Shadow Of War Design Director Explains Keep Upgrades And Levels

Shadow of War - Talion (Bigger)
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The Middle-earth: Shadow of War release date is only four days away and early reviews suggest the Shadow of Mordor sequel will be worth every day of the three years we had to wait for it. To celebrate, we have additional details on the game’s Nemesis-driven fortress invasions, courtesy of our PAX West interview with Shadow of War Design Director Bob Roberts.

We’ve known for many months that the fortresses Talion and Celebrimbor encounter throughout Mordor won’t all be the same size or shape. In addition to looking very different from each other, based on the orc tribe that runs the keep, each keep will have varying numbers of warchiefs ready to defend them during invasions. While those numbers are predetermined at the onset of the campaign, they won’t remain stagnant if the player doesn’t want them to.

“We have this kind of structure where the first keep you’re going to assault in the game will be kind of training you on the concept,” Roberts said. “Once you take it over, you can start upgrading it until it becomes a full-on six warchiefs and the overlord.”

Talion begins his new career as Mordor’s next landlord with nothing more than a two-chief keep in his real estate portfolio. But players can add more fortresses to that list as the Shadow of War campaign progresses. Every fortress can be upgraded and expanded, if you have enough mirian to pay for construction. Each new wing lets Talion assign more of his followers to the keep. But building new walls and towers is only half the battle – you’ll also need an army of orcs that you’re willing to give leadership roles in order for your keeps to reach their full potential.

“When you look at a fort and it’s a level 400 fort, that’s a combination of how big it is and how many upgrades its got, but also the level of the warchiefs you’ve installed there,” Roberts said. “So if you put a bunch of level 10 guys in there, you’re going to have a much weaker fort than if you put a bunch of level 40 or level 60 guys in there.”

We’d assumed those fortresses would take the place of traditional boss battles, mostly because they were the focus of most early Shadow of War preview footage. The tribe-themed throne rooms waiting at the end of each fortress invasion also give definite boss fight vibes. We’ve since learned the Nazghul will fill that role, via Game Informer’s recent coverage. And IGN’s Leif Johnson says players might not want not to immediately max out their forts. For his part, Roberts says the most visible addition to the Nemesis system wasn’t built to highlight story beats. Keeps give players a wider variety of content during the campaign. And more to do once Shadow of War’s story comes to an end.

“One of the goals for us was giving [players] some goals that you can keep pursuing,” Roberts said. “In the last game, you dominate everyone and it becomes a little static. This time, [you have] that continuing reason to invest in these guys and keep building your relationships with them. And keep investing in them as, like, resources almost. So growing the keeps and making your defenses stronger will help both in the endgame – after you beat the game there are a lot of endgame defense missions to deal with – and the online conquest.”

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is in development for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The game debuts on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Be sure to check back with Player.One and follow Scott on Twitter for additional Middle-earth: Shadow of War news in 2017 and however long Monolith supports Shadow of War after launch.

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