Middle-earth: Shadow of War gameplay is beginning to trickle out in some volume now, and with it comes all of the various little details and information in the hotly-anticipated Shadow of Mordor sequel.
Here on this page, our goal is to round up all the crucial, most sought-after info in one place, so see below for all the latest Shadow of War DLC and gameplay details, and deep dives into the new orcs and enemies, mechanics, and more.
Shadow of War gameplay details, including Fortresses
Shadow of War's gameplay maintains many of the same core elements - like the well-known Nemesis System and melee combat mechanics - as its predecessor, Shadow of Mordor.
The big change, however, is the move to a far larger open world, with an emphasis on large-scale siege battles around strongholds, and more intricate systems of enemies to dominate and decapitate at your leisure. In a word: bigger - Shadow of War seems to be all about more locations, more nemeses, and more orcs everywhere you look.
Nemesis System changes - Nemesis Fortresses
The Nemesis System was arguably the definining aspect of Shadow of Mordor. It seems like it'll hold the same prominence in Shadow of War, but not without a few tweaks.
As we first saw in a recent IGN First reveal, the Nemesis System has been expanded to include Nemesis Fortresses - huge strongholds that have levels of their own.
Fortresses are captured through sieges, which appear to require you to kill the resident Overlord - the big boss in charge of the entire thing. Each Fortress has one powerful Overlord, along with several Warchiefs beneath him. One strategy is to weaken a particularly strong Fortress by assassinating - or perhaps dominating? - at least one of the Warchiefs that belong to it.
We got a decent look at the process of taking over a Nemesis Fortress in that first gameplay trailer, but since then Aoife's had a chance to get up close and person with how they work:
Oh, and it seems as though you won't get a chance to retry failed missions either - apparently you'll have to live with your choices and failures, with the game adapting as a result.
New skills and skill tree changes
Another important, if expected, change is the addition of new skills and Wraith abilities. As with the new Nemesis System, we first learned of this with the IGN First coverage linked above. These skills can now not only be unlocked, but further modified with additional bonuses for each one.
The Predator skill tree, for example, houses abilities revolving around a stealthy, yet impactful playstyle. Interestingly these have also been worked around a larger, more expansive game world - so increased mobility is a notable addition. Some examples:
- Eleven Agility - faster climbing through long, fast leaps up structures.
- Poison Tendril - Talion can poison barrells of grog with a shot from his bow, from safe range.
We can expect plenty more - double jumping appears to be a thing now, for example, allowing you to traverse a wider range of rooftop environments - so we'd imagine more up-close looks at skills and abilities will be on their way before release.
Ranked online mode and loot boxes
In a taste of multiplayer games, Shadow of War is introducing a ranked online mode when it comes to captured Fortresses; Social Conquest and the return of Vendettas from Shadow of Mordor, with one or two tweaks.
Meanwhile, there's also loot boxes, providing chests with rare followers, XP boosts and gear for the Nemesis System.
Loot chests are purchased with both in-game and real-world currencies, with nothing gated for paying players - allowing everything to be available for those who prefer to play normally.
Shadow of War story details, new orcs and other enemies
The characterful, oddly charming enemies of Shadow of Morder were another of the game's major draws, and Shadow of War seems to be well aware of it.
New orcs and enemies
The Nemesis System, as we explained above, will be as involved as ever, and that means plenty more time spent trading insults with partially dismembered foes. But there are also plenty of new enemies to expect, too.
The Olog-hai, for example, are a form of canonical troll hybrids - seen in the Peter Jackson films in a duel with Aragorn at the battle of the Black Gate. These are lumbering trolls with a far greater level of intelligence, described by developer Monolith as the elite soldiers of Mordor bred specifically for battle. In Shadow of War, it seems, they often occupy roles as Warlords and their bosses, Overlords, and take charge of entire Fortresses themselves.
An update to the original game allows you to import your worst enemy from Shadow of Mordor as part of the Nemesis Forge system.
Not only does it bring in the highest ranked orc nemesis, it will also give you your most loyal orc follower.
Sauron, Balrogs, Nazgul, Graug, Shelob and Drakes
Alongside the new varieties of orcs and trolls, there are also new forms of Graug (first seen in Shadow of Mordor), like fire and ice Graugs, plus some entirely new creatures we've yet to play with in the series.
Those, of course, are the Drakes - fire-breathing dragons that are mountable with the right late-game abilities unlocked, and capable of wreiking some pretty severe havok on enemy defenses.
What's more, there's also confirmation that the Nazgul will feature in Shadow of War. According to Monolith's vice president of creative, Michael de Plater - again speaking with IGN First - the Nazgul in Shadow of War will be bosses, each with a different type of boss fight and playstyle for when you take them on.
The recent story trailer, meanwhile, details combat and conflict with those Nazgul, as well as an armoured Balrog, and plenty of Sauron in his phsyical form. Could we be sate to face him in combat again?
Finally, there's the appearance of Shelob as you've never seen her before.
In other words, expect just about everything in the arsenal of Tolkein monsters to be thrown at you in Shadow of War - there isn't much of a bigger bad than a Balrog, or Sauron himself (even if we did fight him already in a pretty disappointing conclusion to Shadow of Mordor).
Shadow of War DLC and other things to know
Finally, it's worth knowing a few things about the plan for DLC, special editions, and the release date plan for Shadow of War.
In terms of release date, Middle Earth: Shadow of War has been delayed to October 10th, 2017 "in order to deliver the highest quality experience," from it's previous, earlier date of August.
The other key launch info that we know so far - and we don't quite have the complete picture yet - is that at least two DLC expansions will arrive at some point after launch: The Blade of Galadriel and The Desolation of Mordor.
How do we know that? Well, they're listed as part of the game's various special editions - and we mean various. Here's a quick list of all the different ones available, including the top-whack, Ł200 Mithril Edition:
- Standard Edition - just the game, like the good old days, but preorder the PC,PS4, or Xbox One standard edition for the Legendary Champions War Party and the Epic Sword of Dominion weapon.
- Silver Edition (digital only) - the base game, plus the preorder bonuses above, plus the Slaughter Tribe Nemesis Expansion, Outlaw Tribe Nemesis Expansion, and a Silver War Chest
- Gold Edition - note that the UK Gold Edition on PS4, PC, and Xbox One, and US Gold Edition on PS4 and Xbox One are separate. Includes all of the above, plus the two story expansions and a Gold War Chest.
- Mithril Edition - again, the UK Mithril Edition on PS4, PC, and Xbox One and US Mithril Edition on PS4 and Xbox One are separate. They include all of the above, plus Limited Edition 12" Tar-Goroth Balrog vs. Carnan Drake Statue; collection of exclusive Lithographs; premium case with magnetic Ring of Power; exclusive Steelcase; official game music soundtrack; a cloth map of Mordor; a Tribes Sticker Pack; and a Mithril War Chest.
As for those pieces of DLC themselves, well, we can speculate a little as to what they'll be about. The Blade of Galadriel could be a specific item you're questing for - or using - or it could be more of a metaphorical title for Talion himself; perhaps we are the Blade of Galdriel, doing her bidding, with the mysterious Elf acting as a quest-giver?
The Desolation of Mordor, meanwhile, is an intriguing one. The Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War timeline is already all over the place as things stand, so what could the Desolation of Mordor be referring to? Perhaps it culminates in us bringing down the progress of Mordor as a region through some large-scale disaster, slowing Sauron's progress towards attacking the realm of Men?
Who knows - but hopefully we'll hear some more soon!
Additional reporting by Matthew Reynolds.