Box art - Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

5 Tips I Wish I Knew Before Starting Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Middle-earth: Shadow of War improves upon 2014’s Shadow of Mordor in several different ways. The map is larger, the acclaimed Nemesis system is better, and the battles feel and look like actual war. As such, knowing its predecessor will only get you so far in Shadow of War.

We’ve taken what we’ve learned from our time with the bigger and better sequel and have five tips that will help you know more about what you’re getting into with this dozens of hours-long action adventure game.

Shadow of War – Less Clutter is Better

Before we get into the nitty gritty of combat, let’s clean up your screen so you can actually see what’s happening during the battles. Shadow of War’s UI (user interface) is cluttered with way too many pop ups onscreen like button prompts for parries and dodges, health, and more.

You can go to the main menu, then options to change your overlay. There, you can turn off anything individually so you can tailor it to your preferences or just turn it all off for a cleaner look than the default cluttered mess.

Shadow of War – Know Your Limits

At a certain point in the second act of Shadow of War, you will be given the freedom to roam around and take on fortresses however you’d like. Each fortress has its own hierarchy of orcs for you to fight during your siege.

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The orcs can be taken on in any order you’d like, so you could go straight for the war chief should you desire and win the entire fight right off the bat. However, aiming straight for the big man in charge does have insane difficulty due to buffs from the lower ranking officers.

If you feel confident in your skill thus far in the game, you should try a middle-ranking captain or go straight for the war chief and see how you do. Depending on your results, adjust if necessary. If you are struggling, it’s best to start from the bottom and make your way slowly up the chain. This will eliminate any buffs or bonuses that the war chief has.

Shadow of War – Combo Ready


With the new addition of fortresses and controlling your own orc army in Shadow of War, there are some new combat changes that reflect the additional features. The most important of these is how you deal with any orcs in fights.

There are brand new combos that give you a significant amount of choice with every orc. On top of your minimap, there is an orange meter called the Might Meter. Filling this up will give you access to three choices of execution.

The first is the simple Execution function. Its combo is triangle and circle on PS4 or Y and B on Xbox One. This will just take out the orc or inflict major damage on more powerful enemies. The second is Wraith Flash. This stuns or sets nearby enemies on fire, and its combo is square plus cross or X plus A.

The final combo is Domination. This is how you add new orcs in Shadow of War to your army, forcing them to switch to your team. On PS4, the combo is X plus circle or B and A on Xbox One.

Shadow of War – Loot Master


We’re sure you know the drill from other loot-driven games. You kill an enemy, they drop loot, and you pick it up so you can become more powerful. That’s the same way it works in Shadow of War, except it can become rather frustrating pretty quickly.

When up against one or a few orcs, it’s not a problem to grab that new sword and move on, but that changes in the middle of a huge siege. Archers and fighters are everywhere, and trekking a short distance out of your way to pick up loot from an enemy you shot down can become dangerous, not to mention time-consuming.

Though it is only a bandaid fix for an unfortunate design choice, there is a way to automatically pick up loot. In the Wraith section of the skill tree, the final skill will do just that. Despite being the last in the group, skill points are generous in Shadow of War so we recommend focusing on getting that skill first and foremost.

Shadow of War – An Eye on the Time


The world map of Shadow of War is filled to the brim with quests and content to complete. Unfortunately, a lot of these are time-sensitive with only a limited amount of time to complete them before they disappear or give you an automatic outcome.

Be it a Nemesis duel or a time-sensitive mission, you will see several of these on your map. The number on the mission is its time counter. Every time you complete another timed mission, that number will decrease by one until it reaches zero and you are unable to access it. Prioritize the missions you want to do the most and make sure to complete them first.