Monolith has defended the inclusion of loot boxes in Middle-earth: Shadow of War by comparing them to difficulty levels.

Last month, the studio announced that loot boxes can be bought using real-world money in its upcoming full-price single-player action game.

That is, players plunk down cash in exchange for the chance to get certain weapons, armour, XP boosts, and Orc followers.

Over the weekend, Shadow of War design director Bob Roberts told Eurogamer that loot boxes sprung from "the same design philosophy as us adding in difficulty modes".

"Frankly the Nemesis system comes to life when you are dying loads, so you could see Easy mode as a system which makes the game less enjoyable if you are the type of player who really should have put it on Hard," said Roberts.

"It's putting more control in people's hands – saying, you know how you play best, you make that choice.

"The ideal for people who set it to Easy is if they are just finding things too punishing, not because they don't want to die. We'd rather you die regularly to get the full experience of the Nemesis system."

Roberts then claimed that gambling money in the hope of getting certain items via loot boxes is for those who find the prospect of playing through a game they have paid for to be an intimidating prospect.

"In the game you earn resources at a regular pace and the systems are tuned to that so you don't need another option," he said.

"At the same time, it's there as a player choice. It's there, from my perspective, for people who are protective of their spare time and scared when a massive game comes along that they're not getting to see the full experience."

He avoided a question on whether it is fair for full-price triple-A games to feature loot boxes.