Middle-earth™ Shadow of War™: Skills Guide

my personal judgments of various skills, in case you are having a hard time making selections when you level

 

Talion’s Combat skills


-Execution: When your Might is full aim at an enemy and press the correct buttons to execute them.

Grim Resolve: Gain Might each time you are damaged in combat.
Secret Might: Gain Might for each kill while remaining undetected.
Fatal Might: Successful sword attacks gain more Might. Might fully resets after you take damage, miss an attack, or exit combat.

[judgement]
ratings: grim resolve is the clear winner, secret might would be good for doing a lot of stealth, but when stealth stops working you are going to want to keep building might.
preference: [grim resolve] to preserve your precious instant kills

Perfect Counter: Well-timed counters knock down enemies. Press the counter button when the prompt flashes blue

Rain of Arrows: Well-timed counters replenish 1 Elf-shot.
Mighty Reversal: Gain Might from each counter.
Fatal Counter: Well-timed counters instantly kill grunt orcs.

[judgement]
ratings: they’re all good and I have often switched between rain of arrows and fatal counter. mighty reversal comes in last but keep in mind you otherwise gain no might from counters.
preference: [rain of arrows] I love shooting things

Critical Strike: Melee attacks have a chance to critically hit, causing extra damage.

Reprisal: Critical Strike chance increases as your Health is reduced.
Unstoppable: Critical Strike chance increases significantly as long as your Hitstreak is over 20.
Elven Precision: Press the button as your strike lands to greatly increase the chances of a critical strike.

[judgement]
ratings: criticals generally won’t matter much near the start, but then that’s probably why you will want them early. personally I held off from even taking upgrades in this for a long time. otherwise, maintaining a hitstreak of 20 or more tends to be a giant pain in the middle of a big fight, and especially when you are learning the ropes you can benefit from reprisal. to be honest, most typical sword attacks do so little damage compared to stealth attacks or headshots with ranged, sword criticals are like plain untoasted white bread in comparison.
preference: [elven precision] since I got all that practice playing the arkham games

Ground Finisher: Decreases the amount of time it takes to perform Ground Executions on downed enemies

Fury: Ground Executions enable you to unleash a flurry of blows by rapidly tapping the button before finishing an enemy, gaining Might on each hit.
Wraith Shield: The Wraith can counter enemies while you complete a ground execution.
Ground Drain: Press the buttons to drain enemies who have been knocked down.

[judgement]
ratings: for the same reason I don’t like critical strike, I love ground finisher, and so I naturally save up to get wraith shield once it’s available (level 15 or something). then of course, when ground drain comes up, I go for that. sometimes I switch between the two. fury is honestly pretty pointless, since you will have many other skills to spend a point on before the other two are made available with more levels, and fury just doesn’t do much more than build a little extra might and some hits for the combo point tally. you would be surprised at how easy it is to use ground drain actually, you aren’t as likely to get interrupted when attempting it.
preference: [ground drain] if dominate is already cheating, this is ultra cheating

Brutal Aggression: Might can be double-charged, enabling Brutal Executions which cause nearby enemies to flee in terror.

Wraith Execution: Press the button to chain Executions to additional enemies. Consumes focus for each additional target.
Ceaseless Might: Skills that require Might no longer fully deplete Might.

[judgement]
ratings: obviously useful in every degree, but wraith execution seemed like admitting to being a scrub, and especially after upgrading elven light to do poison damage it also just seemed like a less useful version of that. also, didn’t care that much for making the enemies I want to chop into pieces run further away.
preference: [ceaseless might] so I don’t have to just execute one regular orc

Retaliation: Time your Last Chance success perfectly to instantly kill the enemy targeting you. Does not apply to Captains, graugs, or drakes.

Adamant: Gain an additional Last Chance attempt.
Vengeful Drain: Retaliation Drains your attacker.
Burst of Might: Gain full Might on a perfect Last Chance.

[judgement]
ratings: I was surprised how many times this popped just getting mauled by caragors. sometimes even when a lucky orc hefted a spear at me. any of these are a tossup, but I almost exclusively have always gone with adamant. also, it’s probably better to go for a certain last chance success than to botch it getting a perfect last chance and die mistakenly. I still succeeded at it almost every time, because I am genetically superior. like if I was transported to this game irl, pack your bags gandalf the war is over.
preference: [adamant] don’t make me look at a load screen

Talion’s Predator skills

Elven Agility: Hold the button for a burst of speed when leaping over objects, landing, or climbing.

Silent Runner: Holding the button to sprint no longer creates sound.
Spectral Dash: Press the button while in stealth to cross short distances or reach nearby enemies instantly. Consumes Focus.

[judgement]
ratings: I think you start with this unlocked by default, which is great. as for the upgrades, anything that says it consumes focus and doesn’t let me use slow motion to line up a multitude of headshots for easy kills always seemed a little insulting. it would have been a tougher call if not for that.
preference: [silent runner] now I can stab everybody

Brutalize: Hold the buttons to perform a terrifying stealth kill, causing nearby enemies to flee while increasing both your Might and your Hitstreak.

Unyielding Ferocity: Using a Brutalize gives a bonus to both your Might and Hitstreak.
Reckless Hate: Brutalize causes more enemies to flee.

[judgement]
ratings: this entire skill used to seem really pointless to me, until a couple things happened. one, ologs didn’t die from a regular stealth attack but did die from brutalize. second, starting a combat encounter I knew I couldn’t keep stealthed for with brutalize upgraded with unyielding ferocity was a giant benefit to chopping up captains. reckless hate would have been nice if it was the default function, but otherwise I still don’t care if the orcs run away or attack me.
preference: [unyielding ferocity] what can men do against such unyielding ferocity?

Poison Tendril: Aim at a grog barrel and press the button to poison it from afar.

Bursting Toxin: Poisoned grunts have a chance of exploding and poisoning nearby enemies when they die.
Contagion: Enemies who drink from poisoned grog barrels go berserk and attack anyone nearby, spreading the poison.
Proximity Trigger: Aim at Morgai flies, Cages, or Bait and press the button to prime them to trigger when an enemy approaches.

[judgement]
ratings: these are all good, but proximity trigger was veering away from the fun of poisoning orcs and watching them make fools of themselves. sometimes I just like to poison the grog barrels at range for no good reason. just poison them, knowing I just ruined their day. anyway, I originally preferred contagion because I loved the idea of them going berserk and engaging in some red on red before spreading the filth and dropping dead, but bursting toxin tends to work faster and have a larger area of effect. one other note about poisoning grog barrels is that when you detonate them after they are poisoned they do an effect called balefire, basically poison and fire combined. also, you can only poison the singular opened barrels, the stacks of barrels can only be detonated for fire damage.
preference: [bursting toxin] pop some orcs like poison filled balloons

Wraith Chain: Press the button to target an additional enemy during a stealth kill. Each additional target consumes focus.

Monster Hunter: Stealth kills can be used against Beasts.
Shadow Blade: Your first Chained stealth kill no longer consumes focus

[judgement]
ratings: the best alternate use for focus in the game. in my humble opinion. monster hunter was required for some shadows of the past quest but otherwise why would I instant kill a caragor when I can befriend it? only one choice here.
preference: [shadow blade] the murderer was me all along

Deadly Spectre: Hold down the button while using attract to leave behind a Wraith that will kill your target.

Terrifying Presence: Your Wraith will Brutalize the target.
Spirit Drain: Your Wraith will Drain the target.

[judgement]
ratings: situationally, this is an awesome ability. wreck enemies in stealth without direct contact. unfortunately, in practice, if I want to stab an orc, I’m gonna stab him myself. terrifying presence seems especially useless since the point of this is to cook an enemy without revealing yourself and brutalize draws a lot of attention. there was one single situation where I didn’t want to drain a target, specifically a captain that had iron will and besides that was not yet broken, so I just deactivated spirit drain and had the wraith perform normal sneak attacks. actually worked great, I carved him up like a roast and didn’t even have to leave my hiding spot.
preference: [spirit drain] making orcs be my friend while I sit in the bushes and think about anything besides orcs because I don’t really like orcs they are gross there was this one that had maggots crawling on his face I want to throw up it’s so nasty

Death Threat: Use a worm to deliver a message to a specified Captain, letting him know that you are coming for him.

Worse Than Death: Shame ruins the mind of your target, enormously reducing their level and possibly making them Deranged. There is a small chance the target actually becomes stronger, creating a dangerous Maniac.
Vow of Violence: A bonus objective is added to the Death Threat. Completing it grants you additional rewards.

[judgement]
ratings: not a fan, but if I was going to go after a captain directly it was beneficial to use a death threat first, especially if they had a mortal weakness I could exploit. anyway, pretty sure you can shame a captain without the worse than death upgrade, and I do remember once accidentally creating a maniac which was insanely powerful to the point where he ended up killing me.
preference: [vow of violence] but the extra rewards are really minor so consider skipping this

Talion’s Ranged skills

Detonate: Shadow Strike into a firepit, detonating it and lighting nearby enemies on fire.

Bursting Arrow: Shoot firepits to detonate them without Shadow Striking into them.
Spider Song: Detonate a firepit and cause spiders to swarm the area.
Matron’s Scent: Detonate a firepit and cause Ghuls to swarm the area.

[judgement]
ratings: sounds stupid, but is in fact stupidly powerful. in this case, spider song and matron’s scent require quests to be completed before you can unlock them. I think. can’t remember, but I used spider song for an eternity and it was like turning on god mode. ghuls are technically stronger than the spiders as far as combat targets, and yes the spiders and guls spawned are friendly to you and your team, the spiders were great for exploiting captains vulnerable to poison besides also constant stringing them up by jumping on them. bursting arrow sounds useful but not compared to spawning a pack of friendly spiders or ghuls.
preference: [matron’s scent] is just a bit stronger

Freeze Pin: Shooting an enemy’s foot freezes them in place.

Brutal Cold: Freeze Pin causes nearby enemies to flee in terror.
Savage Ice: Freeze Pin affects Olog-hai and Beasts.
Deep Freeze: Freeze Pin duration is doubled.

[judgement]
ratings: I only used this if an enemy captain attempted to flee or if one was particularly weak to being pinned. in which case, savage ice worked on olog captains.
preference: [savage ice] so I can stay close to my favorite enemy orcs like that one with the disgusting maggots crawling under his rotting skin he was missing an eye I’m throwing up

Bird of Prey: Hold the button to aim while in the air. This consumes Focus. Press the button to turn around quickly during bird of prey.

Eagle Sight: Focus is consumed at a slower rate while in the air.
Talon Strike: While falling, aim at the ground while holding the button and press the button to strike the ground with a damaging blast that also stuns nearby enemies.

[judgement]
ratings: it’s like playing max payne but with a bow and arrow. this is technically the same as aiming the bow normally, but you do get some better vantage points in midair. there’s another shadows of the past quest that requires talon strike, in fact it requires hitting 5 orcs with one hit, but it’s just a lame stun effect. I mean, it could be alright, but I definitely prefer extra focus for lining up a dozen extra headshots.
preference: [eagle sight] the genius of the hole is no longer how long you take climbing out you can fall back down in an instant

Mighty Shot: When your might is full, press the button to fire an explosive shot.

Firestorm: Mighty Shot causes a Fire explosion.
Freeze Blast: Mighty Shot causes a Frost explosion.
Venom: Mighty shot causes a Poison explosion.

[judgement]
ratings: sounds better than it is, that is until you purchase an upgrade. naturally, which upgrade you take will simply rely on your spec and your level. I went with frost, because most of my weapons did poison along with those spiders, and you can find plenty of grog barrels and fire pits to blow up for fire damage.
preference: not going to make a choice here, in fact I recommend going for all three if you get the chance.

Shadow Strike: Instantaneously reach an enemy by aiming at them and press one button to kill them or another button to stun them.

Chain of Shadows: Press a button during a Shadow Strike to chain to nearby enemies. Consumes focus with each additional target.
Shadow Strike Pull: Pull a targeted enemy towards you and kill or stun them.
Shadow Dominate: While aiming at an enemy, press the button to reach them instantaneously and dominate them.

[judgement]
ratings: it’s as powerful and as useful as it sounds, but keep in mind the cost of elf shot (two per use). that said, I probably used it most for either traveling around an area or softening up captains that were immune to other attacks besides arrows, and yes immunity to arrows will nullify this skill iirc. so that having been said, shadow strike pull is the only weak choice here, and obviously shadow dominate is a game changer for dealing with fleeing broken captains who are surrounded by angry orcs, or swaths of ranged enemies.
preference: [shadow dominate] obviously, I can lightly tap a disgusting orc to make it my friend and then run away

Talion’s Wraith skills

Brace of Daggers: Press the button to Quick Throw a dagger that damages and staggers enemies.

Serrated Edge: Thrown daggers have a chance of causing Critical Strikes.
Swift Barrage: Three daggers can be thrown rapidly by repeatedly tapping the button.
Rain of Blades: Throw five daggers at once to hit multiple enemies.

[judgement]
ratings: very hard to make a call on this. I don’t really care for brace of daggers, but it has a lot going for it otherwise. no elf shot cost or cooldown to speak of, ranged, adds to your hit counter, and the upgrades are all benefits. I just didn’t have use for these outside of one specific function, dagger equipment upgrades that gave brace of daggers the ability to apply a status effect on hit about every 20 to 40 seconds. I could directly apply curse to captains that were weak to it, which is one of the very few ways to apply curse to an enemy. as for the upgrades, take your pick, but rain of blades point blank can hit the same target up to 5 times in one throw, swift barrage makes it easier to hit and run. serrated edge sounds good but these daggers honestly never seemed to do a lot of damage. I honestly don’t know if it deals it’s damage based on your ranged weapon or your stealth weapon, but either way the crits didn’t seem very powerful and arrow proof captains are immune to the daggers too.
preference: [swift barrage] for added mobility

Elven Light: Unleash a powerful blast by pressing the button while Might is full, stunning and temporarily blinding nearby enemies.

Cleansing Blaze: Elven Light also sets enemies on fire.
Winter’s Breath: Elven Light causes a frost explosion.
Poison Blast: Elven Light poisons enemies.

[judgement]
ratings: similar to mighty shot but available at a much lower level, and again giving you the opportunity to exploit specific enemy weaknesses. I went with poison in this case, for the times I could not find spiders to do my dirty work.
preference: a toss up again, honestly. go for all three, diversify your damage.

Ice Storm: Freeze enemies by pressing the button and follow with a flurry of sword strikes by repeatedly tapping the button.

Shower of Ice: Press the button to freeze all enemies in an area in front of you. The higher your hitstreak, the larger the area of effect.
Frostbite: Ice Storm Finishers also cause Critical Strikes.
Shattering Blow: An Ice storm finisher shatters your target, causing nearby enemies to flee in terror.

[judgement]
ratings: at first glance, the ability to freeze one enemy for a few seconds sounds weak. the key is when you factor in an orc captain, especially one that is immune to one or more of your other attacks, or even just a captain with a shield. then you flip over them, strike them in the back with ice storm, and slice them to pieces with a sequence of unblockable attacks, culminating in one big strike that knocks them to the ground allowing for a ground attack with your dagger. so with that in mind, shattering blow seems especially useless since ice storm is a bit of a waste on a standard orc, and you probably don’t want to shatter a captain when you can dominate them. frostbite also seems pretty weak considering it applies only to the final hit which is typically about twice as strong as any other sword swing. it’s good damage, but shower of ice at least gives the chance of hamstringing a big pile of other orcs, who can otherwise interrupt you mid combo.
preference: [shower of ice] for all the orcs in love with me

Consume: When your might is full, press the button to Drain an enemy quickly during combat.

Chain of Souls: Aim with the button during consume and press another button to drain additional enemies. Consumes focus for each additional target.
Lord of Wrath: Consume increases Wrath.
Olog Lord: Consume works against Ologs.

[judgement]
ratings: while it sounds awesome, and is awesome, the upgrades really make this. as mentioned, ground drain is very easy to use and is essentially a more powerful version of this default skill. no, the real power comes from chain of souls and olog lord, the latter being the only way I am aware of to dominate non captain ologs. chain of souls has it’s obvious use of mind controlling and healing from an entire group of orcs, but later in the game it won’t be as useful as instantly turning an olog friendly.
preference: [olog lord] even better than being the bright lord

Treasure hunter: Automatically collect loot from defeated enemies.

Discerning Eye: Increases your chances of high-quality gear drops from Captains or higher ranking orcs.
Mind Breaker: Increases domination speed.
Prospector: Increases your chance of receiving higher quality Gems from defeated enemies.

[judgement]
ratings: shockingly useful. for awhile I figured I could manage manually collecting treasure by just taking my time and being careful. then I got 2 shot by a captain wielding two cursed axes just because I was trying to collect 50 stupid silver coins. this saved me a lot of time and grief. as for the upgrades, they’re all good but I was comfortable with the amount of gear and gems I was getting. then again, it took me forever to get some of the highest level gems, so you might want to go for prospector, which does require a quest to unlock first (I think it was gathering all gondorian artifacts).
preference: [mind breaker] I have more orcs mind controlled than grains of sand on the beach

spoiler skills: I will not spoil these, in particular because they aren’t very important to how you spend skill points. when you get to this point in the game you will know which ones you want, and they are all generally as useful as each other.

Talion’s Mounted skills

Caragor Rider: Hold the button to Dominate and ride a Broken caragor.

Pounce: Devouring enemies while in stealth restores more of your caragor’s health.
Bestial Rage: You can perform an execution or Howl to summon additional caragors even when Might is not full. Instead, your action consumes some of your mount’s health.

[judgement]
ratings: only two choices here, and personally it seems obvious to me which one is best, but first of all this is a very useful skill to have in general. orcs have a lot of trouble dealing with beasts, especially caragors. a few captains have specific traits to instantly kill caragors, and hunter orcs (the guys who throw spears) do extra damage to beasts, but eventually you will get skills that let you tame entire packs. anyway, that all being said.
preference: [beastial rage] just don’t tell peta

Graug Rider: Hold the button to Dominate and ride a Broken graug.

Devouring Force: Ground Executions restore more of your Graug’s health.
Enduring Fury: Graug basic attacks gain more Might.

[judgement]
ratings: what a great idea. it’s like a tank that can climb walls. both upgrades sound equally worthwhile, but I did have a preference.
preference: [devouring force] make sure to feed your graug regularly

Call Mount: Press the button to summon a dominated caragor. Press the button to command your caragor to attack targeted enemies. Hold the button to dismiss your caragor.

Dire Caragor: You can summon a dire caragor.
Graug Call: You can summon a graug.
Dragon Song: You can summon a drake.

[judgement]
ratings: you can’t fast travel everywhere, sometimes you have to run. a better choice is to ride a powerful beast. obviously, these are all super useful, the only weak point being dragon song which requires a specific high level quest to be completed first.
preference: [dire caragor] yes, for most of the game this tended to be my best option since graugs can get hung up sprinting thru towns trying to climb everything.

Shadow Mount: Instantly mount a broken graug, caragor or drake (Dragon Rider must be unlocked) with Shadow Strike.

Caragor Breaker: Shadow Mount unbroken Caragors.
Pack Master: When Shadow mounting a broken caragor, nearby caragors are also Dominated.

[judgement]
ratings: another game changer of a skill, obviously. in case you forgot, shadow strike teleports you to your target, so this is an instant ranged beast domination skill that works from massive distances in the case of drakes. the only possible issue here is that sometimes if the beast is eating someone or busy doing something in a complex animation, and you are burning focus waiting for a chance to dominate it, it won’t work for whatever reason. usually just have to wait it out.
preference: [caragor breaker] just because I prefer snapping up a lone caragor sometimes

Dragon Rider: Hold the button to dominate and mount a broken drake.

Scales of Iron: Your drake takes less damage from attacks.
Soaring Rage: Your Drake can shoot fireballs even if your Might is not full. Instead, your action consumes some of your mount’s Health.

[judgement]
ratings: it’s as fun as it would appear to be. like most of these, I usually always stuck with a single choice for most of the game, but they all have their uses one way or another. more of a personal preference than objective judgement. oh and by the way, in order to eat an orc to regain health on a drake, you have to be holding down the dive bomb button, whatever that button is that scoops up the orc, then hit the attack button.
preference: [scales of iron] drakes can actually be fragile when every orc everywhere wants both you and a drake dead and they can all throw something suddenly

Talion’s Story skills

Drain: Hold the button to recover health by draining the life from Orcs.

Domination: Drained enemies are also Dominated and will fight for you. Hold the button to Dominate. Use the button to stealth Dominate.
Quiver of Souls: Draining an enemy replenishes Elf-shot.
Bright Lord’s Wrath: Draining or Dominating an enemy fully recovers Health and gains Wrath.

[judgement]
ratings: obviously an important story based skill since the entire concept of this sequel is based on mind controlling an army of orcs and sending them to battle each other to buy time so that frodo can destroy the one ring (spoiler alert?). the upgrades in particular are all good, except one that seems different. can you guess which one I am talking about? I will be perfectly honest, as much as I wanted extra elf shot or bonus health and wrath, I never cared enough when it came to the idea of not being able to instantly mind control an orc. for all I know, disabling domination still allows you to interrogate worms and mind control captains. don’t know, didn’t care enough to test it
preference: you get three guesses and the first two don’t count

Spectral Glaive: Hold and release the button after your Glaive appears to initiate a heavy sweeping attack.

Mighty Swing: Releasing the button the moment your Glaive is fully charged generates might for every enemy hit.
Deadly Striker: Double-charge your Glaive for more follow-up attacks. (tap the button repeatedly after charging).

[judgement]
ratings: here is another ability I just did not use much of. takes too long to charge, does very little extra damage, it’s nothing special at all aside from being able to hit more than one orc at a time. sometimes orc captains immune to ranged attacks made good targets for this, if they were completely alone. mighty swing was a little too finicky with the timing to return enough might. deadly striker takes even more time to charge than usual, and would often not perform any follow up attacks no matter how fast I attacked or how carefully I timed the next swing.
preference: [deadly striker] I guess

Elven Rage: Each kill gives Wrath energy. When your Wrath is full, press the button to slow time, making every melee strike lethal and enabling you to unleash unlimited executions.

Final Blaze: When Elven Rage ends, a fiery blast is detonated.
Freezing Burst: When Elven Rage ends, a freezing blast is detonated.
Poisonous Wrath: When Elven Rage ends, a poisonous blast is detonated.

[judgement]
ratings: here’s the big deal. emergency pop to massacre everyone around you, even captains. yes, a captain immune to ranged and executions will not even notice this ability, assuming you run into one actually immune to both (it happens) but you can still kill his friends.
preference: [freezing burst] just because it helped me cover more elements in my spec

Shadow Strider: Press the button while leaping to double jump. Allows you to cover wider gaps or change direction between jumps.

Hammer of Eregion: Press the button to vault over an Uruk and Freeze them.
Waters of Lorien: Upgrade dodge to instantly flash past enemies. Consumes focus.
Eagle’s Eyrie: Hold the button as you vault over an enemy to leap off their head and perform a double jump. If Bird of Prey is unlocked, you will be able to enter Bird of Prey as you jump.

[judgement]
ratings: an essential skill for maneuverability and speed. the timing isn’t hard to get but sometimes it’s tiring tapping the key after every pebble and branch you hop over. still, pretty big deal. on the upgrades, hammer of eregion seemed a little unnecessary since you already have an ability designed to do exactly this, but when you have to jump over a defender orc captain and then freeze them a dozen times you might appreciate it more. once again, waters of lorien burns focus just to dodge slightly better than normal.
preference: [eagle’s eyrie] is fun to use but I did not take this until very late in the game

Call Followers: Summon a group of warriors to fight alongside you by pressing the button. Press the button to command your warriors to attack targeted enemies. Hold the button to dismiss them.

Bodyguard: Assign a Captain to be your Bodyguard in the Army menu. You can summon the bodyguard by pressing the button. Press the button again to command your bodyguard to attack nearby enemies. Press the button to dismiss your bodyguard.
Cluster of Spiders: Summon a cluster of spiders by pressing the button. Spiders have poison attacks which can exploit the weakness of a captain or higher ranked Uruk.
Iron Guard: Summoned warriors are tougher.

[judgement]
ratings: no need to sell you on this, so will simply add that cluster of spiders requires you to find every memory of shelob in the game first, and it is hardly better than the other two upgrades, especially when you can summon spiders at any camp fire.
preference: [iron guard] I didn’t really care much about summoning a captain, but I did still assign a bodyguard in every region since they can save you during last chance

Dominate Captain: Dominate a Captain whose will has been Broken. Orc captains who are higher level than you cannot be recruited.

Destroy followers: Hold the button to explode the heads of nearby followers, causing enemies to flee in terror.
Lifeblood: Hold the button to heal all nearby followers by consuming your health. Any followers who are bleeding out are unaffected.
Enrage followers: Hold the button to enrage nearby friendly captains. Consumes wrath.

[judgement]
ratings: so yes I guess you can still dominate captains if you deactivate domination. still, friendly orcs make great meat shields. anyway, I don’t think I ever used a single upgrade from this ability once. not ever. beat the game twice. there’s only one obvious choice here regardless, but I never used it. why would I want to make orcs even more nasty by blowing the heads off the ones that are helping me?
preference: [enrage followers] probably useful when attacking a fortress

Eltariel’s Combat skills


-Radiance: “Hold [pictured button] to create a lingering Light which Gradually recovers health over a period of time.” Upgrades:

Shield: “The lingering Light also protects Eltariel from a single enemy attack”
Restoration: “The lingering Light also heals allies and infuses nearby enemies with light.”

[judgement]
ratings: eltariel is too snooty to drain health from orcs, so luckily she can just heal herself from her estus flask.
preference: [shield] not a lot of friendly troops around to heal

Elven Light: “When your Might is full, press [pictured button] to infuse nearby enemies with light and blind them.” Upgrades:

Burst: “Enemies are Blinded longer. Detonates nearby explosives.”
Restore: “Heals nearby allies and revives downed Follower Captains.”

[judgement]
ratings: like the other elven light, minus the elemental effect. pretty lame, really.
preference: [burst] for the same reason as above

Blaze: “When your Might is full, press [pictured button] to infuse an enemy with Light. Causes grunts to explode and Blinds Captains” Upgrades:

Replenish: “Replenishes Elf-shot when used.”
Flare: “Grunts killed with Blaze create bigger explosions and infuse nearby enemies with more Light.”

[judgement]
ratings: similar to consume, but doesn’t heal you. I actually used this very rarely since a lot of captains are immune to light, which is kind of like being immune to sword strikes for this dumb elf twist. still, it’s possible it works on captains immune to light, I never got the chance to find out.
preference: [replenish] because I do really like shooting things

Light Blast: “Hold and release [pictured button] to create a flash of Light, knocking back nearby enemies and infusing them with light.” Functionally similar to Spectral Glaive. Upgrades:

Charge: “Hold [pictured button] longer to charge up a stronger burst of Light.”
Comet: “Leap into the air after releasing [pictured button]. Press [pictured button] again to slam into the ground, releasing a blast of Light.”

[judgement]
ratings: an actually useful version of spectral glaive they should say. I did use comet a few times but it actually seems either weaker or exactly as strong but with a smaller radius.
preference: [charge] if I want to charge an attack at all I prefer the option to supercharge it

Elven Rage: “When your wrath is full press [pictured button] to infuse nearby enemies with Light and Blind them. You will also temporarily become Invisible.” Upgrades:

Intangible: “Invisibility granted from Elven rage lasts longer and can be used for multiple Stealth Attacks.”
Surge: “Gain Wrath faster when killing enemies.”

[judgement]
ratings: the other elven rage was good, but this might be better simply because chaining stealth attacks on a captain does unbelievable damage.
preference: [intangible] I even like the animation of stealth attacking orc captains so this is more of it

Eltariel’s Ranged skills

Cone of Light: “Hold [the pictured button] to project a cone of Light. Enemies within the cone are infused with Light and Blinded.” Upgrades:

Ward: “Holding [pictured button] projects a sphere of light which heals allies and infuses nearby enemies with Light.”
Focus: “Narrows your cone of Light, enabling it to infuse enemies with Light more quickly.”

[judgement]
ratings: we have gone from ripping off max payne with the bullet time aiming, to ripping off alan wake’s flashlight. is there something you want to tell us, game? I mean, you’re already accused of ripping off assassins’s creed and batman. what’s next, ripping off dark souls?
preference: to be honest, I don’t like either upgrade, but I did eventually settle on [focus], it just doesn’t seem that much faster and you can’t blind an entire group anymore

Light Bolt: “Tap [pictured button] to throw Light at the nearest target.” Upgrades:

Link: “Light Bolt chains to other nearby targets.”
Intensify: “Target is infused with a greater amount of Light.”

[judgement]
ratings: the description here doesn’t mention that if an orc is already blinded (completely glowing and stunlocked) light bolt will instantly kill them and do massive damage to captains. this is probably why many captains are immune to light, you can straight up vaporize them otherwise. so both upgrades here are good, and I did use both an equal amount. the light bolt on it’s own does little damage, so you want to combo this with cone of light or other abilities. that said, link does not disintegrate more than one blind orc at a time, and immune captains negate the chaining effect completely.
preference: [intensify] eventually won out

Quick Shot: “Tap [pictured button] to quickly fire an arrow from your bow. This requires one Elf-shot.” Similar to Talion’s Quick Throw, but deals more damage. Upgrades:

Impact: “Quick Shot knocks down enemies.”
Fury: “Quick Shot gains more Might.”

[judgement]
ratings: sounds worse than it is. it sounds like a waste of arrows, but it’s actually very helpful in a close quarters fight. eltariel seems a little less effective in sword fights in general, especially without quick shot. so both upgrades are helpful, it’s really up to you if you prefer bonus might or immediate crowd control.
preference: [impact] holds them down pretty effectively

Elven Star: “When your Might is full, press [pictured button] while in ranged mode to fire an orb of Light that heals and protects allies while infusing enemies with Light. Consumes Elf-shot.” Upgrades:

Cataclysm: “The orb of Light detonates any Blinded enemies it touches.”
Shine: “Increases the Duration of Orb of Light.”

[judgement]
ratings: similar to mighty shot, but I would actually say it’s more useful since at least now you can add light to your list of radial damage types. of course, you can’t as easily do poison frost or curse, but the sustained effect here makes up for that a little. again, the upgrades are both good, and different enough that it could be a matter of personal choice, but cataclysm didn’t carry it’s weight like I thought it would, so it’s more for fast cleanup than some kind of light nuke.
preference: [shine] if you like light at all then you would want it to go on longer

Light Trap: “Hold down [pictured button] while in Stealth to leave behind a trap that will Blind enemies who walk into it.” Upgrades:

Bloom: “When the trap explodes, It creates an orb of Light that heals and protects allies while infusing enemies with Light.”
Minefield: “You can lay down 4 traps at once.”

[judgement]
ratings: I liked the concept of this more than the use. yea, you can drag a captain and his friends into the path of a buried bomb, but once they start running towards you it’s over for light traps. this is why I prefer minefield, but bloom does have a lot going for it. pretty sure bloom also heals you, could be wrong on that, leave a comment below correcting me or calling me stupid whatever.
preference: [minefield] because there’s something fun about having unfair advantages.

Baranor’s gear and skills


-this section will be a little different, since the skills you gain work differently. I could perhaps describe the most preferable pieces of equipment you can find for Torvin, but you should be getting them all anyway. the other skills and upgrades all stack with each other, and the mission is more of a timed score attack. that said, here are some basic notes about specific skills.

Cyclone – When your Might is full, sweep your Gauntlet’s chain in a powerful arc, knocking down and stunning enemies caught in its path

verdict: it’s not that powerful, but it does have a decent arc, and occasionally will slice injured orcs in half. basically like a less useful version of elven light, since you cannot add a status effect to this (without a gear augment). you can benefit greatly from certain gear augments that help with might generation, and hitting big packs of orcs with bombs does tend to fill the might meter very fast.

Chain Kills – Use your crossbow to chain together multiple Stealth Kills or Executions. Target additional enemies during a Stealth Kill or Execution. Each additional target consumes Focus and the currently selected ammo.

verdict: keep in mind, this is not like wraith chain, because it’s actually far better. you can chain up to 11 instant kill stealth attacks (1 + 10 steel bolts) and more importantly chain kills after an execution in the same manner. I especially loved executing an olog and then chaining 6 poison or fire bombs onto his friends. did that for an hour and a half of continuous orc slaughtering, it was incredible, I got so much treasure from doing it. just crazy.

Blazing Shield – Holding LMB longer ignites your shield. Shield Charge sets enemies on Fire.

verdict: not a fan of the charge power attacks for the other characters, but I got a whole lot of use out of this, for several reasons. in particular, charging this attack deploys a shield that protects you from a lot of damage, and you can release the attack almost immediately for a quick charge that builds might. a quick charge into a tightly packed cluster of enemies (which will happen often) can instantly fill your might meter, allowing for fast executes or cyclones. cyclone also builds might, so you can just non stop dice orcs into salsa.
better yet is if you keep charging the shield with blazing shield unlocked, you will now set enemies on fire for a lot more damage. captains weak to fire but immune to arrows can be burned quite nicely this way.

BODYGUARD

verdict: another unique feature for baranor is his ability to summon 3 captains at a time, all of which will bring powerful special abilities and a small pack of friends. unlike the artifact gear, you do have to spend skill points to unlock these, one point per bodyguard, and you will want them. I especially liked the combat master bodyguard that dropped smoke bombs to allow you to do stealth attacks while detected. I think the only other bodyguard ability type is the quartermaster who drops a pack of specific ammo when commanded, which might seem pointless knowing that orcs will also drop ammo, but there will be times you will want some bombs or poison bolts and can’t find any nearby, since you will be quickshotting a trillion orcs on the regular.

RALLY
When your Command meter is full (the bar on the left side of the mininap), you can Heal and Enrage all nearby allies and refresh Named Mercenaries’ special Abilities. Any bodyguards you do not have currently summoned, will be called in, even if their cooldowns have not fully reset.

Invigorate – Using Rally also fully restores your Health
Strengthen – Using Rally also fully restored your Might
Resupply – Using Rally also fully restores your Steel Bolts

verdict: I did enjoy all these, and I tended to favor invigorate as an extra health kit, but otherwise I was never really short on health kits when I really needed them, and steel bolts are all over the place, so strengthen is probably the best choice here.

everything else baranor does is either an obvious personal selection or necessary for completion of his campaign. I heavily favored poison bombs and fire bombs, but I always ended up unlocking extra bolts too. discounts on mercenaries are most useful near the end, I could always make do with just one until it was time for the final siege. kill enough orcs and they will drop anything you need, including health packs, but again near the end for the final fight it helps to go in with a hefty supply of extras.

as for his gear augments, I could review them too, but they are acquired randomly so it’s not you get much choice in what to choose. just keep in mind you can only have 7 free slots, and I did actually run out of slots one time. most augments are useful, but some are total powerhouse upgrades compared to others. so here’s a link to a site that lists them all:
https://www.neoseeker.com/middle-earth-shadow-of-war-desolation-of-mordor/items/Baranor%27s_Equipment

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