Originally released in 2014, Monolith Productions’ Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor came out of nowhere to become the surprise hit of the year. The intense combat and nemesis system attracted players in droves. Having a stellar PC gaming pedigree, the team at Monolith delivered an excellent PC version of the game that ran well and used all the latest graphical bells and whistles of the time. It saw use as a graphics card benchmark for more than two years. Its sequel, Shadow of War is finally available and is also pushing the envelope for PC graphics hardware.
Not everyone has the latest and greatest hardware, but a few tweaks here and there can get most PC’s up to parity with the console versions of the game. First off, you will need to have a machine that’s at least in the neighborhood of the minimum or recommended system specs.
Shadow of War System Requirements
- OS: Windows 7 SP1 with Platform Update for Windows 7
- Processor: Intel i5-2550K, 3.4 GHz
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 670 | Radeon HD 7950
- DirectX: Version 11
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Storage: 60 GB available space
- OS: Windows 10 version 14393.102 or higher required
- Processor: Intel Core i7-3770, 3.4 GHz
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 970 or GeForce GTX 1060 | Radeon R9 290X or Radeon RX 480
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 60 GB available space
While the minimum requirements call for a Core i5 CPU, Shadow of War is primarily GPU-bound and you can get away with using a lower-end CPU if you have the graphics power to back it up. Recent Intel dual core CPUs with hyper-threading, like the G4560 or Core i3-6100/7100, are more than up for the task.
While the recommended system requirements are not particularly demanding, they only provide enough juice for running the game smoothly at 1080p on high settings. For players interested in Ultra settings or resolutions like 1440p, ultra-wide 1440p, or 4K, more juice will be required. Unlike most PC games, Shadow of War needs at least 12GB of ram to run on its highest settings. Users with 8GB will not have a pleasant experience without turning a few options down. Along with high system ram requirements, high resolutions at ultra settings requires loads of VRAM on your GPU.
The original Shadow of Mordor famously offered an enhanced texture pack DLC for the best possible image quality and Shadow of War follows in those footsteps. A 4K texture pack and 4K cinematics pack are separate free downloads from the game’s Steam store page. You can grab them here. The packs require an additional 33GB download, but offer the highest visual quality possible for players using high-end PCs. nVidia released a Game-Ready driver for Shadow of War that is highly recommended. You can pick it up here. AMD also released a new beta driver with optimizations for the game. It is available here.
Increasing Your FPS
For the most part, Shadow of War is very well optimized on PC. Fortunately, for players seeking some extra performance, Monolith has provided an automated solution. In the main settings menu under the display tab is a setting called dynamic resolution. This option will change the game’s rendering resolution on the fly in an attempt to meet a preset performance target. The range of performance targets run from 30fps all the way up to 240fps.
Dynamic resolution works its best in scenarios where you are fairly close to your performance goals and need that extra push. If your game is chugging along under 30fps and you set the performance target to 60fps, dropping resolution may not be enough to compensate for the use of higher image quality settings. Also, when the dynamic resolution system is used aggressively, huge swings in rendering resolution can cause the game to look very soft, or in extreme cases, very blurry.
Outside of using dynamic resolution, you may need to lower different image quality settings to reach your fps goals. In my experience, the auto-config that detects your hardware and applies suggested image quality settings the first time you run the game is a little too generous. Running the game at all ultra settings should only be reserved for those running bleeding edge GPUs.
Dropping ambient occlusion, shadow quality, mesh quality, and lighting quality seems to offer the most bang for your performance buck. Texture quality has a minimal performance impact, provided your GPU has enough VRAM. For fine tuning, the system information pane on the right-hand side of the advanced graphics settings menu will highlight which parts of your GPU are affected by the selected toggle.You can try matching your settings to the ones listed under your GPU name, or even a notch below if you are close to your performance goal.
When to Consider Upgrading
While Shadow of Ware does play nice with older hardware, it has incredibly high demands once you start playing on higher settings. Players using GPUs with 3GB or less VRAM are likely never going to see lofty framerates at high or ultra quality settings. Similarly, those using only 8GB of ram will have to settle for a mix of medium and high settings at best. When fully maxed out, Shadow of War can use up to 11GB of system memory and is one of a few select titles that shows a strong benefit for machines using 16GB of RAM.
Due to its strict demands for memory and GPU power, Shadow of War spends most of its rendering time being GPU bound. This means you can get away with using a CPU that isn’t the latest and greatest. While you will see benefits from using the newest AMD Ryzen and Intel Core i7 CPUs above 100Hz, 60fps gameplay is attainable on much more modest setups, provided you have some VRAM and RAM to spare.
There is currently no single card solution for running Shadow of Mordor at a steady 60fps when using 4K ultra settings. NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti users can get very close, though and use of the dynamic resolution option will ensure a smooth experience. At 1440p, NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 can provide an excellent experience, as does AMD’s RX Vega 64. GTX 1070 and RX Vega 56 owners will need to enable dynamic resolution to maintain a steady 60fps at ultra settings.
In the mainstream GPU segment, GTX 1060 6GB and RX 480/580 8GB owners can expect a solid 1080p experience at ultra settings, provided that dynamic resolution is enabled. Owners of the popular GTX 970 will need to drop settings to a mix of medium and high in order to hold a steady 60fps at 1080p.
For help killing every orc in Mordor, consult our walkthrough and guides. They can give you a leg up on those drunken green and yellow goblin-beasts.