Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

A greatly expanded and improved action game let down by a dreadful story.


Key events

Middle-earth: Shadow of War gets new story expansion and big free features update

Warner Bros has released a new story expansion for its orc-themed open-world fantasy adventure, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and it's joined by number of free new additions designed to improve and expand the core game.

Blade of Galadriel, as the story expansion is known, follows the adventures of new playable protagonist Eltariel - an elite Elven warrior sent to Mordor to hunt the Nazgūl. It introduces new combat abilities, skills, and gear - including Eltariel's dual Elven blades and the Light of Galadriel - plus eight unique Legendary Orcs for use in the main story campaign.

"Encounter memorable new Nemesis characters, such as Flint, Tinder and the Slayer of the Dead, while battling the Nazgūl and learning more mysteries of their past", says Warner Bros of Blade of Galadriel. And if that's at all enticing, the expansion is available now on PC, Xbox One and PS4 as part of Shadow of War's Expansion Pass, or on its own for £11.99.

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The year in loot boxes

The empire strikes back.

The great Star Wars debacle - and I'm not talking about The Last Jedi's second act here - dominated video game headlines in the last quarter of 2017. But in truth the year was packed with depressing stories about loot boxes, so many in fact that it has at times felt like our beloved hobby was more about the chance to win a rare item than it was about the chance to play.

Shadow of War expansion pass details released

Shadow of War expansion pass details released

Features Outlaw and Slaughter Tribe DLCs.

Warner Bros. has released a new trailer and details for the Shadow of War expansion pass.

The Shadow of War expansion pass allows players to continue the battle for Mordor with new Orc Tribes and story campaigns.

The pass includes the following downloadable content: Slaughter Tribe Nemesis, the Outlaw Tribe Nemesis, the Blade of Galadriel story and the Desolation of Mordor story.

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Xbox One X Shadow of War shows profound improvements over PS4 Pro

While we can draw conclusions about PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X from their respective specs sheets, real-life comparisons are somewhat thin on the ground right now. Microsoft's new console should offer a comprehensive improvements owing to more memory, higher levels of bandwidth and a big compute advantage, but to what extent will it actually matter in the homogenised world of multi-platform development? From an extended look at the Gamescom build of Shadow of War running on Xbox One X, the signs are looking good for the green team's new hardware, with an immediately obvious, comprehensively improved presentation - possibly the most dramatic boost we've seen to date.

Make no mistake though, as we've previously discussed, the PS4 Pro version of 'Wardor' is no slouch. Its dynamic resolution averages out at around 1620p over the base machine's full HD, while geometry draw distance and shadow LODs are improved. However, even after upgrading to the latest patch 1.04, the Pro still exhibits many low quality textures that stick out like a sore thumb - especially noticeable on ultra HD displays.

Implementation of the PC version's 4K texture pack would have done wonders here, but clearly the limited 512MB of extra RAM available to Pro developers isn't enough to house the top-tier assets. And that's the most immediately obvious difference between PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions of the game - what sticks out right away is that texture problems on PS4 Pro are eradicated. Through sheer capacity via Xbox One X's 12GB of GDDR5 memory, Shadow of War offers a dramatic improvement in quality: for example, ground textures get a clear resolution bump from the soup-like results on Pro, offering a sharper, clearer presentation.

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Endless Shadow Wars confirmed for first Shadow of War DLC

Developer Monolith has confirmed infinite Shadow Wars will arrive with Shadow of War's first DLC - the Slaughter Tribe.

The news was confirmed during a Monoloith Shadow of War live stream. You can watch a clip of the announcement below:

Though the Slaughter Tribe DLC costs money, the endless Shadow Wars will come as a free update alongside it.

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Shadow of War highlights the strengths and weaknesses of PS4 Pro

Digital FoundryShadow of War highlights the strengths and weaknesses of PS4 Pro

The 'supercharged' console bests PS4 and Xbox One, but the shadow of Xbox One X looms large.

Monolith Productions returns with the follow-up to 2014's superb sleeper hit, Shadow of Mordor, with the ambitious Shadow of War. In three years, it takes us from the Lithtech engine to the new Firebird Engine - upgraded code that now supports larger-scale battles, and an expanded Nemesis system. Having checked out PS4, Xbox One, and PS4 Pro renditions this week, it's clear there's a pecking order to which looks and runs best. Ahead of the Shadow of War's Xbox One X support, PS4 Pro inevitably comes out on top on the console front - but with only a month to go, is the bar set high enough on Sony's 'supercharged' console?

The truth is, Microsoft hosted an event a few days ago where we could go hands-on with the X version, and tackling that - and indeed the PC game - is our next port of call, but for now, the available consoles are our focus. Even so, the PC version is worth mentioning, in showing how Monolith handles 4K support. Essentially, PC users running at 4K need to download two add-ons to get the most out of the game. That comes in in the form of a 4K cinematics pack - a 25GB download that replaces all pre-rendered cutscenes with higher resolution movie files. This is available to PS4 Pro users too - and well worth downloading if you're playing on an ultra HDTV. Just go to the PSN store, download, and make sure it's installed in the add-ons section.

Sadly, this is where PS4 Pro's support for 4K assets ends - it's just the cinematics that get a boost and nothing else. On PC meanwhile, there's also a 15GB 4K textures pack on offer, which brings a more exciting upgrade to the actual, in-game visuals. It's a VRAM intensive option, but one that bumps up texture resolution across the board - giving crisper, more detailed surfaces that better fit a 4K output. Tellingly, the minimum requirement for 4K textures is a 8GB card like the GTX 1070, or R9 390 - each with a high level of VRAM that goes beyond the usable memory available on PS4 Pro. It explains its absence on all console versions - at least, until we see Xbox One X's support.

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Are loot boxes gambling?

Crate escape.

Sin City is the global capital of gambling. Casinos with colourful chips, well-postured croupiers and automaton pensioners plugged into slot machines. At first glance it might not seem sinister, but strip back the glamour and Las Vegas paints a sad picture - its denizens cogs in a billion-dollar machine fuelled by potentially addictive gaming. The novelty of the place can hide its true intentions.

The great thing about Tolkien's Middle-Earth, I reckon, is that it's bigger than a book, bigger than a movie screen, bigger than any collection of words or images you could ever arrange. Middle-Earth has rules that cannot be broken and it has borders that cannot easily be expanded, but those are paltry restrictions when countered by the imagination of a besotted fan. You can think about Middle-Earth forever, because you can just add details and questions and guesswork and hopes and dreams. Fandom this rich is a tunnel leading deep into the misty, cavernous spaces underground - and Tolkien, as we all know, had things to say about those kinds of spaces.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War review

In the music industry, people often refer to Second Album Syndrome - a phenomenon whereby a popular artist sets about making their sophomore record, only this time the stakes are considerably higher due to increased exposure and fan expectation. This sometimes leads to artists trying to reinvent themselves, or go bigger in order to keep up with demand. Middle-earth: Shadow of War is kind of like a difficult second album, only the band has hired a 90 piece orchestra and asked Matt Bellamy from Muse to do the lyrics. And he's turned up with 20 new effect pedals.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

Developer: Monolith Productions

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Video game voice acting strike ends as SAG-AFTRA negotiates deal

"You are free to resume working ... immediately."

The unprecedented, 340-day video game voice acting strike organised by the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has come to an end. A deal has been negotiated and approved, and actors sworn off some of the biggest companies in video games are free to resume working with them immediately.

VideoWatch: We fought Shadow of War's Balrog

The dark fire will not avail you.

When Middle-earth: Shadow of War was first announced, one of the things fans focused on most was the appearance of a Balrog in the game's announcement trailer. For anyone whose Tolkein knowledge is a little rusty, a Balrog is a creature of legendary proportions - one showed up in The Fellowship of the Ring and took Gandalf with it when it left.

Two months ago, a new story trailer for Middle-earth: Shadow of War was released and I think it's fair to say it raised a few eyebrows. In the midst of a lot of sword swinging and story exposition was the reveal that the game's narrator, first glimpsed in the game's announcement trailer, was none other than Shelob. This came as a surprise, given Shelob is, in fact, an enormous spider.

Shadow of War has a ranked online mode

Mordor your friends' troops.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War players will have two ways to invade other people's Mordors when the game launches this year. The first of these is a new mission type called Social Conquest; the other sees the return of Vendettas from Shadow of Mordor with one or two tweaks.

I never expected one day to, um, rather fancy Shelob. Not as in fancy her spidery chances against two hapless hobbits in her lair - which doesn't work out so well for her, as it turns out - but as in I wouldn't mind holding one of her two hands. You see, in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Shelob... appears human.

Shadow of War's bossfights end with a nice chat in new Xbox E3 trailer

Middle Earth: Shadow of War got another new gameplay trailer at Microsoft's E3 conference, this time featuring a couple of boss battles, some pre-siege strategy, and some surprisingly chatty orcs.

The main focus of the trailer is on the more "dynamic" Nemesis System. It seems to be less focused on drawing us out of the gameplay to a separate menu, and more on how the various duels and power struggles play out in real time. Oh, and there's a very quick look at that weird spear-staff Celebrimbor lets us use in the arena combat, too.

In this case, it played out primarily through an invasion of an arena-based conflict, where a cocky Olog-Hai's taking on a regular Uruk-sized challenger.

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Middle-earth: Shadow of War release date delayed

Middle-earth: Shadow of War now launches on 10th October, instead of in August.

The delay to the Shadow of Mordor follow-up is, as you expect, to ensure the game delivers "the highest quality experience".

"Middle-earth: Shadow of War expands gameplay in every dimension, including the massive open world, the story, the RPG systems, and personal player stories of the Nemesis System," community manager Monolith_Andy posted on the game's official forum.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of War goes wild with the brilliant Nemesis system

Plus see 16 minutes of gameplay for Monolith Productions' sequel.

If you were hoping for a flash of colour after the exceptionally bleak Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, then be warned; the generically titled follow-up Shadow of War is grimmer, grimier and darker than what went before. This is Peter Jackson's mud and blood take on Tolkien's classics pushed into murkier water still, where eyes are gouged out and limbs torn asunder. Monolith Productions' take on Middle-Earth is not the kind of place you'd want to take a Sunday stroll, but why should it be? This is war, after all.

With Nintendo launching the Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gaining near-perfect scores across the board, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that Middle-earth: Shadow of War was announced this week. The sequel to 2014's excellent Shadow of Mordor was officially unveiled with a trailer sadly lacking in gameplay but rich in detail nonetheless.

Shadow of Mordor sequel details leaked by shop

Shadow of Mordor sequel details leaked by shop

UPDATE: It's now official - and here's the first trailer.

UPDATE 2.05pm: After this morning's leak, publisher Warner Bros. has now made Middle-earth: Shadow of War official.

The sequel will let you wield a new ring of power and fight both Sauron and the winged Nazgul, via another huge open-world, improvements to the original's impressive Nemesis System and a story which adapts to your decisions.

Best of all? It's out in the UK on 25th August (or 22nd August in North America).

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