Today gamers are finally getting their hands on Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Starting any new game is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming – especially if you are the type who is haunted by the sense that you are doing something wrong. We’re here to help. We’ve finished Talion’s adventure and assembled this spoiler-free list of tips and pointers to help you make the most out of your first stroll through Mordor.
1. Play the story
This seems obvious, but in open world games, players can get easily distracted by collectibles and side missions. In Shadow of Mordor, you’ll get to all of the eventually, but you should play through the main missions for a couple hours first. That’s because you’re still opening up powers and nuances of the Nemesis system during those early phases, and you’ll want to make sure you hit the ground running when you do delve into the other content available. By the time you have killed your first Warchief you’ll be ready to veer off and start going wherever your heart takes you.
2. Sell runes
The captains in Sauron’s army drop runes upon defeat, which can be applied to your weapons for extra benefits. They have a range of effects, from restoring health and focus to giving you a burst of extra speed. However, the variety in the runes isn’t extreme; during your playthrough, you will undoubtedly get duplicates. If you already have the Choking Horror rune that is level 17, you do not need your Choking Horror rune that is only level 10. From the rune screen, you can cash in these extra runes for currency that you use to buy upgrades that will do you more good.
3. Just run
Mordor is a big place, and it is crawling with enemy forces. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to move like Frodo and Sam, sneaking and hiding every step of the way. Caution is great in missions that require a delicate touch, but if you’re just moving from point A to B on the map, don’t be afraid to run at full speed without regard for your surroundings. Any enemies that you alert in your mad dash are going to lose interest quickly, and all of your foes’ awareness is reset once you start a mission, so you don’t need to worry about a parade of enemies following you into a critical moment.
4. Gather intel
This is a basic element of the Nemesis system, but it can be easy to overlook if you are on a roll. Intel allows you to identify specific strengths and weaknesses. You can find the intel on the minimap – it might be some papers sitting on a table, a slave with valuable info, or an orc who can be interrogated. However you get it, be sure to use it, since intel can transform tough fights into quick encounters. For example, a high-level captain might have a weakness for stealth finishers. No matter how good his combat prowess may be, that means that you will be able to drop down on him from the shadows and kill him instantly. Intel also lets you know an orc’s immunities, so you can see if your favorite strategy will work – and if not, adjust accordingly. No matter what other stuff you’re doing in Mordor, be sure to make time to hunt this info down.
5. Don’t retry endlessly
Even though he is always resurrected after falling in battle, Talion’s death has consequences. Losing a fight means that orcs in Sauron’s army have time to grow in power; they may get promoted, kill rivals, or get killed themselves between Talion’s demise and return. If you want to keep that in check, don’t keep banging your head against sidequests (or vendettas) that are losing propositions. If a mission seems too difficult early on – especially the few that build the legend of your weapons – you might be better off waiting until you have better abilities and runes. This saves you from continually fueling the power of your enemies.
6. Let some orcs advance
Seemingly contradicting the last bit of advice, you also don’t want to stop the advance of Sauron’s forces entirely. A more powerful orc has a better chance at dropping a more powerful rune, so you want some of them to move up the ranks. Also, if it’s an orc that you hope to eventually dominate (like a warchief’s bodyguard), you’ll want them to be strong for the inevitable moment when they fight for you instead of against you. In short, don’t view the advancement of the enemy army as a punishment; you want it to happen – you just don’t want to throw unnecessary fuel on the fire.
7. Draw them out
Sometimes multiple captains might congregate in a small area of the map, making it nearly impossible for you to achieve your goals. You can’t engage one without attracting all of their attention, and enslaving a particular bodyguard is tough when every fight in a region turns into a four-captain pile-up. To get around this, keep an eye out for power struggles (or create them yourself) with orcs in other areas of the map. These events can pull orcs out of their current regions for a special scenario, which gives you easier access.
8. Buy super-moves
Each of your three weapons has an exclusive power. These are expensive, but worth picking up. You probably won’t be able to afford all three before the endgame (unless you neglect other useful upgrades), but here’s some useful info: Despite the fact that these moves appear under the ability trees that unlock runes for the individual weapons, they are not tied to that progression. In other words, you don’t need to unlock every rune slot for your sword before you can buy the sword’s super-move.
9. Stun and slash
If all subterfuge and strategy has failed and you end up in a straight-up fight with orc captains, you might discover that they are immune to some of your favorite combat tricks. For instance, many of them are unaffected by attacks from your bow, and from instant-death stealth kills. Thankfully, you can usually fall back on one combo: Use your wraith stun ability, then hit the attack button repeatedly to unleash a special sword combo on them while they are dazed. For all of the captains’ different traits, immunity to this maneuver (though possible) is rare. It isn’t very effective in large groups since it’s easy to interrupt, but it practically guarantees victory in a one-on-one fight.
10. Seriously, kill bodyguards
Yes, the game emphasizes this a few times, but it bears repeating. When you’re going after a warchief, you really want to neutralize those bodyguards. In the first half of the game, that involves killing them. In the second half, you want to dominate them instead so they fight for you (and can then take the dead warchief’s place). Even though you are technically able to initiate the warchief fights as soon as they are identified, you will save yourself frustration by removing these powerful allies from the equation.
For more related to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, check our review or our Test Chamber showing the game in action.