Shadow of Mordor primer: stepping into the ring

Are you ready to take on the toughest Middle-earth has to offer? We give a few tips on how to get started in your quest for vengeance.


Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is out now, and it's getting praise across the board. If you're among the would-be Ranger Wraiths picking up your copy, you may be wondering where to start. That's where we come in. The Primer series covers a few tips to get you started on the right track as you pursue your bloody vengeance. 

Feel the Rhythm

Shadow of Mordor emulates the combat from the Batman: Arkham series extremely well, and that means the same rules apply. While you may instinctively swing wildly when you're overwhelmed by a roving horde of Uruks, rythmic taps do the job much better. It will build up your combo meter, which is necessary for some of the heavy combat moves you'll unlock as you go. As long as you hit and counter enemies to the beat, you can reach the magic number 8, which will let you pull off an instant kill on one of the enemies or strike a boss for high damage. It's best to establish good habits early, so don't panic in combat, and only tap the attack button once per swing.

Lean on the Bow

Though Talion has three weapons to choose from, the bow is easily the most versatile. It can hit from long range, take down enemies without alerting guards, and its slowdown "Focus" mechanic can even help clear some troublesome crowd situations if you're starting to feel overwhelmed in the thick of combat. Monolith doesn't shy away from the power of the bow; three of the six columns in the Attributes upgrade tree are devoted to it. While the dagger is great for surgical strikes and you won't make it out of Mordor alive without a strong grasp on the sword combat, mastery of your bow skills can single-handedly turn the tide of combat. 

Easy Money

Say you want to pick up some extra Attributes but the main missions are getting too difficult for you to handle. Just look around the map for Artifact and Ithildin locations. These baubles can only be seen in Wraith mode, but setting them as a waypoint leads you straight to them. They only net you 50m apiece, but between 32 Ithildin and 42 Artifacts, that's almost 4,000 in upgrade cash that's practically free and just requires a little footwork. 

Trash Your Runes

Runes can be a great help, especially at the Legendary level. It's tempting to hoard them all, on the off chance that you may use one someday. But if your menu is getting crowded with too many Legendary (yellow) and Rare (blue) Runes, chances are you're never going to go back to that Common (white) one. You only have so many upgrade slots, and getting some new Runes is easy enough anyway. Feel free to trash the unused ones. Take a critical look at your own playstyle, because some simply won't be applicable to how you like to fight. They don't net that much, but it's better than nothing.

Catching Uruks

If you do your job properly and bring an Uruk captain down to critical levels, he'll almost always attempt to run away. The game gives him a little head start, which can be frustrating if you want to make sure he doesn't live to fight another day. Two Abilities are invaluable for assuring he doesn't weasel out of his impending demise: Eleven Swiftness and Pin in Place. The Swiftness ability lets you press a prompt to dash if you jump over obstacles or nail landings. It's among the first you can purchase, and you should. Not only does it make navigating the world much faster, you can easily catch up with cowardly Uruks.

Pin in Place is available in the second tree, and lets you shoot an arrow at an Uruk leg to keep them stuck there while you casually walk up to finish the job. Just be sure you know if the Uruk is invulnerable to ranged attacks, because if so that will do you no good.

Know Thy Foe

The game impresses on you how important it is to research your targets, but just to make sure it's absolutely clear: research your targets. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to land the killing blow and finding out your enemy is invulnerable to that kind of attack, which you should have known if you'd done your research. Better yet, you can usually influence the direction of battle by looking up what will drive your opponent into a mad rage, or make him run in fear. If he does run away, that's an easy way to isolate him from the crowd and take him down, so long as you can catch up with him. (See: Catching Uruks, above).

Not to mention, gaining Intel is just fun. Captains can be hard to pin down for info, but Worms are littered all over the map. These weaklings will spill everything they know in a heartbeat, and the animation sequence to press for information feels empowering every time.

Fly, You Fool

Usually when a battle isn't going your way in a game, it's easy enough to shrug your shoulders, put down the controller, and let yourself die so you can reload at a checkpoint quickly. Do not do this! The Nemesis system makes such an approach backfire horribly. If a battle is going south, run away. The Uruk will mock you a little for it next time, but that's much better than giving him the significant power advantage from felling you.

Internal Strife

Sauron's army doesn't exactly get along, and watching the internal politics of Uruk society is part of the fun. They'll often try to prove themselves or rise the ranks by taking part in feats of strength, fighting each other, or setting up a coup in ambush. While it may seem fun to dive into the fray, swash-buckler style, it's usually smarter to hang back for a little while. If two Uruks are fighting for dominance, pick at whichever one is winning to keep them on roughly even ground.

Just be sure you don't remain a passive observer for too long. If the Uruk is successful in his power grab, he'll immediately refill his health meter and gain a power advantage to boot. You want to hang back long enough that they do most of the work for you, but not so long that they gain the benefit of winning.

Murder and Betrayal

Once you're ready to take on Warchiefs, the game advises that it may be wise to take down his Captains first. Don't shirk this duty. You can see which captains are serving as warchief bodyguards in the Sauron's Army menu. Failure to eliminate them will mean that when you fight your warchief, you'll have to fight two or three or even four other strong captains at the same time. It makes the battles signficantly harder. You might also want to check if any other captains are stationed in the area where a warchief resides, because even if you've taken down the bodyguards, another captain who happens to be in that area will join the fight. 

In the latter half of the game, you get the ability to brainwash Uruk to your will. You certainly still could kill the bodyguard captains, but why would you? Nothing is satisfying quite like taking on a warchief who's feeling overconfident flanked by his bodyguards, only to find out they work for you. They'll fight off the scrubs while you take on the warchief.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 30, 2014 6:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Shadow of Mordor primer: stepping into the ring.

    Are you ready to take on the toughest Middle-earth has to offer? We give a few tips on how to get started in your quest for vengeance.

    • reply
      September 30, 2014 8:28 AM

      The mic still sounds off! Love it otherwise

    • reply
      September 30, 2014 8:38 AM

      Oh awesome, video and/or text content! Perfect, I wasn't able to read the article this morning but at least I can listen to the video while working.

      Also I am super hyped to get home and play this!

    • reply
      September 30, 2014 8:58 AM

      cant wait to get home and wreck some uruks

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