Tips for playing Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War

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Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand! Men of the West! Prepare your thumbs for a return to Middle-Earth this week, as the Shadow of War draws forth!

Death is not the end

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In Shadow of War, you’re essentially playing as a nigh-unstoppable immortal powerhouse who rents out his body to a ghost who pays him back with a bloody tax. That being said, Talion isn’t altogether unstoppable. Death can only be cheated so many times, and when you do fall to the sword of a bloodthirsty Uruk you’ll end up creating a nemesis who grows in power and returns to menace you time and again.

That’s good! You’ll end up with not only a powerful enemy, but also a potentially powerful new ally should you manage to overcome them and convert them to your side. But be careful, as repeated deaths can result in a small army of elite Orcs forming to hunt you down constantly within the revamped Nemesis system.

It’s all about timing

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Shadow of War shares several similarities with the Batman series, to the point where you’d swear that you’re replaying Arkham Knight with a caped crusader skin thrown over it. If there’s one aspect of Rocksteady’s infamous dark knight series that Shadow of War truly draws from, it’s the sense of timing within combat that underpins the entire foundation of the gameplay experience.

There’s a certain rhythm to the combat, that requires players to essentially translate sword strokes to beats and play out a tune of carnage that requires parries and dodges so that they don’t drop a single beat. Done properly, and Talion will evolve into an acrobatic swordsman who can cut down foes with ease and stab enemies in the face with a mere single action if you time your response correctly.

It’s all about the rhythm pal. I’d suggest finding a particular one that suits your style and allows you to use as much of Talion’s new arsenal as possible.

Ranger danger

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Speaking of Talion’s same but different moveset, you’ll find plenty of options available to you as the experience piles up. Whether it be spectral Wraith skills that allow you to pin an enemy in place or Caragor-taming powers, Talion’s connection to Celebrimbor offers plenty of skills to choose from. You’re probably going to want to ignore most of them for the first few hours, and pump your points into his Ranger skillset.

While Talion is able to summon a Graug or slow down time itself when he does a leap of faith, the meat and potatoes of his offensive abilities lie within his sword. You’re going to want to master the rhythm of this quickly, augmenting your powers so that you can start tossing out executions, ground kills and perfect counters as you tangle with the more dangerous captains.

An Orc on his own is hardly a challenge, but a gang of them? You’re going to want to spec Talion for the hordes ahead of him. Once you’ve got the basic skills down, you’ll quickly tear through a small army of Orcs like a Return of the King action highlight reel, leaving you time to focus on the Captains and experiment with the rest of the skill trees.

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When in doubt…run away

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If it worked for King Arthur, it’ll work for you. If you’re new to Mordor, then chances are high that you’ll soon find yourself outclassed by many an Orc captain, fiends who usually surround themselves with an army of followers. There’s no hard rule regarding how you fight them, nor is there any rule that you actually have to stay and have your skin peeled off by Face-Slicey the Face-Slicer III. Esq.

Discretion isn’t just the better part of valour, it’s encouraged in these first few hours until you can come back and face your nemesis again, now far stronger than you were in your initial encounter.

Be wary of all Orcs

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The majority of Orcs that you encounter, usually brandish axes and swords. They’re easy enough to deal with, but it’s the hunters and archers who you have to really watch out for. More often than not, you’ll find yourself cornered by a gang, while ranged forces pick away at you. Try to avoid that, always keep moving and kill these ranged troops as soon as you can so that you can focus on the grunts.

Also keep an eye out for different damage types

An axe to the spine will always hurt, but so too does poison, fire and the darkness of Sauron. Shadow of War’s new Orcs are plenty capable of using these new damage modifiers to reduce more than your health to zero, as they can also instantly wipe out a bar of Might or your focus, softening you up for the final kill. Again, try to steer clear of these attacks and deal with them as quickly as possible.

You’re going to need a lot of gems to augment your gear

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While runes may be absent in Shadow of War, they’ve been replaced with something else: Gems. Talion has access to three primary gems that can augment his attack, health and make enemies drop bonus Mirian on defeat. These gems are further divided into five categories. A chipped gem is the most common that you’ll pick up from grunts, which can be collected and turned into higher-level jewels that offer higher perks.

But to get a perfect gem? You’ll need plenty of them. You’ll need three gems to craft one of a higher order, so if you do the maths and multiply three by the power of five, that works out to…243 gems for a perfect. Finding Orcs who hold a little extra somethin’ somethin’ isn’t difficult, as any trooper who shows up as a white icon on your mini-map or in Wraith-vision holds either a gem or some Mirian.

It’s random stuff, but it becomes less of a grind as you unlock a talent in Talion’s skillset that affords higher-quality gems to drop for you. Are they entirely necessary? Not really, as you don’t have to equip gems. But are they useful? Yes indeed sir, yes they are.

Try not to kill the captains

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Why have enemies when you can have friends? While Mordor is teeming with Orc captains who want to mount your head on a pike. It’s pretty tempting to stick a knife in their side when they aren’t paying attention, but you might want to hold off on that finishing blow. Half of Shadow of War’s focus is on taking fortresses, and you’re going to need some powerful foot soldiers to do just that.

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Branding a Captain doesn’t just get you a follower, but also a spy and a bodyguard if you so choose. A powerful ally, who can be used for more insidious means. You can fight them to the death for better loot if you so choose, but it’s handy to have them in your corner.

Orcs make great spies

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Because when the time comes, it’s handy to have an Orc follower stab his War Chief in the back. Much like captains, War Chiefs are bigger, tougher and nastier than your regular Orc. They sit at the top of the food chain, are tougher to kill and have fewer weaknesses. So when your converted captain backstabs them and sets up an opening for your sword to find its mark? Priceless.

Know your enemy

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Getting intel on a captain isn’t just fun, it’s recommended. These are characters within Shadow of War whose fears can be exploited, making them that much easier to subdue. A captain who can stop you vaulting over him and can wipe out your health bar within two hits is frightening enough to face head on, but luring him underneath a nest of spiders and then unleashing them to terrorise him? Much easier and clever.

Remember, Shadow of War may give you the tools to be bold, but it rewards you for playing cleverly.

Finish a captain off properly

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It’s inevitable that you’ll cross swords with a captain, with one of you being left for dead. But how dead is dead really? When you’ve supposedly killed your nemesis, don’t be surprised to see him return from the dead, his face in bandages and his hatred for you burning brighter than ever. There’s only one proper way to kill an Orc, and it requires an injection of steel into his head or to have it Highlandered off entirely.

If Talion doesn’t do either of those actions, chances are that you’ll soon find yourself fighting off an old foe once again.

War is expensive

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If you want to survive an assault on a fortress, you’re going to have to spend some Mirian. The in-game currency can easily be earned from numerous missions and side-activities, so don’t bother hoarding it. Especially if you want your Orc captains to live to fight another day. Give em a few squads of Olag-hai, archers and a siege Graug, and they’ll be more than ready to watch your back as you take each key location within a fortress.

Caragors are useful bastards

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Stealth can only get you so far, but causing chaos in an Orc camp? Even better. You’ll often find Caragors locked away in Orc camps, a relief from when the massive bastards aren’t trying to eat you for a change. A quick arrow to the cage can set them free though, leaving a Caragor to cause chaos and create an opening for you to dish out some bedlam of your own along the way.

Even better, some captains can be instantly slain by them, so learning to ride and mount a Caragor isn’t a bad skill to have on your side.

Last Updated: October 9, 2017

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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