Middle-earth: Shadow of War is one of the bigger games of 2017 in both anticipation and sheer scope. From the moment you drop into the new and improved version of Mordor, you are given a high degree of freedom in approaching the game the way you want to. While this is awesome for players who know what they want to experience, it can also be a tad overwhelming in the beginning.
Shadow of War does an exemplary job of explaining each of its intricate systems to the player, but there are so many that it’s easy to forget or neglect them as you play on. Below you’ll find some tips we feel are the best way to not only hit the ground running, but also keep enjoying for the duration of Talion’s conquest.
Get The Lay of the LandBecause Shadow of War gives you so much to do, it’s important to understand where the activities you want to complete and the collectibles you want to gather are located on the map. This is why the first thing you should do when you reach a new region is purify all of the Haedir towers. Not only will doing this grant you additional skill points and open up much-needed fast-travel points, but you also enter a first-person perspective atop the tower to scope out where collectibles like Gondorian artifacts, Shelob Memories, and Ithildin words are located. This is essential for enabling you to do what you want to do in the game.
Learn the Layout of CavesWhile Middle-earth: Shadow of War does an excellent job of showing you where to go on the map to complete your desired activity, it can be difficult to find certain objectives that are housed inside of the sometimes elaborate caves. Thankfully, if you hover over an icon that is within the cavern depths, the map illuminates the entire cave network, giving you an idea of the best points of entry to reach where you want to go.
Speed Is KingEach of the five regions are not only bigger than either of the regions in Shadow of Mordor, but they’re more densely packed with things to do and enemies just waiting to distract you from your main objective. Because of this, if you want to play the game with any level of efficiency, it’s important to use the tools the developers provide you with in order to expedite your traversal. Fast travel is the most obvious way to get from point-A to point-B the fastest; in addition to the Haedir Towers, you can eventually reach any discovered Barrows and any conquered forts. But if you would like to at least take in some of the sights along the way, Monolith also gives you several other options. The elven traversal upgrades like Elven Agility (gives you faster climbing and added foot-speed) and the focus sprint (clicking the right stick while holding the run button) are excellent ways to move about the world as Talion, and you should get used to using them as early as you can. However, you shouldn’t neglect your mounts, as caragors are speedier than Talion, and drakes are not only a blast to fly around on, but can get you to your objective in no time flat once you unlock the ability to mount them.
Vary Your AttacksIt’s easy to fall into the same pattern of attacks when something is working, but the enemies in Shadow of War are smarter than that. Enemies (captains in particular) can adapt to your style of play and defend against your typical attacks. This means that if I go into an encounter with an orc captain and continually vault over him to attack his backside, he will potentially learn my tactics and adapt to the point that he’ll stuff any future vault attempts. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to not rely on the same tricks. Talion has a ton of great moves to take advantage of, so using them all and switching your tactics out on the fly shouldn’t be a problem. Between executions, vaults, pins, elf-shot, stuns, elven light, environmental attacks, and more, you shouldn’t have a problem diversifying your approach in any given standoff. Varying your combat moves is also a lot more fun than relying on the same tricks for the whole game.
Find Arrows on your MinimapAmong all of Talion’s combat options, his elf-shot bow is one of his most valuable. Not only are most captains damaged by it, but you can also target explosive environmental items to wipe out waves of enemies in one shot. Unfortunately, you run out of arrows really fast, and it always seems to be at the most inopportune times. Luckily, elf-shot ammo is marked on your minimap, so if you ever find yourself with your back to the wall in an encounter and you’re out of arrows, use your map and make a beeline for the nearest ammo supply.
Run for Your LifeTalion is undoubtedly a powerful character, but it’s important to know when you’re in trouble. While you probably already know the value of keeping an eye on your health, knowing when to flee a battle is crucial. Not only does your death typically make your assailant more powerful, but it can also end your fortress assault pretty quick. Just because you’re running doesn’t mean you’re quitting the battle, though. Whether you’re dashing away to find more arrows or trying to find an isolated enemy that you can drain health from, running from the action is an important strategy to implement as you get later in the game and foes get more powerful and numerous. Green-iconed worm enemies and rats are particularly valuable sources of health, as you can drain them quickly before your more powerful foes catch you.
Utilize the Summon SystemThroughout most of Shadow of War, Talion is typically a solitary figure who faces hordes of orcs alone. One of the more powerful abilities Talion can unlock is the ability to summon spiders to fight for him or orcs to battle by his side. Not only can you designate orc followers to join you, but also a mounted beast. Evening the odds in a fight with a war chief by bringing your follower into the mix can do wonders, but nothing can quite turn the tide of battle in your favor like calling in a dire caragor to help annihilate your enemies. The ability has a long cooldown, but not so long that you should neglect it when you need it.
Diversify Your ElementsAs you encounter the hundreds of captains you can fight in Shadow of War, you’ll notice that they each have their distinct vulnerabilities and immunities. That means that if you rely too heavily on fire attacks, you could be in serious trouble if you encounter an orc captain who is completely invulnerable to flame attacks. Because of this, it’s a good idea to make a habit of upgrading different skills with different effects. For example, you could upgrade your Mighty Shot to do fire damage, while your Elven Light shockwave stun can do poison. That way, you can take advantage of your foes’ various weaknesses no matter what you encounter.
Unlock the “Treasure Hunter” Skill ASAPAs you take down hordes of orcs, you’ll notice that they drop items like weapons, gear, and gems. At first, you need to approach the drop and press the right bumper in order to pick them up, which becomes annoying. Thankfully, the fifth ability you can unlock in the “Wraith” skill tree is “Treasure Hunter,” which automatically picks up drops as you pass by them. It’s an invaluable skill that not only makes gear collection much more efficient, but also easier in the heat of battle. Unfortunately, since it is the final base skill in that section, you need to unlock the other four skills prior to being able to unlock that one.
Keep Your Inventory CleanAs your gear and weapons accumulate, you’ll inevitably outgrow your favorite sword or dagger and replace it with a higher level version with new perks. As you progress past the point of these old weapons’ usefulness, there’s little reason to keep them in your inventory. The good news is that you can break them down and earn the in-game currency, Mirian. While you can probably break down rare and epic loot without losing any sleep, you should probably hold on to any legendary (purple) weapons and gear you encounter, as those can grant really awesome bonuses. Thankfully, the inventory screen keeps legendary gear in a separate box to help avoid accidental discarding.
Take Advantage of the Gem SystemOnce you have the Mirian, we recommend that you unlock all six gem slots on the inventory screen immediately. As you unlock the slots, make sure you place gems in them right away. These gems do everything from adding increased damage to earning extra money and experience, so they are incredibly valuable to speeding up your progress and making Talion more powerful. In addition, as you collect more of the same gem, you can combine them to make a higher level gem. For example, three level-one green gems can be combined to make one level-two green gem, then three level-two green gems can be combined to make one level-three green gem. When you go in to combine gems, you may wish to unequip certain gems before doing so in order to have all of your gems at your leveling disposal; just make sure you end up with six useful gems at the end of the process – one for each slot. Once you’re finished with all your forging and combining, always equip the highest level gems immediately.
Customize Your U.I.Shadow of War does a good job of telling you where you should go, what is going on around you, what moves you have at your disposal, and other vital information for keeping Talion alive. However, if you find the user interface to ever be a bit overwhelming or annoying, you can toggle the various elements. For example, if you don’t want the game to continually throw tips about moves Talion has in your face, you can switch that off for a less clogged screen.
Shadow Strike the Night AwayTalion is almost always outnumbered on the battlefield, so proper utilization of his available skills is crucial. One of his most powerful abilities is the Shadow Strike, which allows the ranger to teleport to the position of his target and kill, stun, or even dominate his foes in one swift motion. This is a great move for both stealthy approaches and simply moving around the battlefield. If you’re trying to travel throughout an outpost, it’s also a handy way to cover great distances without giving away your position – just make sure you don’t Shadow Strike right into an archer’s line-of-sight!
Fully Embrace the Nemesis SystemOne of the best parts of Shadow of War is the improved Nemesis system. While we won’t tell you precisely how to interact with it (finding your own ways to explore the system is most of the fun), there is value in fully exploring the options at your disposal. So as you approach your playthrough, go into the experience ready to mess around with the various Nemesis missions. Dominate orc captains to become your disciples. Level up some orcs in the fighting pits. Decide your approach when assaulting a fort; do you want to have your operatives infiltrate the fortress ahead of time to make it so they basically open the doors for you, or do you want it to be a climactic battle where all of your followers are on your assault team? The possibilities are seemingly innumerable and worthy of exploration.
Play Your WayRegardless of any tips we give you, to get the most out of Shadow of War, it’s important to play your way. Approach the Nemesis system how you see fit, attack the fortresses the way you want, and complete the various story-based missions (which we totally recommend you do at some point) when you feel like it. Shadow of War is remarkably adaptable to your playstyle and it’s a good idea to not get too bogged down in the details. Daring players will get the best experience in Shadow of War, even in failure, as that just allows the Nemesis system to further tailor the experience to your unique playthrough. It’s best to simply wander around Mordor, take on tasks that seem compelling to you in that moment, and in so doing, gradually progress all the collections, mission threads, and conquests.
For more on Middle-earth: Shadow of War, check out our review. If you want to dive deeper into the development of the game, check out our exclusive coverage hub.