Monolith and publisher Warner Bros have announced the ‘Market’ for Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, an in-game store where players can buy randomised Loot Chests, War Chests, XP Boosts and Bundles for real cash monies in their single-player game. Inside these chests, players can unlock rare weapons and armour, new Orc followers to help build an army, and Training Orders to level up and customise Orc followers.

Before we go anywhere with this: gross. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s drill down to how it all works. As explained earlier, there are four different items that can be purchased as microtransactions:

Loot Chests - Contain weapons and armour with randomised rarity. May also contain XP boosts that can be used to help Talion level faster.

War Chests - Provides new Orc followers of randomised rarity. Can be used to build Talion’s army. May also contain Training orders to customise and level up Orc followers.

XP Boosts - Experience boosts that can be used to help Talion level faster.

Bundles - These are varying bundles that included Loot Chests, War Chests and Boosts, all packaged together.

In order to buy any of these packages, you’ll need to spend Gold or Mirian, both in-game currencies. Mirian can be acquired by defeating treasure orcs, destroying gear, destroying orc followers, and finding Mirian stashes. Mirian will get you base-level gear, while Gold will be needed to acquire higher level loot. Gold can be purchased from the Steam store, PlayStation Store or Xbox Store. It can also be awarded in “small amounts” for specific milestones and for participating in community challenges. Monolith says “Please note: No content in the game is gated by Gold. All content can be acquired naturally through normal gameplay.” In translation - you can either grind out the unlocks for hours and logging in every day for community challenges, or you can just lay down some cash and roll for a chance at unlocking them.

“Everything a player can buy with Gold can also be earned in the game over time for free, but Gold gives players the option to acquire these items faster.” Just how much faster, is the golden question. These systems tend to artificially slow down progression in order to direct players toward the faster unlocks. If it operated like a normal game and had plenty of unlocks and gear, not many people would be inclined to pay to get additional gear. We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out, but this certainly a game I’d now take a wait and see approach on rather than pre-ordering.

At this stage, I’m fairly convinced Warner Bros is going out of its way to make picking up Middle-Earth: Shadow of War as unappealing as possible. As someone who bought the original Shadow of Mordor, and thought it was decent but nothing special, everything they’ve shown has done nothing to convince me Shadow of War is going to be worth my time. The infestation of microtransactions in a wholly single-player game is just the final nail in the coffin. I can only presume Monolith has been strong-armed into this by publisher forces, as no one wants to have their game tarnished by layers of unlocks, gambling-focused loot crates and game design geared towards players paying more, not playing more.

As you’d expect, Shadow of War also has a season pass. The exact pricing has yet to be announced, but the base game is £55 over on the PlayStation Store, and the game plus the season pass, plus a single Gold loot box, is £90. My hazy maths skills estimate Shadow of War’s season pass alone is at least £35. Gulp.

What’s your take on randomised loot boxes in a totally single-player game? Will this affect whether you’ll be picking up Middle-Earth: Shadow of War at launch?