Tagged With shadow of war

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Middle-earth: Shadow of War came out on 11 October 2017. Two hundred eighty days later, it is now free of all microtransactions. It’s a drastic change and yet another sign that 2017 was a turning point for the video game industry’s brief obsession with loot boxes.

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When the video game Shadow of Mordor was released in late 2014, its most marvellous trait was its Nemesis System. This superb chunk of design and programming ensured that any evil grunt that killed the player would be elevated in the game's bad guy hierarchy and would stalk the revived player, perhaps becoming the game's ultimate enemy in the process.

Shadow of Mordor's 2017 sequel, Shadow of War, expanded the Nemesis System and choked on it. The sequel's final expansion ditches it, changes a lot of the franchise's other systems and is better for it.

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Shadow of War's microtranssactions might not have been popular, but unlike Battlefront 2 they were never removed from the game despite the public controversy. But that's set to change on July 17, with the developers releasing a patch that will remove Shadow of War's gold, war chests and marketplace entirely.

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Video games will always manipulate us. Each challenge and scenario in a game has been carefully engineered to make us react a certain way. Most of the time, that's what we sign up for. But the moment real money enters the equation, something changes.

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Over the past few weeks, as randomised loot boxes have dominated the conversation surrounding this spring's video games, there have been calls for the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to classify them as gambling in its back-of-the-box ratings. But the ESRB says that isn't going to happen -- because according to a spokesperson, loot boxes don't fit the bill.

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When Shadow of Mordor released in 2014, its "nemesis system" was brilliant enough that many people hoped it would define a new generation of games. Years later, that vision of industry-wide character hierarchies that learn, evolve, and remember the player never came to pass.

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Ever since reviews of Shadow of War hit, talk of loot boxes and microtransactions have been heavy with panic and rife with misinformation. Are the best orcs behind a paywall? Is the design of the game predatory enough that it's going to make people feel pressured to drop extra cash on a $US60 ($77) game? And what's this about the "real ending" being a microtransactions bonanza?

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The silly season is here, people. This week alone Sebastian Castellanos and The Evil Within return with Bethesda's batshit bonkers horror world. Monolith jumps into the fray with sexy Shelob and Shadow of War, and the PAYDAY 2 developers are back with another heist game - set in World War 2. And the Switch gets more indie games, as you'd expect.