Middle-Earth: Shadow of War launched last year in the middle of the backlash against loot boxes. As I noted at the time, the game's Chests weren't really an issue until the endgame Shadow Wars, where improving your army of orcs made things a grind. Loot boxes included better orcs; the game felt tuned towards getting players to dive into microtransactions.
Months later, Monolith Productions is drastically changing Shadow of War with a new patch. Microtransactions are gone, with the game's Market being completely removed. Chests are still available in the game, but they now offer random gear and Training Orders, not new orcs. Training Orders were already in the game, allowing you to improve your current orcs, but now they'll drop more often and you can purchase them directly with Mirian, the in-game currency.
The other half of the major changes are to the Shadow Wars themselves. This endgame mode had Sauron turning the tables and attempting to take back your territory with his own army. The problem was Sauron's army ramped up in power very quickly and there were a ton of missions needed to protect your Keeps. It just felt like a slog all around.
The new patch has lowered the number of missions needed to complete Shadow Wars. It's also offered new rewards for finishing the mode, like Servant’s Blackened Armor, which causes your allied orcs who die to resurrect. The full list of rewards includes:
- Servant’s Blackened Armor: Allied grunt Orcs have a chance to resurrect when they die. This includes allied Undead grunts.
- Mask of the General: Consume and Drain kills create a Curse explosion.
- Mask of the Undying: Waters of Lórien and Spectral Dash cost no Focus. Melee and Stealth damage increase for five seconds after use.
- Mask of the Fell Rider: Graug Call summons an Elemental Graug.
- Mask of the High King: Raise Dead summons Gondorian Wights.
- Mask of an Empress: Wraith Execution, Wraith Chain, and Chain of Shadows each deal more damage with each successive Wraith.
Monolith also switched up the progression with this patch. The previous level cap for Talion was 60, with enemy orcs being able to reach level 65. Now, the level cap is 80, with levels after that offering new skill points. You'll need these for the new Prestige Skills, which offer new customization options and can be purchased multiple times. Enemy orcs can get up to 85 to match Talion's new strength. You can also spend Mirian to upgrade your gear now.
Basically, there are no microtransactions and more ways to improve Talion and your armies. It's a bit odd seeing such drastic changes 10 months after launch, but these sound like great tweaks and I enjoyed Shadow of War when I played it the first time. Maybe this, combined with sales like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War being $34.99 on Xbox One during Amazon's Prime Day will get folks to jump in. If you do, check out our lengthy guide on the game.