Mastering the Shadow Wars: A Guide to Succeeding in ‘Middle-earth: Shadow of War’

Defending Your Fortress

Master the Shadow Wars in 'Middle-earth: Shadow of War'
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If you’re an experienced player of Middle-earth: Shadow of War, attacking a fortress during the Shadow Wars phase may not be on your agenda. Instead, you’ll be focused on defending the four regions of Cirith Ungol, Gorgoroth, Nurnen, and Seregost from enemy invasions. Defending a fortress is much more challenging than capturing one, as you’ll face formidable war chiefs and captains aiming to take you down. With some preparation, however, you can emerge victorious.

Investing in your army

In Shadow Wars, your personal combat skills take a backseat to those of your orc followers. At the start of the Shadow Wars, your forts will have war chiefs at around level 40, which is acceptable initially as enemies will be at a similar level. However, enemy hordes will level up faster than your own army, putting you at a disadvantage if any of your orcs perish.

To compensate for this, consider spending some Mirian in the market to purchase silver war chests. These chests, priced at 1,500 Mirian each, won’t dent your savings if you’ve been frugal throughout the campaign. Purchase as many chests as required to strengthen your defenses with six high-level war chiefs. This will help you deal with your enemies effectively.

Countering your enemies’ offense

Master the Shadow Wars in 'Middle-earth: Shadow of War'
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Before engaging in a fortress-defense mission, you’ll have the chance to review the list of war chiefs you’ll be facing. Each war chief has a special siege ability, which indicates the type of forces they can bring to the fight. Some war chiefs may have special troops like Caragor riders or defenders, while others may command drakes or fire-launching siege beasts. You can purchase and equip defenses to counter these attacks, but your fortress will fall quickly if you don’t fine-tune your defenses to match the army you’re up against.

For each siege ability you encounter, select a defense strategy that neutralizes it. For example, if Caragors are a threat that can scale your fortress walls, purchase spikes to keep them out. Different beasts can complicate fights, but a group of hunters can thin their numbers before they reach the fortress. Additionally, make sure your anti-siege weapons exploit the weaknesses of enemy war chiefs. If multiple war chiefs are immune to poison, a poison-spewing Siege Beast won’t be of much help, but a fire-breathing drake will effectively keep them at bay.

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Staying out of harm’s way

Most failed fortress defense missions don’t result from the enemy capturing all objectives; rather, you, as Talion, fall in battle. It may be tempting to jump into the fray when a group of war chiefs storms through the gate, but it’s advisable to resist that urge, as it will likely lead to your demise. Trust in your orcs’ ability to handle most of these situations themselves. Instead, influence the battle by targeting grog barrels with your bow, launching the occasional stealth attack, and, most importantly, dominating “broken” war chiefs on the battlefield. By converting enemy generals into loyal members of your defense force, you can make a significant difference later in the battle.

It may also be tempting to venture out to the area in front of your fortress to attack a war chief before they approach the walls. While this may be a viable strategy if the war chief is vulnerable to arrows and you’ve already weakened them, it often results in the enemy overwhelming Talion with numbers. Save your “last stand” chances for when they are truly needed.

Launching an Assault

Master the Shadow Wars in 'Middle-earth: Shadow of War'
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you fall during a fortress defense, your only option is to reclaim the tower with your own assaulting army. However, this operation can be relatively straightforward if you take the time to approach it correctly.

Taking out (and enslaving) enemy war chiefs

Rushing in to assault your fallen fort immediately is not recommended. The mission will be incredibly difficult, as the enemy will have access to all the defensive siege abilities, such as spiked walls and reinforced gates, that you had previously. Instead, eliminate these hazards before the mission by assassinating the fort’s war chiefs, each of whom corresponds to a specific defense.

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These sub-missions resemble earlier sections of the game. Start by eliminating any captains associated with a particular war chief, although there will likely only be one or two who aren’t already isolated. Next, complete a simple task, like killing 20 orcs or poisoning three barrels of grog, to draw out the war chief.

After going through all the trouble to expose the war chief, it may be tempting to kill them outright. However, dominating and recruiting them into your orc army is far more beneficial. By dominating all the war chiefs you encounter before launching the fortress assault, not only will you breeze through to the throne room, but you’ll also have a fully stocked army ready to defend the fortress in the next stage.

Being strategic with spending

Master the Shadow Wars in 'Middle-earth: Shadow of War'
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Unlike fortress defenses that require a fully upgraded fortress, you don’t necessarily need all the upgrades during an assault. If you’ve already eliminated all the war chiefs, you can easily move from one objective to another, dispatching the grunts you encounter along the way. This process should only take a few minutes, allowing you to save your Mirian for defending another fortress in the future. However, if you do choose to spend some currency on a particular upgrade, it will still be available for you in that region during later stages of the Shadow Wars.

The one exception to this rule is gear. If your equipment is making fights too challenging and you’ve chosen to enslave war chiefs instead of killing them, the marketplace is your best bet for new gear. Silver loot chests purchased with in-game currency will provide you with “rare” equipment, but you can also trade in the orcs obtained from a silver war chest for higher-level weapons and armor. Although it may cost a bit more than you typically spend, it’s a helpful option in a pinch.

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Bringing a buddy to the throne room

Once you’ve reached the throne room to confront the overlord, be prepared for a very challenging battle. While Talion’s level maxes out at 60, overlords can reach level 65 and often possess multiple immunities. In addition, they are guarded by powerful orcs who can present significant obstacles. However, you can make the fight more manageable by bringing along a friend or two.

Before starting a fortress assault, assign an orc as your “bodyguard.” At any point during the battle, you can summon your bodyguard by pressing right on the directional pad. They will distract the overlord and their minions, giving you opportunities for extra hits without being overwhelmed. Ensure your bodyguard is a high-level orc, as weaker characters can quickly fall in combat.

Additionally, make sure you have a mount suitable for the fight. In the “mounted” skill tree, invest in the “call mount” skill and the sub-skill “Graug call.” This allows you to summon an enormous beast during the fight. Although some overlords are immune to beasts, you can still use the Graug to eliminate their minions and make the battle a little easier. Some overlords are even “beast fodder,” meaning your giant friend can do most of the work while you fire arrows from one of the two high walls on either side of the room.

For more on Middle-earth: Shadow of War, check out our review. The game is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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