'Shadow of War' Developer Promises a Massive Expansion to Middle-Earth
It's time to go back to Mordor.
Following the massive success of 2014's Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Monolith Productions has returned to the world of Tolkien with Shadow of War, a new action-role playing adventure that puts the player back in the boots of the rugged ranger of Gondor, Talion.
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Monolith's vp creative, Michael de Plater, was a guest on the most recent Donkey Con Artists podcast, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter's Patrick Shanley, to discuss the new features in the upcoming sequel, including additions to the award-winning "Nemesis System" from the first game as well as an expanded world, new enemies and the debut of the "recruitment system."
When asked about new features to the Nemesis System, de Plater emphasized the importance of focusing on what made the first game such a success. "That’s really been the primary focus for us over the past three years," he said. "Just generally improving the number, the quality and the emotional power of the stories we create. Making you really love to hate these enemies. There’s four times the content around making these enemies varied with different personalities and bringing these villains to life."
Just making the system bigger was not enough, however, as the team also brought in new features to the system. "In addition to that, we’ve also added the ability to recruit followers by using the ring of power. Now you have all these wonderful, colorful characters on your side as part of your army," explained de Plater. "You sometimes really love these guys when they saved you in battle and you’ve really created the ultimate enemy if they’ve betrayed you."
Also new are different tribes of Orcs, each with their unique habits, cultures and personalities. This feature opened the door for perhaps the biggest update of all: "We’ve added fortresses, so we now have these epic battles along the lines of Helm’s Deep or the Siege of Minas Tirith," de Plater said. "You’ve got these massive battles where it all comes together where you’re bringing your personal followers who you’ve built up a relationship with and you’re facing off against these bitter enemies that you’ve built up these stories with, all escalating to these glorious boss fights with these overlords of various fortresses."
De Plater explained that Shadow of War is more than three times the size of its predecessor, with a wider variety of locales. "They're affected by the Nemesis System as well," he said. "If in my game it's controlled by the Feral Tribe, it will be much different than if in your game it is controlled by the Terror Tribe."
While the game is a single-player experience, Shadow of War will offer a variation of multiplayer social gaming, as well. "We don't have synchronous multiplayer, but what we do have is that, because your Orcs, fortresses and followers are unique to your world, we want players to be able to share that," said de Plater. "You made this incredible cool and challenging fortress, so we wanted players to be able to challenge themselves to try and conquer your fortress."
Another addition to the game are "loot boxes," a term for collectibles, usually random and cosmetic, that can be purchased in the game. The inclusion of such micro-transactions in console games (they have been included in mobile games for years) is a source of contention among many gamers.
"The big thing for us is when we sell the game, we [want it it] to be so much bigger and expansive than Shadow of Mordor," de Plater said when asked about Shadow of War's inclusion of loot boxes. "We want people to be playing this game for a long, long time. In addition to that, one of our key features is almost an infinite variety of Orcs and enemies you can create. The ability to go to a market and play with that system and purchase additional Orcs like that felt like a really good fit. You can do that with the currency in the game and the paid currency, gold, as well."
Shadow of War is available for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC on Oct. 10.
Listen to the full interview at the 11:33 mark below.
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