Lord of the Rings: Shadow of War has arrived on Xbox Game Pass. It’s a game that has lingered for two years on my pile of shame, and so, in honor of it now being free, I decided to jump into the game, and here is a guide for the first ten hours of Shadow of War.
Skip the Captains in Act One
Shadow of War does a terrible job of onboarding you to the nemesis system and the Orc/Uruk Captains in the first act so let us be your guide. If you have any memory of the original Shadow of Mordor, your inclination is to immediately go questing for your next big kill. This is a waste of time. New captains will spawn upon your death, and the loot and experience they drop is not worth the hunt. By not spending hours stalking your prey in Minis Ithil, you will also not be burned out by the time the game really opens up in Act II and you can begin recruiting Captains and War Chiefs to join your army. This is the real meat of the game and where you should start spending real time finding Worms to reveal intel and tracking down the Captains.
Taming a Drake is the final unlock in the Mounted skill tree. Like many of you, I immediately salivated over the prospect of giving the Nazgul a taste of their own medicine. Unfortunately, this skill isn’t worth the points it takes to unlock. Breaking a drake, i.e. doing enough damage to enable mounting it without killing it, is extremely difficult. I’ve only successfully done it once. What should have been a glorious moment of soaring through the skies, instead became an absolute chore as the flight mechanics are pretty abysmal. The vistas and skyboxes are undoubtedly impressive when viewed from above, but constant fighting with the controls and a depressingly low health bar on your mount make this skill one to pass on. Instead, I’d highly recommend going for Shadow Shot and Treasure Hunter. Shadow Shot enables quick, efficient stealth kills from a distance and is a cool visual to boot. Meanwhile, Treasure Hunter allows you to automatically pick up dropped loot from enemies. This feels like poor design since it is virtually impossible to collect the loot while any enemy is near. The collection animation is just excruciatingly long.
Maximize Your Time
The perfectionists reading this can go ahead and skip to the end credits, but for everyone else, just know there is a lot to do in Shadow of War and not a good guide to get you through it. When arriving at any new location, do the classic Ubisoft trope of climbing the tower. This gives you a full view of the world including side missions to investigate. In the early game, the best thing you can do is acquire skill points. This means that in the Shadows of the Past missions, Silver rank is all you need. Often these missions will require you to complete them in a time limit for the gold rank, but the reward is just not worth it. Take the skill point and move on to the next activity. Collectibles are everywhere, but the ones that are really important are the Ithildin graffiti that adorns the walls. These doors open a riddle in the Barrows and allows for the collection of loot far above your current level. This will give you an early jump start on the more difficult missions in the game.
There you have it, a guide for your first few hours of Middle Earth: Shadow of War. If you were scared off by the loot boxes from the game’s release, fear not. The loot box economy has basically been eliminated in the current version of the game. So feel free to kick back and prepare to save Middle Earth.