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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Nathan Garvin

Earning Ability Points

Abilities allow Talion to perform new attacks, or they improve existing attacks. As Talion gains XP (earned by killing foes and completing missions) he’ll level up. There’s no numerical value stating Talion’s level, nor does Talion become more powerful when he levels up. Instead, you gain one Ability Point every time you level up, which can then be spent purchasing new Abilities. Abilities are separated into five Ability Tiers, the first of which is available to you from the start of the game. To unlock the other Tiers you must accumulate Power, which can be earned by kill Uruk Captains and Warchiefs (you gain Power equal to the slain Uruk’s Power Rating). Gain enough Power and another Tier of Abiltiies will unlock. You continue to gain Ability Points as you earn XP, even if you haven’t unlocked additional Ability Tiers, you just won’t be able to spend them until you gain enough Power.

The Abilities you can unlock are discussed below, separated by Tier.

Tier 1 Abiltiies


“When your Hit Streak is charged, press (Triangle + Circle) to execute your target.”

“Hit Streak Charged: Every x8 consecutive hits the Hit Streak counter will turn red and your sword will glow.”

Simply put, score a Hit Streak combo of x8 (or greater) and you’ll earn one Execution charge. Press (Triangle + Circle) to instantly kill an Uruk. If you go above the x8 combo, the charge will remain until you use it, or you lose your combo. You will gain another charge every eight combos; x8, x16, x24. They do not stack, so you must use one to gain another. This instant-kill works on all kinds of lesser Uruks, and Captains/Warchiefs who are vulnerable to Combat Finishers. Captains/Warchiefs who are not immune and not vulnerable won’t be instantly killed, but will sustain a good bit of damage. This is a must-have ability, just charge up your Hit Combo and use your Execution charge on annoying foes (shield-bearing Uruks, Berserkers, etc.)


“Countered enemies (Triangle) will be knocked backward, stunned or knocked down.”

You’re going to be Countering lots of attacks in this game. This will knock an Uruk out of a fight longer after you Counter their attack, and possibly set them up for a Ground Execution.

Strike From Above

“Aerial takedowns (R2 + Square) on unaware targets become lethal.”

This is a fantastic way to kill Uruks, normal ones and elite. Uruks just aren’t very good at looking up. Without an upgrade, you’ll just knock an Uruk down when you perform an Aerial Takedown. This ability literally adds another dimension to your offense.

Elven Swiftness

“Time your landings (tap X) when mantling over obstacles to gain a temporary speed boost and +1 Hit Streak.”

Eh… this ability is okay, but aside from speeding you up, it’s not really that great. You might find yourself looking for logs and rocks to vault over in order to gain a speed boost, but the +1 Hit Streak is wasted more often than not. You can get by without this Ability just fine.


“Shoot fires or barrels to cause them to explode.”

“You are immune to damage from fires and explosions.”

This comes in handy once in a while-see a stack of explosives, or a bunch of Uruks gathering around a fire, and you can use that environmental hazard to take out or damage a large number of them.

Wraith Stun

“Stun enemies (tap Circle) then follow with a flurry of sword strike (tap Square).”

The only Ability you start out with, discussing it might seem kind of moot… but, eh, might as well. Combat in Shadow of Mordor is more methodical than button-mashy, and this Ability flies in the face of that general rule. once an enemy has been stunned with Wraith Stun, when you attack them you’ll perform a series of high-speed strikes. The faster you mash, the faster you combo. This can leave you vulnerable to attacks from other Uruks, though, but against a small group of Uruks, this ability works wonders.

Ride Caragors

“Press (R1) to mount Caragors from above.”

“Once mounted, you can ride, climb, and fight with them.”

Caragors aren’t ideal mounts-you’ll probably kill Uruks faster on foot, and their mobility is questionable compared to Talion. Still, some elite Uruks are afraid of Caragors, so using one might come in handy once in a while. It’s not a vital Ability, however.

Tier 2 Abilities

Critical Strike

“Doubles Hit Streak gains on well-timed attacks”

“Tap (Square) only once as each strike connects to recieve the bonus. Other well timed moves such as Throw Dagger (L2) can be critical strikes.”

As the description says, tap (Square) as your sword strikes to score a Critical Strike, which increases the Hit Streak by two when successful, instead of one. This allows you to charge your Hit Streak faster, which in turn allows you to perform Executions, Combat Drains, Wraith Flashes, and fire Fire Arrows more often. This is a good thing. Practice it a bit on lesser Uruks and you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

Last Chance Finisher

“The ability to deal a lethal finisher in a Last Chance Struggle.”

You’ll gain a Last Chance button prompt when your Health is depleted by lesser Uruks and more powerful Uruks, provided they don’t have the “No Chance” Passive Ability. Ideally you want to avoid this, but it’s not a bad thing to kill or wound the offending Uruk. Only buy this Ability if you have XP burning a hole through your… XP… holding… device?


“Press (R1) to Poison grog barrels.”

You’ll get this Ability automatically during the misison “The Outcasts” , and it’s necessary for getting the Trophy/Achievement “Black Celebration.” Poisoning Grab Barrels is a requirement for the mission “The Outcasts” , and is a bonus objective for some side missions, but otherwise, you probably won’t get much use out of this Ability. At least it’s free, though.

Throwing Daggers

“Tap (L2) to throw a dagger that deals light damage and causes enemies to stagger backward.”

Aside from charging your Hit Streak a bit against distant enemies, there’s not much of a point in using this Ability.


“A terrifying stealth kill (Hold R2 + Triangle) that causes nearby enemies to flee and builds the Hit Streak.”

This Ability works like Stealth Kills-you have to be undetected to Brutalize an enemy. It’s a decent way to start a fight when you know you can’t remain undetected, as it builds your Hit Streak and causes nearby Uruks to flee.

Shadow Strike

“Spend 2 Elf-Shot to teleport to a targeted enemy (L2 + X) and knock it down.”

Useful for quickly getting near distant foes (a fleeing Captain, perhaps?), and little else. Still, it’s a pre-requisitie for the more useful Tier 3 Ability “Lethal Shadow Strike”, so you might as well get it.

Pin In Place

“Bow attacks aimed at an Uruk’s legs will pin him in place.”

“Use quick pinning shots to keep a fleeing Uruk from escaping or immobilize tough Uruks in a fight.”

Shoot an Uruk’s leg and it’ll stand around struggling for a bit. Good to stop fleeing Captains (unless they’re immune to ranged attacks, of course) or pesky Uruks trying to sound Alarms. An Uruk who is pinned cannot defend itself well, allowing frontal strikes to connect even if they would otherwise be able to counter the attack.

Wraith Flash

“When your Hit Streak is charged, press (Square + X) to perform a blast that stuns enemies and inflicts damage.”

“Hit Streak Charge: Every x8 consecutive hits the Hit Streak counter will turn red and your sword will glow.”

Great for killing Ghuls, your primary tactic against them should be to charge your Hit Streak and perform a Wraith Flash. Against Uruks, it can buy you some time to perform a Ground Execution or two, or to Interrogate an Uruk.

Stealth Drain

“Drain from stealth (Hold R2 + Circle).”

If you need to get your Elf-Shot back without causing a fuss, this is a way to do it. If you’re quick, you can even perform a Stealth Kill before the Uruk runs away! This Ability becomes much more useful when you get the “Brand” Ability.

Caragor Hunter

“Gain the ability to Counter Caragor attacks (Triangle). Caragors stunned by a Counter can be mounted.”

“Also gain the ability to score a deadly counterattack from Last Chance Struggles with Caragors.”

You’ll gain this Ability during the mission “Big Game” . Caragors shouldn’t be much of a threat by then, as you can certainly expend two Elf-Shot to shoot one down, but the ability to Counter their attacks is still welcome.

Tier 3 Abilities

Swift Finisher

“Reduces the time required to perform a Ground Execution (R2 + Square) against a downed enemy.”

Ground Executions take so long normally, that unless the Uruk is alone, you might as well not bother trying for one (Attempting a Ground Execution in combat is like waving a “hit me!” flag. Yes. Those exist.) This makes them take… somewhat less time. Enough that you might pull one off if other Uruks aren’t too close.

Vault Stun

“Vaulting over an enemy (tap X) will now leave it stunned.”

A very useful Ability, Uruk Defenders and Berserkers will automatically thwart frontal assault. Vaulting over them to get behind them leaves them vulnerable, but with Vault Stun, they’re vulnerable for much longer, and you can immediately start a Flurry attack against them. There’s nothing wrong with stunning other Uruks while leaping around in combat, either. All in all, a rather useful Ability.

Brace of Daggers

“Upgrades Throwing Daggers so that there can be thrown in quick succession (quickly tap L2).”

“Fleeing enemies can be slain by thrown daggers.”

Build up ranged combos faster, and kill fleeing Uruks quickly. Pretty nice, but not essential.

Shoulder Charge

“Upgrades dash attacks (Hold X to sprint then tap R1) so that they will damage wooden shields and knock enemies down.”

“There is a two-second cooldown after activation.”

One of the least useful Abilities on the tree-it takes a few of these to destroy a shield, and in the thick of combat with several Defenders (and other Uruks, besides) this is just unfeasible, especially since you can just Vault Stun enemies to leave them vulnerable. As for knocking down enemies… eh, any situation where this might be useful, you might as well just Stealth Kill an enemy. If you’re charging a group of foes, you probably won’t have enough time to take advantage of a fallen enemy, and if not… again, why not just use stealth?

Lethal Shadow Strike

“A lethal version of Shadow Strike (L2 + Square).”

Like Shadow Strike-but now it kills! If an Uruk is immune to ranged attacks, they’ll be immune to this, but it’ll still teleport you next to them, which makes it useful for chasing down fleeing foes.

Wraith Finisher

“Victims of Drain and Flurry Kill will explode, causing nearby enemies to recoil in terror.”

Pop Uruk heads! Aside from the hilarity of this, it’s not a very useful ability. How often do you kill Uruks with Drain or Flurry Kills? A fun cosmetic Ability, with a little fear thrown in, but not much else.

Combat Drain

“When your Hit Streak is charged, press (X + Circle) to instantly Drain an Uruk, which recovers Elf-Shot and terrifies the target.”

“Hit Streak Charged: Every x8 consecutive hits the Hit Streak counter will turn red and your sword will glow.”

This wonderful Ability allows you to Drain an Uruk in combat, and like Execute, you’re invincible while this happens. Essentially, it’s free Elf-Shot, and when you unlock Brand, you’ll also possess an Uruk every time you perform a Combat Drain, making it a very potent way to use your charged Hit Streak.

Graug Hunter

“Press (R1) to mount and ride stunned Graugs.”

“Sneak up behind unaware Graugs and tap (Square) to bleed them, causing massive damage and attracting Caragors.”

This Ability will be automatically learned during the “Hunting Partners” mission, and it provides another way to dispatch Graugs without the whole shoot, stun, stab routine. You won’t likely get much use out of it, but it’s hard to poo-poo a free Ability.

Tier 4 Abilities

Blade Master

“Reduces the Hit Streak threshold for Execution, Wraith Flash, Combat Drain, Wraith Burn, and Fire Arrow from 8 to 5.”

This Ability single-handedly lowers the difficulty of the game considerably, being able to use your Combat Threshold attacks at a Hit Streak of five instead of eight is a huge, huge boon, especially when combined with certain Runes that empower these attacks. It also makes already over-powered attacks like “Storm of Urfael” even more powerful, since they can be charged that much faster. This Ability, and “Double Charge” go a long way towards breaking the game.


“The ability to absorb one hit without the Hit Streak being reset.”

Eh, it’s a nice enough Ability that allows you to ignore one hit without losing your Hit Streak, which of course makes combat a bit easier. This only works once per Hit Streak, though-once started, you cannot absorb another hit until your current Hit Streak ends (is reset to 0).

Death Threat

“Issue a Death Threat to a Captain through Interrogation.”

“Death Threats greatly improve the odds of Epic rune drops from Warchiefs and add a 40% chance for Captains to drop them as well. Your target will increase in Power and acquire a gang.”

One of the more interesting Abilities in the game, Death Threat is mostly used for harvesting Epic Runes, and improving normal Rune drops. Grab and Interrogate an Uruk and you’ll get the option to issue a Death Threat by pressing (Square). Once done, select a Captain and you’ll issue a Death Threat (the Captain must be far enough away-no quickly grabbing a nearby Uruk and issuing a Death Threat!) Once done the Captain’s Power Rating will increase by five and they’ll gain a gang of Uruks of the same type (Archers will get a retinue of Archers, Hunters will get Hunters, Defenders will get Defenders, etc.) To issue a Death Threat to Warchiefs, you’ll have to Interrogate a Captain, which becomes much easier to do after you have the Brand Ability, as you can grab a Branded Captain without having to smack them around, first.

A Captain or Warchief who has received a Death Threat has a greater chance to drop an Epic Rune-a Warchief is all but guaranteed to drop one, and Captains have a 40% chance to drop one. Even if they don’t, issuing a Death Threat increase their Power Rating by five, which of course means any normal Runes they drop will be five levels higher. You cannot issue Death Threats to Uruks you’ve Branded.

All in all, it’s a great Ability. After you get it, you should consider sending Death Threats to every Captain you can, then when you inevitably encounter them, you’ll end up scoring superior Runes. Perhaps a more dubious benefit of doing this is that it’ll teach you how to handle more powerful Uruks.

Fire Arrow

“When your Hit Streak is charged, you can unleash a Fire Arrow (Hold L2 + R1).”

“Fire Arrows will cause huge explosions if used on barrels or campfires.”

“Hit Streak Charged: Every x8 consecutive hits the Hit Streak counter will turn red and your sword will glow.”

Another great Ability-Tier 4 is just full of them. When your Hit Streak is charged you can shoot a Fire Arrow, which… well, sets the target on fire. One of them will kill any normal Uruk, which isn’t much of a feat, since any headshot will do the same. On the other hand, it does great damage against beasts, especially, say, Ghul Matrons. Best of all, if you shoot an explosive barrel or campfire it’ll cause an immense explosion. It’s good stuff.

Wraith Blast

“Upgrades Wraith Stun (Tap Circle) so that all enemies in a cone around your target are hit.”

“The higher your Hit Streak, the larger the cone.”

Vault Stun will probably serve you well enough, but against annoying foes like Berserkers and Defenders, this can neutralize a few bothersome Uruks and allow you to safely attack them from the front.


“All Drain moves now Brand the target.”

“Branded enemies will automatically fight by your side in combat.”

“Or you can activate them from stealth with (Up).”

You’ll gain this Ability automatically after the “Queen of the Shore” mission, and it adds an extra layer of depth to the Nemesis System. Grab an Uruk and Interrogate them to Brand them, or use Drain, Combat Drain, or Stealth Drain to do so. The Branded Uruks will get a fetching blue hand print on their face, and will aid you in combat if you are attacked in the open, or if you press (Up) on the D-Pad from stealth. Alternatively, you can kill Branded Uruks by holding (Down) on the D-Pad if you have the “Dispatch” Ability, or by targeting them in Ranged Mode (L2) and pressing (Circle) while aiming at them. Branded Uruks won’t resist you, and be be used to sent Death Threats (especially Branded Captains, who can threaten Warchiefs on your behalf).

The real fun part of the Brand Ability is the fact that you can manipulate the Power Struggles Branded Captains engage in to increase their Power Rating or station in Sauron’s Army. Have one challenge another Captain, or make one worm its way into a Warchief’s Bodyguard (where you can later cause the Branded Captain to betray their Warchief during combat), or take a vacant Warchief position. Branded Warchiefs can be summoned at your whim and sent to start Riots against other Warchiefs.

Shadow Mount

“Instantly mount a Graug or Caragor with Shadow Strike (Hold L2 + X).”

Once you complete the mission “Hunting Partners” you can purchase this Ability, which makes mounting beasts much, much easier. If you like riding beasts, you’ll like this Ability.

Tier 5 Abilities

Critical Strike 2

“Triples Hit Streak gains on well-timed attacks.”

“Tap (Square) only once as each strike connects to receive the bonus.”

Like the first Critical Strike Ability, tap (Square) just as you strike to score a Critical Strike, which increases your Hit Streak by three, instead of one. If you were good at the first Ability, you’ll love this one. It makes charging your Hit Streak go much faster-in three Critical Strikes (or two, if you have the “Blade Master” Ability).

Flame of Vengeance

“Striking (Square) enemies with a glowing sword will deal double damage.”

“Your sword will glow whenever your Hit Streak is charged.”

Double damage with basic attacks when your Hit Streak is charged, which is nice… but honestly, how often are you killing foes without Executions, Ground Executions or Elf-Shot? Don’t make this Ability a priority.

Double Charge

“When your Hit Streak is charged, you can perform two special attacks intead of one.”

“Applies to Execution, Wraith Flash, Combat Drain, Wraith Burn and Fire Arrow.”

Probably the best Tier 5 Ability, if not the best Ability in the game. Get twice as many special attacks off each Hit Streak charge! Two Executions per charge! Two Combat Drains! Mix and match! It’s just good stuff. With “Critical Strike 2” and “Blade Master” you’ll be a walking agent of melee destruction.

Shadow Strike Chain

“Chain together Shadow Strike attacks (Hold L2 + X) or (Hold L2 + Square).”

“During the attack, push (Left Analog) in the direction of your next target and tap (X) or (Square) to continue the chain.”

Shadow Strike is useful for getting you near an enemy quickly, but as a general one hit kill attack? Eh… this consumes two Elf-Shot per kill, and if you’re going to instantly kill Uruks with a ranged attack, why not just shoot them in the head? Also, this Ability can be somewhat fickle with the targeting an execution, since you have to keep the next target on screen to chain to them.

Quick Draw

“Greatly reduces the time it takes to charge a bow attack.”

If you like bow attacks, this is a no-brainer. The faster you charge up shots, the less Focus you consume, the more shots you can take, the more Uruks you can kill. It’s a good thing.

Wraith Burn

“When your Hit Streak is charged, press (Square + Triangle) to kill any Uruks that are stunned or knocked down while others caught by the effect may flee in terror.”

“Hit Streak Charged: Every x8 consecutive hits the Hit Streak counter will turn red and your sword will glow.”

If you have the “Double Charge” Ability, this Ability is useful in conjunction with Wraith Flash, as it’ll stun nearby enemies, who will be killed by a subsequent Wraith Burn. Also, the Epic Rune “Explosive Demise” would work well with this ability, as it has a chance to cause an explosion that stuns nearby foes when you score a headshot. All in all, though, there are usually better ways to spend your Hit Streak charges on.


“Press (Down) to kill all branded Uruks and Monsters.”

You won’t get much use out of this Ability, as there are just few instances when you’ll want to kill all your minions. Also, there are other ways to kill them… for example, target them in Ranged Mode (L2) aim at the doom Uruk or Monster and press (Circle). Not too hard. Still, you’ll need this Ability for some side missions.


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Guide Information

  • Publisher
    Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
  • Platforms,
    PC, PS3, PS4, XB 360, XB One
  • Genre
    Action Adventure
  • Guide Release
    25 March 2015
  • Last Updated
    10 December 2020
  • Guide Author
    Nathan Garvin

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Life can be dangerous in Middle-Earth, but for none moreso than the Rangers of The Black Gate, who guard the very border of Mordor. After tragedy strikes, Talion, Captain of The Black Gate rises as the Gravewalker, bound to a mysterious Elven Wraith. Talion will have to fight his way through an army of Uruks to reach the Black Captains as he seeks to find answers, vengeance, and a respite from his cursed afterlife.

The guide offers the following:

  • A walkthrough for all the main story missions.
  • Walkthroughs for every side mission, including Outcast Rescue missions, Legendary Weapon missions etc.
  • Integrated information detailing how to complete all the Hunting and Survival Challenges.
  • A full trophy/achievement guide.
  • Descriptions of the Nemesis System, including Strengths, Weaknesses, the different types of Uruks etc.
  • Information on all the Abilities and Attributes in the game.

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