Video games are a big part of my life, and I wish I wanted them to stay that way.
Recently passing the 1000 hour mark of playtime within this game, I figured it is now time to write my own little walkthrough/guide on it! Now, I only play this game on the hardest difficulty so that I am able to face off against the strongest enemies and get the best characters in the game; so this guide should apply to any difficulty that you choose to play on. Middle-earth: Shadow of War is, by far, one of my most favorite games in my vast library.
If you haven't had the chance to purchase and play it, or its equally die-hard fun prequel Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, then I highly advise that you go pick up a copy of both right now! The story is absolutely riveting and you'd be missing out if you didn't get both!
In this installment of the Middle-earth series we are right back into the thick of things with Tallion and Celebrimbor. This time Tallion and Celebrimbor lose the Ring of Power to Shelob, when Tallion trades it to get Celebrimbor back in his body after being tricked by Shelob. Of course Shelob, being the wise seductress she is, then utilizes Tallion and Celebrimbor to the fullest extent by using the Ring of Power to see into the future and direct their mission to her own ends.
You see, Shelob could care less about the fate of man and uruk alike but she likes living as an immortal in this world. She sees the value in keeping the balance between light and dark, and thus the entire plot is set around just that; keeping Celebrimbor and Sauron locked in eternal battle is her end-goal. Unbeknownst to Tallion until later, Celebrimbor simply wants to replace Sauron as the Lord or Middle-earth.
During a battle in which Tallion defeats Isildur, the former ruler of Gondor turned Nazgul, he decides to obliterate Isildur against Celebrimbor's wishes to dominate him and use him as an asset; this sees Celebrimbor leave Tallion dying and possessing Elatriel instead. To save his own life, despite knowing it would eventually lead to his own corruption by the Ring of Power, Tallion dons Isildur's ring and makes off to Minas Morgul where he defeats the Witch King and takes control of the Palantir.
In the final battle for power being watched by Tallion through the Palantir, we see Celebrimbor and Elatriel fighting Sauron. A bit anti-climactic if you ask me, but during this battle Elatriel gets a couple fingers cut off including the one which was wearing the Ring of Power. This disconnect between Elatriel and the Ring leads Sauron to merge with Celebrimbor, who fights back vigorously, and they both become entrapped in Sauron's tower taking the form of a flaming eye as their spirits perpetually battle for dominance.
Tallion remains aware of himself, apart from Isildur's ring and at the behest of Shelob, battling the forces of Mordor and keeping them contained within Middle-earth for ages; until finally he would succumb to the power of the Ring decades later and become a Nazgul. Joining the forces of Sauron, we then find him hunting Frodo and the One Ring.
A sweet little close to the game, upon Frodo's destruction of the one ring, we see Tallion's spirit freed in the afterlife. He walks off into the west discarding his weapons and armor; a much-deserved rest in peace for him, I would say!
Leveling as Fast as Possible
Alright, so on to the reason you came here, and arguably the most important part of the game; leveling as fast as you can will be your best and only true friend!
As it concerns leveling quicker, leveling as fast as you possibly can, you have quite a few options to utilize. These options include, but are not limited to:
- Main quests
- Side quests
- Finding collectibles
- Unending slaughter of grunts
- Battling captains
- Assassinating warchiefs
- Sieges and killing overlords
- Online vendetta missions
Personally, I've found the fastest way to level your character is a blend of online sieges, allowing your fortresses to be retaken in single player, and online vendettas. Most commonly, you'll find me watching over siege after siege of my fortresses, doing nothing as my army is thinned and eventually overran. There is no higher concentration of enemies in this game than during a siege defense!
However, that strategy is only viable near the end-game, and as such I advise you to remain focused on side quests. Side quests, such as the quests where you experience Celebrimbor's past, those are the best way to get stronger with a minimal amount of effort put into the grind. Some of them are easy, some of them are hard, but you need to beat every single one if you want to compete on the hardest difficulty.
If you own the definitive edition of the game, then your best bet is to take on the slaughter and outlaw tribe challenges as often as you can. Not only will you be given the opportunity to dominate some of the toughest units in the game, these challenges are readily available and provide for a high concentration of legendary and epic class captains. They're difficult, but they offer a lot of experience for leveling up quick.
Grinding for armor and weapons: I saved this for last in this section because I advise people not to focus on the armor and weapon grind until after beating the main quest line and maxing out Tallion's level. To truly grind for legendary gear you are going to need the skill that turns your shaming of uruks into a possible overcharge for their level. Once you have maxed out your player level, kill every legendary you meet and shame every uruk you defeat until they either become deranged or get super boosted to legendary.
The only orcs I dominate at the end game came after I had maxed my character level, obtained and maxed out my armor and weapon set I desired most, and then only to recoup my losses during sieges. People say this game isn't a grind, but once you hit the end game it is nothing but a slog through unending grind.
Uruks or Ologs?
I always find myself debating whether or not I should go with ologs or uruks for every single battle in this game. Sieges, siege defense, arenas, and bodyguards... the strategies for creating the strongest and most tactically inclined situation are endless. However, I do have a basic set of rules I follow for each and every situation presented in the game so as to ensure I get the most efficiency out of my army as possible.
Siege party: When performing a siege I always try to use ologs in every available slot. Preferably you want machine ologs who also have the traits of tanks or berserkers. Ideally, every single one of your ologs needs the trait that sees them enraged at everything, but settling for tank traits or a more minor enrage trait is fine. To further bolster your attack capabilities, because ologs attack everything around them regardless of being enraged, give them olog body guards!
Siege defense: This is a rough one because I can never find the right balance between ranged units and melee units. Everyone always seems to want to kill their friends with ranged attacks faster than the enemy can kill us, but that's where you need to refine your tactics and placement. I never, ever, use ologs for defense because they tend to kill more of my own troops than the enemy's. When you are on the defense focus on placing savages and tricksters who are resistant to being dazed.
You don't need to put ranged units, in fact I advise against it, but if you do, try to keep them near the back-center of the fortress so they get a few pot-shots off before they're inevitably slaughtered. Keep your eye out for units who are immune to ranged attacks, the more immunity you have to ranged attacks the better your army is going to perform in every type of battle.
Arenas: I'm going to address the predetermined nature of arenas later on in this article, but my best advice to you is that if you don't mind losing for contrived and unfair reasons, then send whatever unit you want into them. However, if you want the best chance at winning and don't mind risking those higher-end units, always send in those savage units capable of becoming enraged by everything. Savages can't be hit from the front—except in arena where everything is predetermined and a lie—and when they rage they are pretty much unstoppable.
Always pair your savages with savages, because defenders are slow to attack and ranged units hit your character more often than the enemies. Unless the savage is enraged by caragores, I'd avoid caragores altogether. Even captains who are weak to caragores slaughter them faster than they can do that extra damage, excluding extremely rare and lucky cases.
Bodyguards: As it concerns choosing a body guard for yourself or a set of guards for your uruks and ologs, always try to provide what you and your other units are lacking. Don't have the ability to poison? Have a bodyguard with poison. Enraged by fire but no fire weapons? Have a bodyguard with fire weapons. So on and so forth, but always ensure that balance is your focus over raw strength. Don't put two raging savage uruks together who are both weak to one another just because they can both take an entire army alone, they'll die immediately to each other.
Focus on Keeping the Enemy Out
When choosing your level and siege perks, I highly advise that you choose the perks that support the idea that you need to keep the enemy away from you for as long as possible. For me that means always using the hammer as my ranged weapon, because with the hammer you can stomp the grunts out just as fast as they arrive with the area-of-effect capabilities. The perk that slows down time as you aim in the air is a must-have as you should almost never be touching the ground for long, and even further using fire as your ranged element is best since it panics most grunts and causes it to spread on contact.
The siege perks you apply to your fortress, at least by my standard, should look a bit like this:
- Metal walls: forces the enemy to stay out of your fortress longer
- Iron Gates: the gates break too easily without it
- Defender host: they offer the best longevity
- Hellfire: combined with iron gates you are doing constant passive damage, and later on you can release the drake and shadow mount it for devastating effects
- Spiked walls: once again this keeps the enemies out and away from your men longer, keeping that passive damage up
- poison or fire mines: personally, I always go fire
My idea, the one I developed from watching battle after battle, ad nauseam, is that the longer I keep the enemy in one place, the more passive damage I can do without even needing to interact. This strategy sees you favor your own safety over direct offensive capability, thus increasing your offensive output as the player character. In conjunction with this strategy, you need to focus on taking out the grunts first, then doing active damage to the captains!
Your might and wrath meters are your best friend for seamless combat, and the fastest way to build both might and wrath are to kill grunts and avoid captains getting their hands on you. Playing like a coward gets to see you live as a king.
Online Arena Matches Are Predetermined but Useful
Unfortunately, as it concerns the online arena and any other arena in the game, the matches are predetermined before you even enter into the fight. I don't know how many times I've watched my uruks sit there and get hammered to their death by an inferior opponent in the arena, just sitting and staring for thirty seconds at a time as the enemy hacks, chops, and slashes away at them. Though there are those who would argue in ignorance, you'd be best only sending worthless units into the online arena.
Now I know it may feel weird to make a level 17 uruk or olog the overlord of your max level fortress just to send them into the online arena, but because this game is so old, you most likely won't be attacked by an online siege when you do so. I try not to waste my time on online arenas, but it is a great way to level and rank up your useless units to a usable status. This is the sole purpose of utilizing the online arena, getting that common uruk up to legendary status.
Do not send units you are not willing to lose into the online arena! Due to the predetermined nature of the fights, if you send important units you are begging for great upsets and lots of wasted time. Only send those low level, common units when you feel like wasting time to try for that legendary upgrade!
The online arena offers way better upgrades and perks to your uruks than just buying them with the currency you earn in online sieges and vendettas, but I'd argue it is a waste of time due to the predetermined nature of the arenas themselves.
Online Siege and Revenge Missions Are a Must!
Online sieges and vendettas are your best friend, and you need to utilize them as often as you can muster the patience for their difficulty. Not only do they offer you a chance at gaining some high level, rare units for your garrison and army, they offer you lots of experience and money. Both experience and money will become integral to your success and fun in the end game.
I love the online sieges and vendettas because they pay out necessary equipment such as upgrade scrolls for your units. Though more of a convenience than an actual necessity, chests from online vendettas and sieges have saved me hours of time while rebuilding my armies. Free scrolls for your hard work, excessive amounts of money and experience, and you have the ingredients for streamlining the efficiency of your grind.
I'd wait until you hit max level to start doing online sieges, however, because as you succeed they only get harder and harder. Some of the online sieges are so hard that I'm not even sure how people got to such a perfect state of play.
One of the Best Games Ever Made!
Despite the loot box scandal that surrounded the release of the game, and the developers' bitter removal of one of my favorite features, I'd have to say that this is one of the best games ever made. You see, I was totally soured by WB's removal of the progress for play system that saw their loot boxes offered without microtransactions; it was a wonderful system that offered rewards for play rather than rewards for real money. The only reason they removed it is because players demanded microtransactions be removed from the game, and since they no longer profited, they chose to spite spite their fan-base.
Alas, the grind became longer for those of us competing on the leaderboards but that didn't stop me from pouring over 1000 hours into the game. Still to this day, I go back and grind for better and stronger units, besieging and defending my fortresses to my heart's content! Even without the lovely loot box system they had for free for a time, then their spiteful removal of it as a spit in the face to their fans, I highly advise giving this game a real shot.
Now get out there and dominate Middle-earth!