Shadow Of War’s Loot System Lets Players Assemble ‘Tolkien-Esque’ Weapons

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Orc interactions and fortress invasions have formed the backbone of most Nemesis coverage we’ve seen in Middle-earth: Shadow of War previews. But Player.One recently had a chance to speak with Shadow of War Design Director Bob Roberts about the game’s loot system. And he says Talion’s weapons and armor have their own ties to the upgraded Nemesis system.

Loot played a role in Shadow of Mordor, but it didn’t demand much attention from players. Talion could recover runes from his enemies that altered the properties of his gear and abilities. All that changes in Shadow of War. Talion has access to a much larger and more diverse array of armor and equipment, each with its own unique stats. He can equip an array of items, from boots to swords, He can even use the loot he recovers in battle as the foundation for more powerful creations. The sort of gear that people tell stories about.

“[We tried] to tie it into the Nemesis system so that there’s kind of a natural narrative of this thing,” Roberts said. “Say you’ve got a follower who you’ve been attached to. If he goes down in battle, but he drops this epic sword, you’ve got this little memento of him that’s got his name on it. And the properties of it are driven by what he was like and what kind of interactions you had with him. So there are these little mementos of the guys you’ve killed, or who died alongside you, and then you can upgrade them and make them into the more Tolkien-esque perfect form where it gets a name. It’s The Deathbiter or The Flamebringer or something like that. It’s a cool way to extend the Nemesis story into the loot as well as giving you other little optional goals.”

Those upgrades are typically tied to quests presented after you’ve looted new items. While equipment upgrades are far from mandatory, the early builds we’ve seen showered Talion with loot, and early reviews suggest that hasn’t changed in the launch version, which means you’ll never be waiting long for  better items. But the quests, which significantly improve the items they’re tied to, squeeze some extra life out of the gear you’re most fond of. Whether it’s a sword perk you’ve come to rely on or just a piece of armor you find pleasing to the eye.

Unfortunately, loot can’t be passed to the orc warchiefs Talion aligns himself with in Shadow of War. Roberts says one goal of the Nemesis system is to let the orcs “drive their own destinies.” That includes adorning themselves in the regalia of their tribes, and those faction alignments will tell us more about each orc’s personality than you might realize at a glance.

“They’re kind of representational of the different directions people can take their belief systems. Orcs are violent, chaotic and crazy. And they’re all still kind of subdued under Sauron, to some degree,” Roberts said. “They start to develop their little factions, even though they’re all kind of under the same banner ultimately. You hear them talk and speak to it. And if you sneak around the world and listen to them, you’ll hear a bit more about what motivates them, why they’re part of this tribe and what’s the sort of philosophy that leads a Dark Tribe guy to obsess in one way versus a Feral Tribe guy who obsesses in another way.”

A series of introductory trailers released in August and September (briefly) explored many of those differences. There is certainly a bit of overlap, given the common backgrounds and motivations Roberts alluded to in our chat. But there are noticeable differences too, particularly when comparing some the most barbaric orcs, like the Terror tribe, to their knowledge-obsessed brethren, like the Mystic or Machine orcs. And those traits will have their own impact on loot, as Monolith Productions Vice President Michael de Plater explained to us back in June.

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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