Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is a controversial game. There are a lot of things about it that beget controversy (including my personal favorite, the cavalier attitude with which it treats Tolkein’s lore, but that’s for another time)- but the big one that has caused an uproar with a lot of the gaming community has been the inclusion of loot boxes. In a single player game.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Monolith’s design director Bob Roberts specified that there was no ulterior motive towards the inclusion of the boxes in the game- they have merely been included as an option for the busy player, who may find the idea of grinding for rewards too daunting. Much like an Easy Mode, Roberts argues, the idea here is to give the player a choice.
“In the game you earn resources at a regular pace and the systems are tuned to that so you don’t need another option. At the same time, it’s there as a player choice. It’s there, from my perspective, for people who are protective of their spare time and scared when a massive game comes along that they’re not getting to see the full experience,” Roberts said.
“It’s the same design philosophy as us adding in difficulty modes,” he said, pointing out that the Nemesis System, for example, doesn’t exactly shine on Easy. “So we now have Easy mode, and we’ve added Hard mode at the other end of the spectrum. Frankly the Nemesis system comes to life when you are dying loads, so you could see Easy mode as a system which makes the game less enjoyable if you are the type of player who really should have put it on Hard. It’s putting more control in people’s hands – saying, you know how you play best, you make that choice.
“The ideal for people who set it to Easy is if they are just finding things too punishing, not because they don’t want to die. We’d rather you die regularly to get the full experience of the Nemesis system.”
He also emphatically asserted that the game is balanced to be played without using loot boxes, and it will not push the players towards using them. “It is important to clarify this as there were a couple of misconceptions. First, the concern about balancing – hopefully when it is out there and people are able to talk about their experiences then the balancing question will be answered, hopefully by people you trust to play through it and see that,” he said.
“The other big misconception was whether the game had to be online too – and it’s important for people to understand that no, it’s not required to be online to play the game, and it’s a massive game where you can enjoy the full experience without putting any extra money in.”
Okay, most of this sounds good- except I am still not on board with the loot boxes. If the idea is to give the player options… why not give them options for free in the game? Other games don’t seem to have much issue giving the players extra loot or easier enemies and combat on lower difficulties. Why resort to paid microtransactions in a single player game?
Shadow of War launches for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC in October.