The Shadow Wars are what you'll find as Shadow of War's endgame - a series of increasingly tricky sieges laid out for you with a reward at the end.
Here on this page we'll give you a rundown of how The Shadow Wars work, plus our tips and advice for getting through the lengthy grind involved, plus, of course, how to get the true ending in Shadow of War as a result.
For much more tips and advice like this, check out our main Shadow of War guide and walkthrough hub, taking you through every step of the game.
The Shadow Wars endgame explained - how to unlock Shadow of War's true ending
The main story may be over, then, but that's not the end of the game - the completion of your task and the true ending to the game now await you, but getting there is going to take a lot of work.
The Shadow Wars endgame consists 20 Sieges where you'll be tasked with defending your fortresses against invaders multiple times, with each invading force being tougher than the last. This will require you to recruit Armies of a comparable level and upgrade your fortresses with defensive measures, a process that necessitates an element of grinding - check our guide to XP and Levelling for more information.
The sieges are split into 10 stages, and in each stage you'll be tasked with defending specific fortresses:
- Cirith Ungol
- Cirith Ungol and Núrnen
- Seregost and Gorgoroth
- Núrnen and Seregost
- Núrnen, Cirith Ungol, and Gorgoroth
- Cirith Ungol, Seregost, and Gorgoroth
- All four.
Upon completion of stage 10 you'll be rewarded with a "many years later" cutscene, after which you're free to continue exploring the world and taking part in online conquests. That's essentially it as far as rewards go, but this is the "true ending" you may have heard people speaking of.
How to complete the Shadow Wars
With the Shadow Wars taking a fair bit of time to grind through - and playing out in a fairly linear fashion - there's little we can do to guide you through each. But we can give you some advice for grinding through them as quickly as possible.
Recruiting an Army
As Orcs under your command can't exceed your own level, you'll need to put in some legwork to increase your level to match that of your opponent. To check what you're going to need, head to the Siege quest marker for the region under attack and start it; this will bring up a screen showing the strength of your attacker and the upgrades they're using, and display the ranks of the Orcs in your own army.
For more Shadow of War guides, be sure to check out our main Shadow of War guide and walkthrough hub, our guide to Shadow of War Fortress Sieges, collectibles gudies like Ithildin Door poem solutions and Shadows of the Past, and Lost Artifacts and Web of Fate locations, a list of how to get all Shadow of War Legendary Armour and Weapons sets, plus how to import your Nemesis and Follower to Shadow of War, and finally even how to grind XP in Shadow of War to power through the tricky Shadow Wars endgame and get the true ending.
Above each side there's a figure giving the overall score which gives some indication of your chances of success, but don't rely on it entirely - if any of your Army is outlevelled significantly by any of the opposition there's a high likelihood they'll get killed easily and a single high level Orc on the side of your attackers can wipe out half your troops, reducing your chances of victory to close to zero.
For this reason we'd suggest making sure your highest level Orc is no more than one or two levels behind the opposition's - in the screenshot above the numbers suggest we'd achieve victory, but Orc 57 on the enemy side ripped into three of our defenders very quickly, and 56 finished the job. Many Orcs died to bring you that screenshot...
On top of level requirements it's important to choose your Orcs wisely. If the opposing Army has several Warchiefs that deal Curse damage you want to avoid employing anyone that's weak to Curse damage, if they have several that are weak to Fire you want to recruit some Orcs that have flame weapons, if they've got an Olog or two you'll need to bring your own, etc.
Upgrading your Fortress
Another important factor is your choice of defensive upgrades to your fortress - pay close attention to what your enemy is using, and choose an appropriate response; for example if they seem to be weak to Fire, use some Fiery Siege Beasts and Drakes.
It's also vital that you complete the Fighting Pits: Champions Nemesis Mission in a region before starting the siege as it unlocks the final slot in your defensive lineup. Not only does this give you one more Captain in your ranks, it also allows you to deploy a minefield outside your fortress than can seriously thin out the initial wave.
While these will vary depending on your choice of fortifications, your Army, the opposing force (plus an element of luck) we've so far found the following strategy to be the most reliable:
- As soon as the siege begins, use a Shadow Strike to get close to the Captain commanding the first wave - if he's on foot we'd suggest aiming for an Orc a bit in front of him, and if he's mounted focus on the Caragor instead.
- Take out the Captain as quickly as possible. If you can kill him before your walls are breached the next wave is much simpler.
- The next wave of Captains usually approaches together from one side of the fortress. If your walls are still intact Shadow Strike as close as you can to them and try and tackle them outside. If the walls have been breached you'll need to get inside quickly; try and head them off before they reach a control point if you can.
- By the final wave it's almost certain your walls will be down. You'll also be facing a decision between dealing with casualties on your side or concentrating on getting to victory as quickly as possible. It's hard to recommend one over the other: keeping your troops alive gives you more backup if things start going south and will keep them loyal after the fight is over, but it will also distract you from your primary targets. We've tended to err on the side of letting them die if they're more than a few seconds sprint away on the grounds that you'll probably be replacing them next time you need to defend this region anyway.
- Watch your control points - losing one will spawn another enemy Captain to deal with!
(If you follow this strategy, be careful about using Spiked Walls in your defenses - it keeps the enemy out, but it also stops you from getting back in so if you're in trouble you've got nowhere to fall back to!)
In the Event of Failure
Finally, it's worth noting that if you fail to defend your fortress you've got two tasks ahead of you: rescuing the Overlord, and retaking the fortress.
The rescue missions are similar to the "kill the enemy Captain, rescue the captives" quests you'll have done during the main story, and retaking your fortress is business as usual, although if things went that badly you'll probably be rebuilding your Army more or less from scratch.