The Way of the Ranger
You’ll start out the game by giving your son some combat training. In reality, however, you’re the one going through the tutorial. Start out by Countering your son’s attacks (Triangle), then attack your son several times (Square). That lesson learned, the game will flash forward in time-your training buddies are now Uruks. Perform a Ground Execution (R2 + Square) then sprint (X) and tackle an Uruk near your son (R1, while sprinting). After this, some more Uruks will arrive, and you’ll be free to dispatch them however you wish. You can’t die here, so feel free to experiment with your limited move-set.
Once the Uruks are dead, a spectral Talion will investigate the body of a woman, then you’ll endure another flashback, where the dead woman is quite alive. Walk towards your wife and practice a stealth tutorial. For now, your object is to surprise your wife with flowers. Later on, this same game will be played out with Uruks, and will be somewhat more violent. Sorry, Kotaku, there’s no "hug" button in this game, but sane people everywhere are able to appreciate a clever tutorial, and seperate the mechanics from the context. Hold (R2) to enter stealth mode, and when you’re near your wife, hit (Square) to deviously assault her with flowers and love. This peaceful moment doesn’t last long.
Another flashback, and you’ll find yourself in a more dire predicament. Use your newly-learned stealth ability to sneak up and give the Uruk around the table a different kind of gift, wait for two more Uruks to separate, then kill them both, too. All your skill is for naught, however, as your wife is captured, and you are maimed. Things only get worse for Tailon and his family, as they are sacrificed as part of a ritual-a ritual that binds some "elf lord" to Tailon. Stuck in a state between life and death, this Wraith tells us our only way to escape this cursed unlife is to kill he who cursed us-the Black Hand of Sauron.
The Ranger and the Wraith
As the Elven Wraith, press (R1) to "reforge" the Forge Tower you’re on. These handy towers serve as fast-travel spots, as well as unlocking missions, collectible locations, and Mirian-a type of currency which can be used to upgrade your weapons, as well as improve your maximum Health, Elf-Shot, and Focus. Once the tower is reforged, hit the (Options) button to enter the menu. Here you can equip runes (if you have downloaded any), check out the Appendices, and look at upgrades you can’t afford… yet.
Sprint forward and leap off the edge of the Forge Tower, where you’ll shed your incorporeal Elven form and reassume the physical form of Talion. When you land an Uruk will challenge you, and it’s time to start another tutorial-time to use your bow. Hold (L2) to enter Ranged Mode your bow, and hold (L1) to draw an arrow. The longer you draw, the more damage the arrow will do. You’ll also notice a "bullet time" slowdown effect while you aim, which you’ll enjoy as long as you have Focus. Shoot down the four Uruks attacking you, then you’ll be pestered by another, sneakier Uruk.
The outcome is the same, however-Talion dispatches him, and discovers the hand which was wounded earlier has a… peculiar effect on Uruks. After some goading by the Elven wraith, approach the Uruk and hold (R1) to grapple him, then hit (X) once to brand him, and a second time to Gain Intel. The wraith will interrogate the unfortunate Uruk, revealing our first target: an Uruk named "Gimub the Slaver". After the Uruk spills the beans you’ll get a tutorial on the Nemesis system, the backbone of Shadows of Mordor.
There are two ranks of elite Uruks-Captains and Warchiefs. Typically Warchiefs are stronger than Captains, and several Captains can serve as the bodyguard of any Warchief. For now, though, we need only worry about Captains. Each special Uruk has a Power Rating, which, in good old RPG lingo is the same thing as their "Level". This is just a number, however, and while it affects how powerful they are in general, their traits are more important. Traits are divided into Strengths and Weaknesses. Weaknesses are typically vulnerabilities-attacks that can harm, or even instantly kill, or fears, which remove immunities and special abilities/attacks. Strengths can be special attacks (an uncounterable attack), special abilities (the ability to track down hidden enemies, fast Health regeneration), immunities (pretty self-explanatory, immunity to a certain weapon/attack type) or hatreds (like fears, but when presented with them, they get stronger, not weaker).
All this is discussed in more detail in the Miscellaneous section of the guide-if you want to know more about the different ranks of Uruk, check out the "Captains, Bodyguards, and Warchiefs" page. More detail on traits are described in the "Strengths" and "Weaknesses" page. For now, just know that Power Rating = Level = Difficulty, and the higher an Uruk’s Power, the more potent a Rune they’ll drop when defeated. An Uruk’s traits (and how well you can deal with them) are probably more important, however.
Missions and Maps in Mordor
The Wraith will let the Uruk flee, an act which Talion clearly doesn’t approve of. He’s probably still sore about the whole murder of his family thing. Silly guy. You should now get a pop-up showing you what the map icons mean:
- Gold icons represent Main Missions, which advance the story.
- Red icons display Power Struggles. Completing them earns you Power, which unlocks new ugrade tiers, in turn allowing Talion to use Ability Points gained through XP to learn new skills. The outcome of Power Struggles can also cause one Uruk to advance in rank, which improves their Power Rating.
- White icons represent Side Missions and Collectibles, which earn you Mirian. Collectibles are either Ithildin or Artifacts. Ithildin are ancient symbols that can only be seen while in wraith form (R1) inscribed on walls, which usually involve some climbing to discover. Artifacts are odd objects with attached memories-find them, then search them to find said memories.
- Green diamonds represent Intel. Intel can either be a sensitive document left out where sneaky undead Rangers can find them, it can be possessed by slaves who need to be rescued, or a particularly slimy sort of Uruk-affectionally known as Worms-can possess Intel. The latter have to be Grabbed, then Interrogated to learn their secrets. What secrets, exactly? Nothing less than the Strengths/Weaknesses of any Uruk you are in the dark about. If you don't know the identity of an Uruk, gaining Intel will grant you both the knowledge of that Uruk, and of their Strengths/Weaknesses (you can also learn the identity of any Uruk by Interrogating any ordinary Uruk, but to learn their Strengths/Weaknesses, you're going to need Intel.) Remember: you can't take advantage of an Uruk's weaknesses unless you know them!
- Herbs are vegetation you can find in a specific area, and are not marked on the main map, but will show up on the mini map. The color and shape of the marker varies by herb. Collecting herbs advances Survival Challenges, which earns you Mirian, so check out what plants you need, then look at each area on the main map to find out where said plant can occur (possible if you have claimed the Forge Tower in an area), then go hunting for them. They also heal you fully, and can be harvested fairly quickly.
We have two main quests we can pursue… but at this point in time, you should probably kill some Uruks, get familiar with the combat system, try to knock off a few Survival Challenges and Hunting Challenges, and in general, level up a bit. You can also attempt some Side Quests, but many of these are easier once your weapons have been powered up a bit. You can only advance your Challenges so far at this point in time, as well. Still, you’ll be better off in the long run if you discover Forge Towers, gain Intel, and perhaps try your luck against a Captain or ten. To that end, let’s discuss a few more things that you’ll probably encounter… either as you mess around, or on the next story missions. Don’t worry, we’re almost out of the major tutorial stuff.
Enemies can detect you, if you get to close and are in their line of sight. Their level of awareness of you is indicated by little yellow triangles over their heads, which gradually fill up, then turn red when they’ve spotted you. Fortunately for Talion, he can typically out-run and out-climb any Uruk there is, although they will pursue you and throw projectiles at pesky Rangers who think height is enough cover on its own. When you’ve broken their line of sight, a ghostly image of your last know location will spawn. Stay away from this, and use it as a reference-the Uruk will advance to this location, and if you move out of sight of it, you’ll probably escape.
Entering Wraith Mode will allow you to see much more information about the environment. Creatures will appear as blue figures, and can be seen through walls and at a great distance. Herbs, Forge Towers, and interactable objects in the environment will also be highlighted. Worms will be green, and best of all, elite Uruks will be red. Focus on an elite Uruk and press (R3) to learn about them-this is as good as interrogating an Uruk, and will reveal their location. It’ll also make it much, much easier to track them. You should periodically enter Wraith Mode to check out your surroundings-knowing where a Captain is can make all the difference, and sure beats walking in on a group of several of them blindly. It is kind of a lame way to play through the game, however, and can make navigating the environment a bit more difficult.
Climbing, Running and Jumping
If you Sprint (X) into a wall, you will climb over it. Sprint over an obstacle, and you’ll vault over it. Sprint at a ledge and you’ll either jump down to the ground, or onto an adjacent ledge. Pretty simple and effective stuff. While holding onto a ledge press (Circle) to drop down a level, and hold (Circle) to fall to the ground. Don’t worry, you’ll automatically switch to Wraith Form when you fall, so you don’t take fall damage. You can kill many an Uruk by using ledges-drop down onto one (an Aerial Takedown) will perform a stealth finisher, and fortunately for us, Uruks don’t tend to look up. If you hang onto a ledge you can shimmy around it. Any Uruk who gets too close can be killed via a Ledge Kill. Both of these actions can be performed by pressiong (R2 + Square), the same way you perform Ground Executions. If a pesky Uruk won’t get near enough to you to perform a Ledge Kill, you can always Attract them by spooking them with a blast of wraith energy. To do this press (R2 + Triangle), then kill them when they come close enough.You can Attract foes while on the ground, too, and can even get them to investigate specific areas by entering Ranged Mode and pressing (Triangle).
Focus, Elf-Shot, and Draining
You’ll notice that Talion doesn’t carry a quiver. Or a bow, for that matter. Not much of a Ranger, eh? Fortunately, you’ve got a creepy Elven wraith inside of you, so you can let him do all that ranged stuff. Besides, everybody knows Elves are aces at archery. This does present a bit of a supply issue-where to get those arrows? Well, being a Wraith, he likes to drain the living, and Uruks do just fine for replenishing your Elf-Shot. Simply hold down (Circle) to drain an Uruk and replenish your Elf-Shot. Talion can learn abilities to drain Uruks faster, and in different circumstances, which makes staying supplied with Elf-Shot much easier. Focus, which allows you to slow down time and aim more accurately, can be replenished by simply waiting-it regenerates very quickly, but it takes it a few seconds to do so.
XP, Power, and Mirian
As Talion kills Uruks and completes missions, he’ll earn XP. As he levels up, he’ll gain Ability Points to spend. Ability Points unlock new abilities, of course. There are five Ability Tiers-one of which is intially unlocked. More Tiers are unlocked as Talion gains Power, which can be earned by resolving Power Struggles, or by Killing Uruks. You gain Power equal to the Power Rating of the Uruk you kill. Mirian improves your weapons and some attributes (Health, Focus, and Elf-Shot). Once you’ve unlocked all the runes for a weapon with Mirian, you’ll be able to buy a game-breaking ability for each weapon which gives you infinite Executions (sword), Elf-Shot and Focus (Bow) and Stealth Finishers (Dagger)… for a short duration. Earn Mirian by completing Side Missions, Challenges, obtaining Collectibles, and by destroying Runes you collect from elite Uruk.
Now that that’s all out of the way, you should be ready to tackle Mordor. As was said earlier, get familiar with the controls, claim some Forge Towers, complete some Challenges, and gather Collectibles. Obtaining the Execute, Impact, and Strike From Above abilities will open some strategic doors for Talion, which will make the first two (and all subsequent) story misisons much easier. We’ll continue the walkthrough by doing exactly that-exploring all of Udun before starting any story missions.