Middle-earth: Shadow of War has just come out and we’ve been sinking our teeth into it. Since we’ve had plenty of time to play it we fancy ourselves experts on the subject of war in Mordor so allow us to tell you all about how to make the most of your time in Middle Earth.

First of all we’ve got to talk about the quests. Middle-earth: Shadow of War is chock full of them and you can  tackle different quest lines in whatever order you like for the most part but to make the best of them you should take on each quest line in sequence. What I mean is it’s best to complete one quest line before moving onto the next one. First of all this helps keep the pace going. You might accidentally put off a climactic quest not knowing it’s the last in that chain and when you come back to it hours later you’ll find the story in it has less impact on you.

I would also suggest doing them in this order: Gondor Quests, Bruz’s Quests, Carnan and Siege quests and then Eltariel’s quests to finish with. The Gondor quests are good for getting to learn the game’s systems and Bruz’s quests go a bit more in depth on the army building mechanics. Carnan’s quests are the balrog fighting ones and have little do to with the rest of the game. Really they’re a good way to add some variety if you’re getting tired of dominating Orcs’ minds. The sieges quests all have to be done before Eltariel’s quests are unlocked and they really are the meat of the game. Growing an army and laying siege to the various forts are where most of the fun is to be had in Shadow of War. Eltariel’s quests will advance the story and take you towards the end of the game with a lot of boss fights along the way. Apart from that, they’re more difficult and if you do them first it’ll make the other quests a bit too easy.

Then we move onto the skills. There are a plethora of skill to unlock in Shadow of War and skill points are pretty easy to find. Getting more skills early on makes the combat easier and it makes things more varied as you’ll be able to take on challenges in a variety of ways. Skills can be unlocked quickly by doing the side quests in each area. They’re not very long and not challenging either. Take these on before doing anything else and you’ll be able to blast through whatever lies ahead! check out our more in depth guides on skills over here.

Tallion isn’t the only one who can grow and level up. You’ve got an army of Orcs to raise after all. It’s not enough to just dominate them and hope they’ll be good enough to fight alongside you. Orcs can be levelled up in a multitude of ways. There are the fight pits of course. Send your Orc captains to fight other ones. If your guy wins then he levels up and you’ve eliminated another captain. In the Army screen you can command individual Orcs and give them training. This is just a way to upgrade their weapons and armour or even change their type. You can give them poison or fire weapons for example. The best way to level them up though is to send them out to kill higher ranking captains and then tag along. There’s no garauntee your captain will be able to hold his own in a fight so it’s best to go along with him to make sure his enemy gets taken down. This way your captain will level up and you can either kill or dominate the opponent, doubly strengthening your army.

Make sure you’re well prepared for the big siege!

Remember as well that you can summon Orcs to come and fight for you whenever you want. You have an unlimited supply of grunts at your disposal so make liberal use of them throughout your conquest. They’re especially useful if you’re fighting two captains at once and want to dominate one. That’s hard to do when all his mates are slapping you around so summon a troop of your own to distract them. And if you’re not content with a few Orc warriors at your side, remember you can assign your own personal bodyguard. I found this to be even more useful because they put up way more of a fight than the typical grunts. Here’s a tip though, if you’re going against a captain and you want to bring one as your bodyguard or send one to fight like I mentioned before, be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Each Orc captain has different immunities and weaknesses. Some can be instantly killed by beasts and others can’t be damaged by ranged attacks. Be careful not to send a marksman to fight a captain who can’t be hurt by arrows. Try and send a guy who’ll be able to easily take on the opponent without much bother.

On that note, use spies. Having one or even three orcs infiltrate a warchief and become their “bodyguards” is massively helpful. Any dominated orc can be sent to infiltrate a warchief’s upper ranks and when you go to fight the warchief he’ll summon his underling captains not knowing that they’re really on your side. I’ve had times where one of my guys on the inside was able to take down a warchief’s health by half before we even began the fight. Even luckier if they have something the enemy is terrified of. If you see in their weakness list that they’re “terrified” of something, that upon seeing whatever it is (beasts, fire etc) they will break instantly and you can dominate them without having to fight them proper.

Aside from building up a collection of Orcs you’ll want to collect all that sweet gear too. Tallion can change his sword, dagger, ranged weapon, armour, cloak and the rune in his ring. That means that there are 5 different ways to up your stats at all times. Most gear even comes with challenges to do that will give them extra bonuses. For example a bow might have a challenge that says “get five headshots while in the air” and doing that will make it so the bow has an extra 15% chance of doing critical hits.

These minor challenges are usually pretty easy to pull off and while the rewards seem small on their own, it all adds up when you’ve got a fully upgraded set. Speaking of sets, there’s also armour that gives you upgrades for wearing a matching set. One set is the Vendetta set. Shadow of War has these missions where you avenge another player’s death by killing the Orc captain that killed them. doing one of these missions will net you at least one piece of legendary gear for the Vendetta set. It’s really easy to get a full set quickly and the bonuses are great. The Vendetta set lets you expend health for execution attacks instead of might.

Look at all that phat loot!

But how do you get the gear? Well that’s easy. You kill everyone and do everything! Most captains and warchiefs will drop a piece of gear. Captains with (LEGENDARY) next to their name will drop a legendary piece of gear. Each area in Mordor also has an Ithildin door and hiding behind each one is a piece of the Bright Lord set. This set grants bonuses to your Wraith mode abilities. It’s worth noting the final piece of the set and only be obtained by getting a bronze rank or higher in the Shadows of the Past side quests. The Ithildin doors can only be opened by finding the 6 missing words that will fill in the poem inscribed on them. These are really easy to find because they’re locations, as well as all other side quest locations are revealed by activating the Haedir towers in each region.

Another way to get both gear and Orcs is with the game’s lootbox system. They’re not necessary to beat the game but they can help speed things up. Lootboxes are also easily obtainable. Sometimes you get them for doing tough quests but they can be bought with in game currency called gold and mirian. You’ll neve be in short supply of mirian. Old gear can be destroyed for mirian and putting wealth gems into your weapons makes enemies drop a lot of it. Quests and challenges will also reward you with mirian so don’t be shy about spending it all on loot boxes. Unfortunately the rewards are random but hey, every little bit helps.

Now you’ve got the gear, the skills and some Orcs at your side. That’s great but it won’t mean a thing if you don’t know how to fight. Remember how I said each Orc captain will have their own traits? Well usually you find these out by interrogating worms. They’ll give you precious intel on whatever captain, warchief or overlord you want. But you don’t even need to do that if you know about tribes. Most Orcs belong to a tribe and each tribe has specific attributes and ways of fighting. Let’s take a look at those tribes.

An example of one of Shadow of War’s varied tribes.

The Feral Tribe: Orcs of the feral tribe like to fight with beasts. That means if a feral overlord sits atop a castle there will be a lot more beasts and bait around the fort and the surrounding outposts. When going up against the feral tribes make sure you’re good at fighting beasts. Having the abilities to mount caragors comes in very handy here. It’s also a good idea to make the most of the bait hanging around to lure drakes in to fight with you. Remember though that drakes do not discriminate and their flames will burn any who get in the way.
Feral Orc captains will attack with the Feral Claws ability. This is a powerful unblockable strike. If they get their claws on you they’ll slash away until you’ve barely got a face left.

The Machine Tribe: These guys like to cover the area with industrial buildings and smiths. When a Machine Tribe takes over a region expect lots of giant chimneys and stronger fort walls. They like to cover everything in metal. Therefore it’s best to make sure your army is equipped with troops that can easily blow up gates. Once you’re in the fort keep a look out for forges. The Machine tribe keep a lot of forges around and these can be detonated, dealing massive amounts of fire damage to anyone in the area.

Orcs in the Machine tribe will make use of a special move called the Machine Hook. They will launch a hook out in front of them and anyone caught will be pulled straight towards them. Like the Feral Claw it’s best just to get out of the way of this one and attack afterwards.

The Dark Tribe: Orcs in the Dark tribe make excellent assassins. When they take over a region you’ll notice the skies go black and everywhere is just generally dark. They like to have a lot of alchemy tables around their fort and outposts. Much like the Machine tribe’s furnaces shooting them will make them explode, covering the surrounding area in bright green flames.

Dark tribe orcs will use an ability called Dark Strikes. They will launch a flurry of attacks at you and you must either dodge or block them very quickly to get a chance at a counter attack.

The Terror Tribe: Orcs of this tribe like to cover everywhere in blood and gore. When they take a region they’ll decorate it with corpses to scare off any would be intruders.

They enjoy striking fear into their opponents and will attack with their Terror Chains. They’ll whip chains around in a circle with curved blades at the end of them. This can easily take you by surprise as they attack in all directions rather than just straight ahead. Best to keep your distance and pelt them with arrows when they’re doing this.

The Marauder Tribe: Marauder Orcs like to show off the spoils of war by adorning their forts, outposts and armour with loot taken from fallen enemies. Any loot that’s not hanging off someone or something is stored away in chests hidden deep within their forts and outposts. After you’ve dealt with the residing captain don’t forget to plunder some of that sweet gear for yourself.

A Marauder fort beautifully decorated with a chest just waiting to be looted.

Marauders will use their crossbows to unleash a Hail of Bolts. They’ll put their swords away and take out two crossbows to shower you with projectiles. If you see a Marauder getting his bow out, get ready to make some quick manoeuvres.

The Warmonger Tribe: These Orcs have a passion for war and they can be found training and honing their skills at all hours of the day. Their forts and outposts are full of weapons just ripe for the picking.

They make for fearsome foes in battle and will rush you with their Warmonger Clash. If you don’t get out of the way you’ll be locked into a clash of swords and have to mash a button quickly to break their hold. If you’re not fast enough, well you won’t live long to regret it.

The Mystic Tribe: The Mystic Orcs are worshippers of death and the occult. They fill their battlements with towers of bone and altars for performing necromantic ceremonies. Disrupt these ceremonies and purify the altars to stop them bringing their dead warriors back to life.

Mystic Orcs will attack with their Mystic Blade. This allows them to teleport all around the battlefield and strike from the shadows. This attack is unblockable so keep your reflexes sharp and dodge it when you see it coming.

So that should be all you need to know to make your rise to power that much easier. I’d wish you good luck on your adventure but with this guide you won’t need it.

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