Update, July 17: Middle-earth: Shadow of War has dropped the microtransaction market and rebalanced the endgame in a new update.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is free from the remnants of microtransactions and in-game purchases as of today’s patch. As promised back in April the market has been completely removed from the game, replaced with a reworked Garrison menu that lets you build your army exclusively with in-game currency and challenges. And the entire endgame has been totally rebalanced to reduce the grind.
The new Garrison menu gives you access to the Orcs you recruit through Online Vendettas and Ranked Conquests, and allows you to train and customize your army by spending in-game currency. Any option for extra real-money purchases is, again, gone – no loot boxes or currency packs to be found. Those purchase options have been gone since May, but today marks the removal of the system’s remnants.
Desire, competition, or addiction – why do we buy loot boxes?
This update also sees a “massively streamlined and polished” endgame, with the Shadow Wars offering new dialogue, additional rewards like the masks of the Nazgûl or gear that gives allied Orcs a chance of resurrecting. The level cap’s been boosted to 80, and levels come faster thanks to better XP rewards. You’ll also have a much greater chance of seeing legendary Orcs following the update.
You can see more detail in the full patch notes on Steam, or the PlayStation Blog post from Monolith creative VP Michael de Plater. The latter confirms that Shadow of War will also have a demo as of July 18, though whether that’s only on PlayStation remains to be seen. YouTube channel Uruk’s Hollow also got early access to the update, and offers a first-hand look at what’s coming.
These changes strike at the heart of Shadow of War’s main criticisms – the presence of loot boxes and the grindy endgame that seemed to encourage their use. Whether the game was balanced around purchases will likely never be clear (we didn’t feel pushed to buy loot boxes at the time), but here it’s far more about improving perception.