Middle-earth: Shadow of War Guide - every skill, best build advice, poem puzzle solutions and more
There's a lot of ways to kill orcs in Shadow of War - the question is how exactly you want to do it.
Despite the fact that he spent the whole of the last game building himself up, protagonist Talion of course does that classic video game thing and forgets a lot of what he knew as you head into Shadow of War. Samus would be proud!
The good news is that he has a whole new set of skills to make use of, plus some returning favorites. On top of all that, the nemesis system has grown, there are all new loot box shenangians for better or worse, and the actual skill system has been rejigged and adjusted, so you'll be buying them in a new and different manner. On this page,
Shadow of War Guide: Domination, the Nemesis System, Ithildin Doors and Loot Boxes
First of all, here are some key tips around Shadow of War's Domination and Nemesis systems - plus crucial information on what to expect from its loot box system...
- Nemesis System and Domination: On this page, we take you through everything you need to know about domination, the skill you need to take control of orcs and build your army, and how it interacts with the nemesis system that creates orc rivals for you.
- Loot Boxes and you: There's been quite a bit of controversy stirred up about Shadow of War's loot boxes - but just how bad are they? We explain what you get for your money, and just how necessary they are.
- Ithildin Poem Solutions: One major set of legendary gear is sealed behind five unique doors in the world - and to get those doors to open you're going to need to recite a bit of poetry. Here, we break down the solutions.
Shadow of War Skills Guide: every skill listed and advice for the best character build
The various potential skills for Talion open up quite a lot of different opportunities in terms of gameplay style and approach - depending on the skills you choose to purchase, you can focus down on a particular style of combat. In-game this is broken down into six key pillars, though within each things get a little more granular still. The trees are:
- Combat - Despite the game these 23 skills don't govern absolutely all forms of combat, but are instead related specifically to skills around you getting suck in with sword and dagger-based melee attacks. This tree is full of stuff to satisfy players who like to rush down enemies.
- Predator - Predator does exactly what you'd expect given its name - its 19 skills are focused around stealth. If you like sneaking and stabbing this is the tree for you, but some of these skills are also very useful for giving you more movement options around the world between combat encounters.
- Ranged - The 19 Ranged skills each govern the long-distance combat options using your bow and arrow. It'll let you lay traps and trigger environmental hazards from afar as well as take down enemies directly, but it also contains some lovely teleporation 'shadow strike' powers that will work well with melee-focused builds.
- Wraith - This is essentially the Lord of the Rings Middle Earth universe equivalent of magic, the dark sorcery that Talion has access to thanks to his being a little less than entirely healthy. The 20 wraith skills aren't really a tree that can support an entire play style alone, but instead feature powers that'll augment and work well with others picked from the previous three trees.
- Mounted - There are a handful of types of deadly beasts you can mount in Shadow of War, allowing you to turn some of Mordor's worst creatures to your side and use them to take down your enemies. This 16-strong skill tree is rather enclosed in that it doesn't really link in with any other in any meaningful way but features significant upgrades to what you can do while mounted.
- Story - These 23 skills are unlocked naturally as you progress through the story, while a few extras are tied to the completion of certain side quests across Shadow of War's world.
Shadow of War Skill Choice Tips: The Best Skills and things to look out for
There's quite a lot of choice among these skill trees, and so it only makes sense to offer up some basic tips for your build of Talion. Here are a few pointers we've picked up based on our time with the game:
Skills are broken up into major and minor skills this time around. Don't neglect the upgrades
As you'll see on the skill tree page in-game (as pictured above), every 'major' skill in the game has a few lesser options underneath it. These secondary skills, or upgrades as we call them, either help the main skill to become more potent or ensure it synergizes with other skills in your skill tree in new and interesting ways.
Sometimes, a major skill that actually isn't that useful can have an upgrade that can make it absolutely ridiculous, so don't write any individual skill off or even purchase any individual skill until you've considered what the upgrade skills are for it. One follows the other, after all. On that topic...
Try to plan ahead by reviewing our skills guide pages
As we say above, it's not smart to just buy skills recklessly, or at least not past your first few levels. Skill points only come so often, and so you should make a strong effort to plan ahead. Because you'll need to unlock a main skill to get to those sub-skills it helps to know what you're working towards, and the same is absolutely true for when you want two skills to pair off, such as the execution skill and any skills that help you to build Might more quickly.
That's why we've put together pages on each of Shadow of War's class trees, which you might've noticed were briefly linked above. On the Combat Skill Tree Guide we touch on the best skills for swordplay and melee offense, while our Predator Skill Tree Guide will detail all of the best ways to stab and shank in stealth and so on.
Make use of and invest in Wraith Abilities - they make a bigger difference than you might think
Talion's Wraith abilities are what really set him apart in the Middle-earth universe, though when you're playing Shadow of War it can be easy to sideline more supportive abilities in favor of new, more brutal executions and so on. You shouldn't sleep on the Wraith tree, though, it can make a world of difference.
If you pick up Brace of Daggers, for instance, it can seriously help combat-driven sword users who want to keep their combo hitstreak going. There's also some great 'get off me' abilities for when weaker characters who might be more focused on stealth or ranged action get overwhelmed. Check out our detailed Shadow of War Wraith Skill Guide for more on that tree.