Far enough along to (maybe?) give an actual review of Shadow of War and not merely leaning on first impressions (focusing heavily on the “boss fight” mechanic).
90% of Shadow of War will be immediately recognizable to people who beat Shadow of Mordor. Combat lifted right out of the Batman Arkham games, gratuitous violence, and The Nemesis System.
Well, Shadow of Mordor adds a handful of things on top of that. People who have played sandboxy games will immediately recognize the map being totally covered with all sorts of wacky stuff. There are the Shelob sidequests. The Celebrimbor’s Memories sidequests. There are collectables. Get killed? There are revenge missions. Got a connection to the internet? There are revenge missions that you can do on behalf of your acquaintances (or just randos!) who have gotten killed. There are all of the little orc-specific missions (duels, feasts, other ones you remember from the first game). And, of course, the missions involving taking out the henchmen of the henchmen to the orc in charge of the castle and then the henchmen to the orc in charge of the castle. And *THEN* you get to put your own orcs in place of the henchmen to the henchmen and then the henchmen themselves.
And then, at the end of the level, you get to storm the castle. And storming the castle involves using the resources you’ve acquired over the level to help keep the parts of the castle you take as you take them… and then you find yourself in the throne room with the orc in charge of the castle and you have to take him out to truly claim the castle for yourself and for your orc army you’ve accumulated.
And *THEN*, after you’ve taken the castle, you can level up your orcs! Have them fight each other in the pits! Have them resolve their little intra-orc squabbles! Make your army of orcs even stronger!
This is all amazingly and delightfully fun.
But somewhere around level, oh, 31 (of 60(![/efn_note]… things start to slow down. It takes you a long time to go up a level (and the orcs you can enlist into your personal army are limited by your level… like, a level 31 player cannot enlist a level 41 orc).
There are experience boosts available in the online store, though. Get a 25% boost for only a couple of bucks!
And that brought me to the store. While you can certainly get by with enlisting orcs to your army the old fashioned way (fighting them and dominating them), you can save a little time and just buy really good ones in the online store! (With the possibility of the occasional really, really good one!)
It feels like, halfway through the game, the game tells you “now that you’re hooked, you should spend some money in the shop!”
And this happens right around the time that you’re going up against big boss fights against orcs 10 levels higher than you… and you’re limited to equipment that is your level, skills that are your level, and helper orcs that are your level. And grinding for XP after you’ve cleared out most of the quests on the board (including all of the side quests) is less fun than you’d think.
And given that people who bought the full version of the game at full price paid about $100 for it (I got it on sale, you see), this strikes me as downright bad.
But to get to the point where they switch from “first hit’s free!” to “okay, now that you’re invested…” is really, really fun.
Which is an irritating mechanic.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913[/efn_note]