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Shadow of War might be near impossible to balance, which is good

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Middle-earth: Shadow of War YouTube
Middle-earth: Shadow of War

With more and more features of Middle-earth: Shadow of War being revealed as the release date draws closer, it is becoming increasingly obvious that all of the game's systems will be a nightmare to balance. For once, this may actually turn into an advantage for the game.

There were several relatively easy ways to break Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. One could dominate every orc in sight once the skill becomes available and completely mess with the nemesis system, or invest heavily and early into Talion's shuriken attack to almost entirely break the combat. While it may seem counter intuitive, games and especially sandboxy ones can benefit greatly from situations in which players manage to break them in one way or another.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War - Nemesis introMiddle-earth: Shadow of War - Nemesis intro

Shadow of War has so far presented an impressive number of interlocking systems and mechanics. All of the old features still seem to be in place; stealth, assassinations, beast and orc domination, the old combat and nemesis systems, weapon and skill upgrades and collectibles - all of which look like they have been improved with more depth and options. On top of those, now there are siege, warfare, leveling, and even flight systems and mechanics in place.

MonolithA view of a Middle-earth dwelling from the game Shadow of WarMiddle-earth: Shadow of War

It is relatively clear at this point that all these moving and interacting individual parts will be a minor nightmare to balance, and breaking or abusing the game's systems will most likely be a constant possibility. Monolith might even be counting on players to toy with the game beyond the breaking point.

Shadow of Mordor was in many aspects a power fantasy. A revenge story, visceral combat, the domination mechanic, the list of elements pointing to this simple truth is a long one, and that is perfectly fine - whatever sells your game.

A view of a Middle-earth dwelling from the game Shadow of WarMiddle-earth: Shadow of War

The stroke of genius that might end up being in Shadow of War - by design or by accident - is the ultimate fulfilment of that power fantasy. The moment in which player not only triumphs over the obstacles that the developers have placed in front of him, but over the developers themselves and the game as a whole, is rarely designed for intentionally. It is far to delicate a thing to achieve with ease, so studio's generally take a pass on the opportunity or just add in cheat codes.

There is no greater expression for this power fantasy than managing to break a game in some way. As long as the path to attaining this meta kind of goal isn't too obvious, Shadow of War might just have that crucial hidden thing going for it. 

MonolithMiddle-earth: Shadow of War - OverlordMiddle-earth: Shadow of War - Overlord

We will know once we get our hands on Middle-earth: Shadow of War on 10 October 2017.