around. This will be accompanied by changes to the Nemesis System, new skins, skill changes, tweaks to gear and progression—generally a whole lot of stuff. This is all due on July 17, just like the microtransaction changes. 

While Shadow of War still has DLC to come, it’s great to see that there are going to be a few reasons to revisit it even if you don’t have the season pass or aren’t tempted by the expansions. The microtransactions were far from the most egregious we’ve seen lately, but they definitely marred the game, so it’s a relief to see them being put in the ground. 

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.