Shadow Of War Beginner’s Guide: Tips And Strategies For Novice Bright Lords

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Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Middle-earth: Shadow of War WB Interactive / Monolith

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is finally on store shelves and Talion’s latest trek through Mordor has even more for players to do than its predecessor. The Nemesis system is bigger, combat has been expanded and there are dozens of collectibles to find in each region. So where does someone new to Shadow of War even begin?

The best starting advice we can give is to at least get through the game’s tutorial areas. Shadow of War does a great job of explaining the combat and domination mechanics. But once Talion has been turned loose in Mordor, we have some tips that should help you spread word of the Bright Lord.

Intel Is Invaluable

There isn’t much in Shadow of War that’s worth more than knowledge about the local orc captains. You should always make time to interrogate intel-bearing orcs, identified with a green symbol above their heads and on the minimap. The time to dominate intel holders seems to be much shorter than standard minions and (with the right perks) you’ll also get a health boost. Keeping Talion’s ear to the ground could also save you from enraging a captain at the wrong time or charging into a fight you aren’t equipped to win.

Ignore Orc Abilities Until You’re Fighting Them

You’re going to seethe intel screen a lot in Shadow of War. When you dominate an intel carrier, or find intel in an orc camp, choose the orc captain whose data you want. It’s rare that you’re going to see an orc’s stats and then immediately find them, even if you set them as your primary target. In some cases, you’re going to grab intel on three or four leaders before your next fight. Rather than trying to commit it all to memory, and forgetting some crucial bit in the heat of battle, just press R3 anytime a captain starts their battlefield monologue.

Exploit Weaknesses Mercilessly

Talion is well-equipped in Shadow of War. But that doesn’t make the old adage “work smarter, not harder” any less appropriate. The entire point of collecting intel on the various captains, warchiefs and overlords spread throughout Mordor is so that Talion knows what to do when he faces them. If a captain reacts poorly to morgai flies, you should be luring him close to a hive (and making sure you have the ammo to down it) anytime the orc leader isn’t dazed or retreating. If they’re flammable, even if not mortally so, ignite every fire pit and barrel of grog that’s close enough to set them ablaze.

Have A Backup Plan

Orc leaders can adapt to Talion’s tactics during combat, giving them new perks they didn’t have when you first clashed swords. The most frequent adaptations we encountered were captains who learned how to counter Talion’s vault maneuver, used primarily against shield carriers, and the stun/freeze attack used on savages and ologs. But they can presumably adapt to other tactics, like executions and arrows, too. So it’s always good to have a backup plan if your primary strategy is suddenly rendered obsolete.

Ignore The Alarms

I have a confession to make: I’ve never pursued an alarm-sounding orc. Not once. Sometimes I don’t even notice when the game notifies me it’s happening. And I don’t care because the alarms don’t actually have much impact on the experience. You can’t fast travel until you leave the alarm zone or the alarms are quieted. But the number of extra orcs who join a fight as a result of alarms doesn’t seem to be much different from the extra orcs who tend to show up in support of the captain(s) you’re currently battling. That’s especially true if/when your foe has the perk that lets orc leaders summon reinforcements. Just get used to dealing with adds in combat and you’ll rarely have to think about alarms.

Dominate Frequently

Look, we get it. Executions can be a lot of fun in Shadow of War. Talion has lots of flashy new kill animations, many of which chain pretty naturally off of incoming attacks, and lopping parts off of orc leaders usually means you get to see them again later with shiny new metal limbs. But you’re going to have a much easier time taking out warchiefs and overlords if their guards are already loyal to the Bright Lord. Dominating low level captains gives Talion a chance to have his followers infiltrate the ranks of a higher-ranked orcs. You can even command followers to hunt down a captain, warchief or overlord’s current bodyguards on their own. And if you stumble across an orc you can’t immediately dominate, which is pretty common with epic and legendary orcs, shame them to lower their level.

Dominating regular orcs is also quite helpful. Some of Shadow of War ’s biggest fights can get a bit hectic but having a few archers, defenders and/or savages on your side can turn the tide of battle much quicker than you might think. Caragors and other beasts can be helpful too, even if you don’t have the perks that let Talion dominate them. Dominated allies are always most effective though.

Fast Travel vs. Advance Time

There are two ways to fast travel in Shadow of War. Standard fast travel functions the same as it does in most open world games and no significant time passes in game. But you can also choose to advance time, which removes one bar from all the current Nemesis and Follower mission timers on the map. Time advancement also gives overlords an opportunity to replace fallen captains and warchiefs. So don’t

Monitor The Army Screen

You should be well-acquainted with the Army screen. That’s part of the reason there’s a controller shortcut (hold Options/Menu). Any warchief or overlord whose entire guard is loyal to the Bright Lord should be a priority. Even if you’re waiting for another Follower mission to end. Some (maybe all) of positions will be filled as time advances, including if/when you next die in combat. And you’d hate to lose an easy shot at a captain because he had time to recruit new guards. It’s also important to monitor the region’s army because Shadow of War will occasionally throw Talion a bone. We once traveled to a new region only to discover that all of the current overlord’s warchiefs had already been slain. All we had to do was kick one orc off the throne and the keep was ours.

Chase Orcs And Missions, Not Collectibles

The map screen can be intimidating, particularly once you’ve purified all the towers in a region and added dozens of new icons to the UI. We suggest picking quests and orc captains as waypoints and grabbing any collectibles you stumble across. The extras are distributed pretty evenly across the map, giving you little diversions between big fights, and removing collectibles from the equation should help with Shadow of War ’s overwhelming map screen. The armies also tend to spread to every corner of the map, so you’re likely to see large swaths of each region while Talion hunts down enemy commanders.

Other Tips

  • You have to choose a new bodyguard in each region.

  • Break your old gear. There’s a ton of loot. Plus, you can’t break the best stuff and you need extra mirian more than you need old swords

  • You don’t have to have a piece of gear equipped to finish its upgrade quest but you do have to complete the process manually (because it cost mirian). Head to the Inventory screen, highlight the item in question and hold Square/X to pay the upgrade fee.

  • Headshots are one of the most effective attacks in the game and should be used against any enemy who isn’t arrow-proof. Pinning is also very effective. Just watch out for orcs who are enraged by being pinned.

  • Stealth dominations are near-instant. We’ve had a handful interrupted, during chaotic battles, but our success rate has to be around 98 or 99 percent.

  • Some defenders carry wooden shields that break after a few attacks. Others carry metal shields and can only be damaged from behind or while afflicted by another status (frozen, pinned, on fire, etc.).

  • Explosives are absurdly effective for clearing a battlefield. You might enrage a captain but they’ll be much easier to manage with 10-plus fewer enemies surrounding you

  • When Talion is riding an olog, run just left or right of an orc leader while the olog is swinging its weapon. You won't just knock them down. You'll knock also stun them briefly, leaving them open to a ground execution.

  • Purifying all the towers in each region is an easy way to bank extra skill points

  • Gems add significant bonuses to your gear, based on the color and item socket. Always collect gems from the battlefield when they drop, even if you have to go back after death or retreating, and remember to fuse them (in sets of three) whenever possible.

  • Choosing Advance Time from a fast travel destination isn't the only way to advance the game clock. Helping one of your followers complete a mission or interrupting a nemesis mission will also advance the clock.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Be sure to check back with Player.One and follow Scott on Twitter for additional Middle-earth: Shadow of War news in 2017 and however long Monolith supports Shadow of War after launch.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Shadow Of War Players Will Tell Better Stories Than The Game
And the next chapter of Talion and Celebrimbor’s story was pretty underwhelming. But the stories people tell about their Nemesis encounters, which are more chaotic than ever before, will undoubtedly shape public opinion more than any criticism Shadow of War garners along the way.
  • Nemesis system does an even better job of letting players witness and tell unique, action-driven stories
  • Most of the narrative content is just plain boring
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