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A sneak peek into the world of Middle Earth: Shadow Of War

Middle Earth’s famed video game duo — Talion the ranger from the Black Gate and Celebrimbor the greatest smith of the Second Age returns in the sequel to the award-winning Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. This time, we get to explore more than just the dark lord’s realm as exciting new features and mechanics were added to the game. So, join us in our first look at the colorful yet dark world of J.R.R Tolkien in Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

Author’s Note: This is literally just a sneak peek of the game as we’ve only acquired it recently and haven’t had the chance to explore all its new features, but rest assured we will be trying it out in the coming days. 

New features

Weapons and Armors

Perhaps the feature I am most excited about, which I wished the first game had, is the new gear system. In Shadow of War players now get to collect weapons and armors to further enhance the stats and abilities of Talion. Contrary to the previous game, wherein they only dropped weapon runes, enemy Captains and Warchiefs now drop different kinds of equipment such as swords, bows, daggers, armors, and cloaks. Quests can also reward you with gear or you can buy directly from the games own online market. These pieces of equipment are ranked by rarity — Common (white), Rare (yellow), Epic (orange), and Legendary (purple). Legendary gear is special as they come in sets. A player will unlock special bonuses if they equip a complete set. I am an avid fan of crafting systems and while this is not in any way near a full-fledged crafting system, at least it still gives players the option to customize Talion to some degree. Not to mention it adds more flavor to hunting and fighting your rival Orcs.


Players wouldn’t want their brand spanking new gear to just stay the same, right? Of course not, so the game included an upgrade system for your gear. Upgrades are divided into two parts — Gems and Unlock Challenges. Let’s talk about Gems first. Like gear, these can be obtained by killing enemies or doing quests. To use them, you’ll have to fit them into one of Talion’s five pieces of equipment. Do note that each equipment has its own gem slot. The game will freely unlock the sword’s gem slot but after that, you’ll have to spend 1,000 Mirian each. Gems are fitted to each category of gear and not in the individual item. It is divided into three types: potency (damage), vitality (health), and wealth (money). Each type will have different effects depending on which category of gear you fit them into. Gems also have five qualities: plaincarvedpolishedrefined, and perfect. You can upgrade them to a higher quality by combining three identical ones, for example: by combining three plain gems, you’ll be able to upgrade it to a single carved one.

The next upgrade is Unlock challenges which appear on rare quality gear and above. By completing these challenges, the player can unlock different kinds of bonuses on their equipment. These can range from killing a set number of enemies to recruiting an Orc captain. Do take note that to complete these challenges you have to have the corresponding gear equipped.

Quirkier Opponents

Yes, my friends, you read that right. Your enemies are now quirkier than ever. Captains and Warchiefs now embody their nicknames. Is one named One-Eyed Joe? Then he’ll only have one eye. Is another named Dragon Tamer? Then he’ll have a drake. This is actually a welcoming new feature as it adds comedy and flare to your adventures. We even encountered a poetic Captain that speaks like Shakespeare.

Revamped Nemesis System and Fortress Sieges

The developers revamped the acclaimed Nemesis system of the game but sadly, we haven’t explored the changes in full yet. What we do know is that it’s no longer confined to enemy Orcs as Talion now has an army of his own Uruk-Hai’s but it’s still quite similar to the previous game wherein each Captain and Warchief is procedurally generated and is unique to each playthrough, and that they still squabble among themselves to climb in the ranks of power (which you can interfere in by the way). They’ve also included a new type of battle system called Fortress Sieges which we also haven’t dived into yet.

Social Conquest and Vendettas

Shadow of War developers added a new online feature in the form of Social Conquests and revamped the Vendetta system found in the previous game. Social Conquests lets players set up fortresses for other players to assault, you don’t necessarily have to set up your own fortress though if you wish to assault others, so invade to your heart’s content. To initiate a Social Conquest search for a social conquest marker on your map and select a fortress to assault, after that you’ll be transported to that player’s version of Shadow of War where the battle will take place. It is divided into two play modes — Friendly conquest and Ranked. Think of a friendly conquest as some sort of a spar, you’ll be able to assault a fortress without the fear of losing anything. Ranked conquest, however, is a lot different as this time any Captains you lose during the assault is lost forever and you’ll be rated base on the speed of your siege. Each successful ranked conquest will increase your assault rating allowing you to siege more powerful fortresses while each failed conquest will lower that rating. With each successful conquest, you’ll receive loot, experience, and various other rewards. It is a much-needed addition that provides the game with a bit of competition, which we’re sure competitive players would enjoy.

Vendetta’s, as the name implies, lets you avenge fallen players by killing off the Orc that slew them. Whenever another player dies the game will generate a vendetta mission on that player’s location of death, which will be marked on your map. Unlike in Shadow of Mordor, where you summon the enemy into your version of Mordor, this time you’ll be the one transported. Vendetta’s work like any normal mission in the game where you have to draw out the enemy Captain by completing side-quests, which can range from killing a bunch of his men to setting his camp on fire. Upon completion, both you and the player you avenged will receive rewards and they will be notified of your feat. Do take note though that these are one time missions if you fail then that is it, you will no longer be able to try that same Vendetta. While this is not a true co-op multiplayer experience at least it gives players a way to help each other out.

Unfortunately, we’ve yet to encounter either of the two during our initial adventure into Middle Earth but we are hoping that pretty soon we’ll see one or the other.

First Impressions

As a person who spent hours fighting the Uruk-Hai and collecting the many hidden artifacts in the previous game, I can’t say I’m not excited to go back and do it all again, especially now that they added a lot of new features and added more drama to the enemies. The game has the same vibe as Shadow of Mordor– you still get to kill a plethora of Orc grunts, hunt rivals, ride Caragors, climb walls, and sneak around. Combat also had a few changes, such as when Captains can defy death or Gondorians rush to your aid when you are about to be slain which adds a much-needed difficulty boost and makes combat more enjoyable. Farming has also become a thing in the game now. With the addition of the new weapon system and its upgrades, I’ve already spent a few good hours running around the first map killing Captains and doing side-quests in the hopes of getting better gear. Aside from all the new mechanics, I am also excited about the game’s story as I was able to see a glimpse of Celembrimbor’s past with Sauron in the last game. Now, it looks like Shadow of War is providing more quests where we get to relive the Elven Smith’s battles with the Dark Lord. Not to mention they’ve included a way for players to go toe to toe with each other, well not literally, but at least there’s now a form of competition which I’m sure will all more hours of gameplay.

Shadow of War is shaping up to be quite the sequel and so far, we are enjoying what the game has to offer. It expands a lot of the previous game’s already good features and adds a few more of its own. We are really excited in trying out its expanded Nemesis system and Fortress Sieges.

If you think we missed something or if we got any details wrong, please give us a heads up in the comments section below. Also, do let us know if you would want us to give the game a proper review or perhaps stream some gameplay.

Zen Estacio is a Multimedia Producer for YugaTech. He is the team's laptop guru and one of their resident gamers. He has a monthly column compiling the latest and greatest the Nintendo Switch has to offer. Aside from that, he regularly writes gaming news, reviews, and impressions. You can hit him up at @papanZEN

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