Middle-earth: Shadow of War is the follow up to open-world Lord of the Rings game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and that should tell you the basics of what to expect. Shadow of War is very much like Mordor just with some tweaks. You know, like an even more detailed nemesis system, supporting characters, and Shelob. A lot of Shelob.
Celebrimbor is exactly as obnoxious as you remember, if not more pedantic this time around. He just will not shut up about his ring. It's like sharing a body with Golem. But you do get a little bit deeper into Celebrimbor's past and motivations.
Oh, and you get to hang out with allies who are mysteriously oblivious to your wraith powers. Sure, the men and women of Gondor aren't the sharpest tacs since they're dealing with an overwhelming crush of Orcs, but you'd think someone would have noticed. Sadly, most of them don't for a stupidly long time as you run around the first hub city- Minas Ithil.
While the nemesis system is a major success, again, much of the gameplay has remained as that odd combination of Assassin's Creed meets The Witcher. However, you're much better equipped to handle multiple opponents now. It isn't perfect, but Shadow of War is an improvement.
As for the infernal loot boxes, I'll be honest, I went a solid ten hours into the game before even noticing them. And even then, I got better gear off taking out enemy captains than through the boxes. And since Shadow of War's multiplayer isn't the main draw to the game, I feel comfortable saying that you can ignore them.
They also can't make the game pay to win for the campaign, as you can very well play in the stripped down story mode that takes all the challenge out of the nemesis system. So, while they aren't my favorite addition to the game, I don't find them to be gamebreaking. And I can't blame Warner Brothers for trying to make an extra profit, either.
All that aside, I've enjoyed playing Shadow of War. Though, not in the way I'd expected.
While I'm usually a giant lore fiend, this time around all I wanted to do was run around Minas Ithil and take care of my Gondor boys. I had to make sure they all made it home safe, okay? They'd pop in and help me with a mob and then I'd feel responsible for them. Like I was now honor bound to make sure they all survive, or go down with swords in hand. Make their ancestors proud. You know, the usual.