Editor’s Note: Credit for Images go to Jim Sterling/The Jimquisition. Thank you.
So, I was clued into a Jimquisition that I missed. I still have a difficult time with his aesthetic, but as always, I respect the Hell out of his work ethic/research/general review practices. He’s honest, he’s blunt, and he’s certainly memorable. He recently talked about something I was reading about, concerning Shadow of War. Back in my day, if you had a problem in a game, you’d hit “IDDQD”, “Glittering Prizes”, or “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Start”, something of that nature to cheat or get ahead. Nowadays, Warner Bros. has shown that they have no guile, no stealth. They are boldly going where a lot of people have gone before: Microtransactions! But they’re doing it in a way that I have not seen a company go about it before. Most of the times, a company will assure the player that it’s just “cosmetics”, or maybe a slight boost, something that won’t make the game “Pay to Win”. And one of the things I loved about the previous title was the Nemesis system.
The Nemesis system rewarded enemies that killed the main character. It added depth, giving them powers, personalities, giving them strength for outwitting/outpowering you. It forced you as the player to think and try and try new strategies, making the encounters new and fresh. It was unique, without it being a horrific, Dark Souls punishment system. Shadow of War has changed it. Now you are trying to use the Nemesis system to build an army, a powerful one. Orcs that you encounter in the world, or in their clan holds can be overpowered, brought into the fold. That sounds terrific, right? Hard work, building the army your way, through your own gameplay. That … is one way you can go about it. You know what’s slowly starting to kill online gaming? Loot Chests. I like the concept, but it’s ultimately gambling, and it’s free money for most games that already have a cost just to start playing. In addition to acquiring your army through the actual gameplay, you can also use the Loot Chest system to acquire Orcs “of varying rarity”, but none of it’s actually guaranteed.
When I first heard “Microtransactions in Shadow of War”, the consensus was that surely, it was just for a mobile game. Because a AAA company wouldn’t openly mock their audience or insult their intelligence by saying they could just spend money to get good at the game. Now you can buy EXP Boosts as well as your army. What’s the point of playing an action RPG if you can just throw real money at it? Sure, you can acquire gold “in-game” in small amounts … or you can throw 20 bucks down, buy 15 chests, and pile up the recruits [maybe. You might still get garbage. You’ll probably still get garbage]. There’s still the regular, in-game currency, but it’s basically worthless. You’ll get piles of it, think you’re rich, then spend 20-50 bucks on “gold” and then throw it away on chests that you won’t even need if you just … played the game a little longer. The part that really grinds my gears is that Warner Bros. isn’t even hiding their contempt for the player. It’s not a secret, it’s not something they spirited away until launch. No, we’ve known for a while now!
This is a single-player game. There is absolutely no need for a Cash Shop for a single-player game! What, was a “Season Pass” not good enough? That’s another thing I hate, the Season Pass, but that’s another story for another day. That wasn’t enough money … no, they had to turn what could have been another legendary title into a sad, sad state of affairs like this one. You don’t need to do it, everything in the game is unlockable through gameplay. Of course, that’s how it should be! Why? Why would they bury this property before it’s even out of the gate? The backlash has been insurmountable. But so far, I’ve heard no word of them taking back loot chests, changing their strategy or anything. But you know what really brings my piss to a boil? This is a 60 dollar goddamn game. A 60 dollar goddamn game that has a 100 dollar version. This is a AAA game from a big-time studio, who already stood to make millions off the game because the previous game was a hit [and it’s Lord of the Rings. Come on. That’s easy money]. Was there a need to add a cash shop on top of that? From what I understand, you can’t access the cash shop without an internet connection but it can be played offline. This is greed on a mythological level. This isn’t “to speed up the game so players can access later parts faster”, this isn’t “Oh, we balanced it before we added this, so players who don’t use it will be fine”, this is “We’re Warner Bros., we make garbage DC films [except Wonder Woman, that was brilliant] and want as much money as humanly possible”. It’s an absolutely disgusting practice. I’d like to round this out by a wise quote from a wise man:
“And once again I posit to the question, if you need to keep selling microtransactions to us by talking about how “ignorable” and “unimportant” they are, how can you believe you’ve created something of worth and value? You haven’t! You simply haven’t! What you’ve done is preyed upon — PREYED UPON — I fucking say, those with potentially harmful gambling tendencies to double dip on your product, exploit both your critically acclaimed work, the customers who love it, and further contribute to an utter pox … a blight on the world of video games that will continue to spread, get more audacious, and ultimately ruin future games because too many come out of the woodwork to defend this indefensible shit” – Jim Sterling.