Middle Earth: Shadow of War has grown immensely and offers much more than its predecessor Shadow of Mordor. We’ve covered some of them already. There are six skill sets in total, and this guide will focus on the Combat tree.
As I mentioned in our Predator skill tree guide, I am a huge stealth fan. No matter how stealthy you are in Shadow of War, however, you’re still going to have to square off against some tough orcs. The guide below will show you all of the skills included in the tree, as well as which ones I think are most helpful. It’s the largest skill set in the game, and its 23 options offer a lot of variety no matter how you like to fight.
The first one you should buy immediately is Execution. As those who played the first game will remember, this will let you take out orcs with lethal strikes rather than simply dwindling their health down to zero. The second one I would buy as soon as possible is the Perfect Counter ability. This let’s you knock down enemies when you time your counter, well, um - perfectly. I found this incredibly useful in large groups of enemies, and it really bought me a lot of time and freedom to take out the remaining orcs.
The rest of the skills can be upgraded depending upon how you play. It’s important to note that these require different levels in order to upgrade, so you’ll need to at least unlock each individual skill first unless you plan on hoarding skill points. In order, I’d recommend unlocking the basic skills as follows:
- Perfect Counter
- Brutal Aggression
- Critical Strike
- Ground Finisher
We break down all of the skills and their upgrades below, so you can plan ahead on how you wish to allocate your points. Each of the six skills have three upgrades with the exception of two for Brutal Aggression for a total amount of 23.
Skill One - Execution
As it states, this lets you take out an enemy with an instant kill shot. Once your might meter is full, you can hack an orc to bits instantly.
Upgrade 1 - Grim Resolve - This is very useful, especially for low level players or when playing on the Nemesis difficulty setting like I do ( I’m a sadist in these games). Every time you are damaged, you gain a bit of might. Not a bad trade off if you ask me, as it will help you gain an extra execution basically just for getting hit.
Upgrade 2 - Secret Might - Very easy, as stealth kills level up your might meter. This is a vastly underrated skill. I found it incredibly useful as I was running around leveling up in side quests. Random orcs helped fill up my meter for battles with stealth kills.
Upgrade 3 - Fatal Might - You gain more might the longer your hit counter goes. Nice and easy. Just don’t get interrupted.
Skill Two - Perfect Counter
As indicated above, this lets you knock an enemy down when countered. It greatly helps in groups of large enemies and provides a bit of breathing room for Talion to operate without getting hit. It’s the second skill you should buy after execution.
Upgrade 1 - Rain of Arrows - Gives you back on arrow for each perfect counter.
Upgrade 2 - Mighty Reversal - Gives you a bit of might toward your execution for each perfect counter.
Upgrade 3 - Fatal Counter - This is the best one in the skill, which is why it’s saved for last. As the name implies, you will instantly kill an enemy with a perfect counter. They will need to be a certain level, however.
Skill Three - Retaliation
This skill is a definite must for those who like to play on the harder difficulties. You’ll find yourself about to die more often than you’d like and stuck in the Last Chance moment as a result. You’ll need to hit a button with the right timing to survive. Doing this perfectly will instantly kill the enemy trying to kill you.
Upgrade 1 - Adamant - In case you mess up the first last chance, you’ll get a second one.
Upgrade 2 - Vengeful Drain - You’ll gain health from the enemy you take down in the move.
Upgrade 3 - Burst of MIght - Amazing skill and I loved this one. It instantly fills your might meter for an execution move. So, not only do you gain health and instantly kill the enemy attacking you, you get an execution for another enemy.
I realize a lot of this revolves around dying. So, if you’re one of those players that doesn’t care and want to go all in on attacks, go right at it. On the other hand, I believe in balance and the orcs are incredibly strong at the beginning of the game. This skill is definitely useful and should be the third you unlock.
Skill 4 - Brutal Aggression
We mentioned in our stealth guide that there is one for combat, and this is it. The only difference is that this lets you perform it when your stealth isn’t an option. These are graphic executions that will make some enemies in the area flee in fear. It makes a return from the first game.
Upgrade 1 - Wraith Execution - You can now use Celebrimbor to wraith kills multiple enemies in a row before your meter runs out
Upgrade 2 - Ceaseless Might - Nothing uses might anymore. Your meter will remain full.
This sounds amazing, and it is, but it’s not available until you reach level 19. This will take a while in the game, and is the main reason why I left it as the fourth skill to be unlocked. By the time you reach level 19, you’ll have all of the main skills unlocked already.
Skill 5 - Critical Strike
As the name implies, you’ll get a chance to land a critical hit with any of your attacks.
Upgrade 1 - Reprisal - A slight tradeoff, but not something I’d like to take the chance with. You get a better chance of a critical hit as your health lowers.
Upgrade 2 - Unstoppable - Better chance of critical strike once you reach a 20 hit combo.
Upgrade 3 - Elven Precision - If you hit the attack button as your attack lands you’ll get a critical strike more often than not.
Skill 6 - Ground Finisher
This merely lets you use less time to kill an enemy while it’s on the ground.
Upgrade 1 - Ground Drain - You can suck their life into your own instead of just killing them.
Upgrade 2 - Wraith Shield - Celebrimbor has your back and lets you counter moves while performing a ground finisher. Normally, you would take a hit if an enemy is too close, but this upgrade removes that.
Upgrade 3 - Fury - Speeds up the ground finishing move even faster.
Although the upgrades themselves for the specific move are impressive, you won’t really need ground finishers that much. When there are large groups of enemies around, I found myself using the down time to attack other enemies so I wouldn’t get hit. With smaller groups, I didn’t need to use it and just wiped them out.
You can upgrade these skills in any order you want. I put them in the order I found to be most useful for general play. Execution, Perfect Counter and Retaliation should be your first three without a doubt. You add the ability to instantly kill an enemy along with getting bonuses from counters and cheating death. These three give you the most well-rounded combat skills to start. Critical Strike, Brutal Aggression and Ground Finishers are basically augments to these three, which is why I saved them for last.
Since combat is such a huge part of Shadow of War, you’re going to want to unlock these skills as early as possible. Combine these with the stealth upgrades from the predator treeand you’ll be off to a great start.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War is available on Xbox One now.