Oct 19 2017

Early Shadow Of War Mobile Review

I haven’t played mobile games in years, and even after playing this for a full month, still don’t see the appeal. I laugh now when people complain that a console game might only contain a few minutes of a cutscene after hours of grinding. Friends, there are no cutscenes in mobile games!

So Shadow of War Mobile, which I will now be referring to as SOWM from now on, doesn’t play anything like the similar named game released on consoles and PC, instead just playing as any mobile game of acquiring gems and loot which you use to level up characters and slowly progress through the game. There isn’t even an option to link the mobile game to the console game, which could have allowed for us to share resources or complete a side campaign, like how the Battlefront mobile app worked with the restarted Battlefront console game. Instead, both Shadow of War games are their own thing, splitting off from where Shadow of Mordor finished, so choose your poison, though I would rather recommend the console edition of the game even though I haven’t played it yet.

Now also bear in mind that when playing mobile games, I don’t buy into the p2p model. I’ll play as much of the f2p section until I get to a bottleneck or paywall and then lose all interest in the game, uninstalling it and trying to forget about my experiences in that seedy underworld. You can progress through this game at a bearable level for free, but you have to ensure you’re logging in every 4 hours for drops, completing daily challenges and watching 30 sec adverts which I put on whilst watching YouTube videos. Leveling up is slow, but there’s no real need for it as there’s not much to the game, with the “campaign” spanning of 3 areas that you take over, to only do it all over again on a harder difficulty. At the minute, levels and power ratings (a culmination of the power of the individual in-game characters that you’ve unlocked), are just used for bragging rights on the server, which you’ll find many paying members ensuring to do. I guess I can’t blame them, seeking for justification of spending upto thousands of pounds to acquire the smallest of code to unlock a character that otherwise sits on their phone memory untouched. I’ll make sure to retouch on this later.

In the campaign, there are currently three areas, each that further split up into groups of levels. Each level costs you Energy to tackle, in which you will create a team of four from the character’s you’ve unlocked from The Lords Of The Rings and Shadow Of War series. You can also then choose an orc from the lineup that you’ve so far branded, which can then be called into battle as backup once you’ve received enough damage. Completing a level will reward you with items, character experience and player experience points. At the end of a stage of levels, you will then go up against a war chief orc, who can be either branded and become a part of your orc army, or can be beheaded to acquire runes. At the end of the overall area, you will then face the final boss, Captains that are fairly strong and essentially the only orcs you only really want to be branding for your army. Once one area is completed, the next unlocks. When completing the individual levels, it is important to gain a three star ranking by ensuring that none of your characters die in battle besides from friendly orcs, as you can then go back to these levels later and initiate a raid on them, acquiring items rather than having to rebattle through the whole level again, essential for when you’re levelling up your characters. A tip for revisiting areas when acquiring orcs is to start from the top and work down, essentially going against the Captain first as what happens is that his underlings now appear in the battle as his bodyguards. By defeating the Captain, the lower ranks will now become enraged with you and now drop an additional 500xp for your orcs.

There are a number of items you can gain and use in the game. Starting with the Player, we have access to gems, that are essentially used as the main currency in the game, used to purchase Mirian, unlock time locked levels, replenish energy and unlock characters at the Palantir. Gems are what you can purchase using real money. Moving onto Mirian, the currency that I believe belongs to Lord Of The Rings lore, this is used to pay for the upgrades you apply to your individual characters. It can also be used to upgrade your stronghold to store more Brandishing Power. Mirian and gems can be earned from completing levels in the campaign, war lord missions and achievements. Mirian can also be earned from donating items to members in your fellowship. Brandishing Power is what’s used up when you upgrade your orc army. Finally there is Energy, the time dependant resource that controls the flow of the game and the hardest to come by. Energy can be refilled initially once per day, with further unlocks to allow you more refills. Finally, for essentially paying members, though you can slowly gain it per day, there are VIP points that are used to unlock levels of additional perks. Bear in mind, there are currently maximum 15 levels of VIP, yet the highest on the server so far is 10, which apparently cost a couple of grand. VIP 3, which many members sit at, costs about £100, numbers that honestly blow my mind. I feel like there are plenty of actual games you could get for that, especially when playing as a late gamer and getting year old titles. I’ve still yet to actually touch on the money side of things, so hold tight.

Character items includes experience scrolls that are used to level them up, glyphs that will level them up in a different way, runes that provide interchangeable boosts, and some form of token that then forms into another type of token, which is then used to upgrade a character’s ring of power, which can then be further enhanced on the side, unlocking passive abilities for the characters, which are also upgradeable upon each level up. Essentially, there are plenty of items that you have to constantly acquire, to constantly level up, to constantly unlock new ways to level up, which constantly require more items that need to be constantly acquired, to constantly level up. A constant fucking grind.

The daily grind wouldn’t be so bad if there were side tasks to get on with, but there’s nothing. The game is essentially still in development, still waiting on little-to-be-seen updates to provide more fulfilling features such as pvp etc. There are warlord missions which you just repeat over and over, each time getting harder for more loot, but it just resembles the campaign and nothing too special. There are orc jobs, in which you send your orcs out to acquire items for you, but essentially just a way for you to lose your orcs, losing all that time you invested in growing them, allowing the game to troll you. Other than that, there isn’t really any other use of orcs. Finally, there are fellowships.

A Fellowship in the game is a group of 30 players, in which they have their own chat room, separate from the global chat which is the only other chat room available in the game unless you pm someone. The group can request for items and donate amongst themselves, one way to earn some free Mirian. There are ranks within the fellowship, though this has no real purpose so far. The Power that has so far been acquired by each player is added together to create an overall fellowship Power level (has this been ripped from DBZ), which will be used to compare your fellowship against others and place you on the rank table. I actually run my own fellowship, FIRE & ICE, that is currently 2nd on the server, even though I’m actually the least powerful member out of my whole group. I’m being carried by my team mates, which I’m grateful for as reflected by the work I put in to get the group to 2nd. The problem is, that whilst battering away the competition from rising up, in the mean time which has been about 3 weeks now, there’s been absolutely nothing to do for the fellowship, with us all twiddling our thumbs for the promised updates.

The graphics of the 3D elements in the game are nice, playing very well on my piece of shit phone. The main area of the game is a town that you can span across to select different parts of the game. It contains small 3d buildings which are alright to look out. During battles, the view is of your party progressing in a straight line, coming unto parties of malicious orcs, hence fighting and ability use commences. It looks good but there is no ability to change viewpoints, such as in Final Fantasy Mobius. It does actually become quite repetitive after a while, at which point you treat the game more as a text-based game than anything else.

Essentially, the game is unplayable, in the sense that it’s not broken per se, there’s just nothing to really aim for but bragging rights. The campaign is lifeless, and takes hundred of hours unless you feel so inclined to make a purchase to grow stronger faster, yet most who do pay complain that requirements to progress become even further away the higher you rise, requiring you to pay even more money if you just want a straight-forward experience. I on the other hand ofcourse, would rather just roll along at a slug pace, dragging my feet than coughing up anything to Warner Bros to play a non-existent game. Having started my fellowship early, we managed to rise up through the ranks quickly and settle at 2nd. I couldn’t imagine anyone who was to start the game now to progress as well as I have, unless they pay for the privilege.

I still can’t get over the amount of money people are throwing at this money, its common sense out the window. It would be cheaper to just hire a freelance designer for an hour and ask them to design you an app in which you press a button on the screen and instantly win every time. It would atleast be more enjoyable than SOWM so far, especially as you won’t have a vile global chat that is in desperate need of moderating. Between the abusive chat and nothing to do, it’s no surprise that already most fellowships are dead, with players no longer logging in and uninstalling the game. I can’t blame them, I’m considering going this route if it wasn’t for leading my own fellowship. The game is already dead, two weeks after release, especially when it has to go head to head for playtime against the actual, official version of Shadow of War on the consoles. If the game had behaved more as companion app to its bigger brother, it would have made much more sense and gained greater success. But hey, the publishers are still laughing all the way to the bank with a half-finished game.


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