What You Need To Know About Shadow of War’s Controversial Loot Boxes
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 $60 game? And what’s this about the “real ending” being a microtransactions bonanza?
Part of the confusion is that Shadow of War is a complicated game—60 hours later, I’m still learning new things in it—and its loot boxes are similarly convoluted. There are four types of main loot chests, some of which have subcategories, and three types of currencies. I’ve tried or earned most of these currencies and chests while playing the game for 60 hours and counting. I have a good sense of how loot boxes fit into the picture. It’s not necessarily as bad as some may fear, but even 60 hours with the game isn’t enough for me to bottom line that for sure.
Before we dive in, it’s important to know some big-picture stuff about how Shadow of War works. The game revolves around randomized orcs that you enslave to build multiple armies. You use these orcs as your bodyguard or to defend regions of the map. You need decent orcs to make progress in the game and, if you’re not careful, your orcs can permanently die. Through the course of the game, you will kill, recruit, and replace dozens upon dozens of orcs. All of these orcs can come in a few flavors. “Epic” orcs are great to get, and “Legendary” orcs are even better. Those rarity classifications affect the number and types of advanced skills an orc can have, such as greatly increased health counts, or high poison proficiency. All types of orcs can be found in the wild, and in my particular game, I’ve had no shortage of Legendary orcs to recruit and command.
Additionally, Talion, the main character, can also equip a bevy of gear, such as swords and bows. This equipment is also constantly cycled as you find better stuff and it too can be Epic or even Legendary. While both orcs and gear can be earned by playing the game, you can also save some time and buy them from loot chests instead.
There are four types of main loot chests, some of which have subcategories, and three types of currencies. Let’s start with the currencies.
Mirian is a abundant currency that you mainly earn by playing the game. You can equip gem runes that increase Mirian drops, equip gear that increases the likelihood of Mirian drops, destroy gear for Mirian, and hunt down Treasure Orcs for Mirian. Mirian can also be used for in-game perks, such as castle upgrades.
Gold coins can be obtained a number of ways, including with real-world money. We don’t know how much they’ll cost just yet, as Shadow of War’s online store only lists the season pass right now.
I’ve never once felt like any part of Shadow of War would be easier by buying orcs or better gear.
During the pre-release period while I’ve been playing the game, the main method of earning coins has been from in-game daily challenges. Every day, Shadow of War tasks you with doing four different things, each with its own reward. Daily challenges run the gamut from “kill a certain number of enemies” to “go to this map and do this very specific thing.” Usually, doing all of the daily quests takes around 15-30 minutes. In my time with the game, the rewards for the daily quests have varied. Early on, I only got one daily 50 gold coin quest and multiple Mirian quests. Lately, that’s moved up to two 50 gold coin quests, and more recently, three daily 50 gold coin quests. It’s unclear if the number of gold coin quests you get on a daily basis are randomized, or if Monolith, the developers, have upped the number of gold coin quests you get behind the scenes. We reached out to the Shadow of War’s creators about this but haven’t heard back yet.
Then there are “Spoils of War,” which are points you earn by completing online activities. While the game doesn’t consider this a currency, playing the multiplayer earns you points which in turn unlock chests, so functionally speaking, they fulfills the same purpose.
So, what do you buy with all this digital money? In my experience, War Chests are probably what you’ll deal with most of all, because they contain orcs. There are three main types of War Chests which can be bought with different currencies.
Silver chests, which cost 1.5k Mirian, drop two orcs (at least one epic) and one consumable (things like timed boosts). Silver War Chests are the easiest type of chest to buy, because you are constantly swimming in Mirian. Nearly every battle grants you Mirian, and you’re going to sell the vast majority of your gear for Mirian. I have more Mirian than I know what to do with right now. I could buy dozens of orcs if I wanted to, but I’ve had a good experience using the orcs I’ve naturally encountered throughout the game.
Gold chests cost 200 gold coins, and for that price, you’ll get three orcs (one legendary and two epic), along with two consumables. Mithril chests, which cost 600 gold coins, give you four legendary orcs and one legendary training order (these allow you to do things like move units across maps). I’ve bought a few gold chests out of curiosity, not necessity. To the game’s credit, I could theoretically earn a gold chest almost daily, free of charge, but formidable orcs are abundant enough that I often forgot about challenges in the first place.
Then there are literal Loot Chests, which dole out gear. Silver loot chests give you two gear pieces, one of which will be rare, for 750 Mirian. I have bought exactly one of these, just for the purposes of this article, but otherwise, the game constantly gifts you new gear just by killing orcs. And boy, will you slaughter a ton of orcs in this game. You can also threaten orcs for higher-quality gear. Heck, you can let orcs kill you so that they gain levels and thus drop better gear. There’s not much incentive to buy Loot Chests.