The Middle Earth: Shadow of War Reveal-The Good, The Bad, and The Mediocre

Well, as it happens there is a sequel to Shadow of Mordor, and its name is Middle Earth: Shadow of War. And from the looks of it, the sequel is setting its ambitions high. It was only last week that the game was leaked on Target’s website, and then the developers had no choice but to officially announce the game soon after. But in that announcement, there was a lot to digest from an announcement trailer to a Gold Edition reveal, and I think there’s a strong lesson to learn here about what to market and when to market it. Because a lot of what was unveiled sounds really impressive; unfortunately, that’s not the case for everything unveiled last week.

First, I want to start off with what worked: WB Games handled the leak extremely well (if I was more paranoid I would say it was handled a little too well), and dropped an announcement trailer only a couple days afterwards, which yes, looks incredible:

Monolith Studios has been fairly tight-lipped about the story details but the basics are that Ranger Talion and forger-of-the Rings- turned-Wraith Celebrimbor are out to stop Sauron’s conquest of Mordor, and that’s about it. Which is a good thing when it comes to a reveal trailer: any more information would have ruined it; there’s a couple nameless characters featured in the trailer who are clearly important on some level, but to what extent there’s no way of knowing, which is an excellent way to build hype. However, I think the best marketing came after the trailer; not only is there an official gameplay reveal five days from now, but there’s a concrete release date of August 22 this year. In an industry plagued by delays (The Last Guardian comes to mind, with a delay of more than 10 years), vague release windows (most games opt for the simple “2017” or “2018” release date and don’t bother to give a concrete date until the game is months away from release) and cancellations (Microsoft’s recent cancellation of Scalebound and refusal to explain why), I have real confidence that this is a game worth pre-ordering, especially if the developers are ready to divulge information this soon. Monolith also mentioned that the well-loved Nemesis system won’t just affect the Uruks you attack, but also the environment as well, and I’m eager to see what that means.

Allll that being said, while everything about the game itself looked fantastic, I wasn’t too keen on everything they announced with it; specifically the Gold and Collectors editions. To be fair, these aren’t some new occurrence in video games, but what  I’m more frustrated about is not just that they were announced with the actual game, but that all the DLC in these editions has been planned out this far in advance. The Gold edition will net you two new “Nemesis expansions (and who knows what that means)” and two story expansions. All the confidence I have in the game is still there, but it’s dampened knowing that there’s content purposely cut out of the game which likely won’t be any good to begin with. Then there’s the collector’s edition. For the low price of $300, you’ll get a cloth map of Mordor, the official soundtrack, a steelbook case and some stickers, among other trinkets, along with my personal favorite, a special War chest you can access in-game. But of course, only if you purchase the Collector’s edition. But publishers would only stop making these if people weren’t buying them. And I’m very concerned when despite the fact that no one I know buys these needlessly overpriced special editions, they’re still on the market. Whoever is buying them needs to stop if we want publishers to take people seriously when they complain about content purposefully left out of the game.

All in all though, it was an excellent reveal anyway. I’m excited that it’s less than a week until we see some real gameplay, and in less than six months I’ll finally get to see a sequel to a game I heartily enjoyed after three long years. If there’s enough content there, I’ll be sure to write up my impressions of the gameplay reveal, but until then I’ll be eagerly awaiting March 8th to see if the gameplay is as good as the announcement.

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