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Dead Uruk

Dead Uruks on a green field

Uruks, also known as the Uruk-hai or Great Orcs, are the main enemies in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and one of the main types of enemies in Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

Forming the bulk of Sauron's Army, they are the elite of the species called Orcs, first bred by Morgoth during the time of the Great Darkness in the First Age, and then again by the second Dark Lord Sauron in the Second Age, as well as by his chief servants in the Third Age: the wizardSaruman, and the Nazgûl use them for their purposes. They are creatures of malice and cruelty, sent by their master to conquer lands, destroy innocence and cause chaos and among the Free Peoples of Middle-earth and Beleriand.

In-game Description

The Uruk is the elite of all the Orc breeds. They are grown in huge vats as a leadership caste and are taller, stronger, better able to withstand daylight, and more ill-tempered than the other lesser Orcs. They are Captains and Commanders, bred for war and determined to take back their homeland for the Dark Lord Sauron.
They impose their will with brute force; they hate beautiful things, will not admit to any fears, revel in slaughter, and enslave any who stand in their path. They are certain their Dark Lord has returned to lead them to their destiny as the rulers of Middle-earth.


The Orcs are bred solely for war, thus the society they have formed and the greatest of this bloodthirsty species, lives by its rules as well.


The Uruk-hai can always be classified by their rank in Orc society:

  • Overlord - Uruk Overlords are the best of the best. They oversee the operations within regions of Mordor from their fortresses. Usually protected by Warchiefs, who help defend their fortresses in an assualt.
  • Warchiefs - Uruk Warchiefs are the elite. They kill their way to the top, and defend their position with absolute ferocity. They gather a squad of Bodyguards to serve under them and protect them from the constant threats to their authority (and their lives). These Bodyguards are loyal as long as they fear their Master, and will defend him - but the Warchief is always on guard against the knife in the back.
    As such, Warchiefs generally avoid being seen, and only emerge after being drawn out into combat by a powerful foe. To refuse combat from such a foe would be a sign of weakness, and spell doom for a Warchief.

    Because they are so feared and reviled, Warchiefs can only be challenged through completion of a task specifically targeted at them, and are drawn out in the open by accomplishing its certain criteria. They will always be surrounded by a group of bodyguards, including one or more Captains, all of whom are absolutely loyal to their master, and deadly to his enemies. These Captains, in the event of their master's death, will take the place of the Warchief. As a reflection of their society's creed, in the instance of there being two or more living Bodyguards, the one with the highest Power, thus the strongest, will become the new Warchief.
  • Captains - Uruk Captains oversee Sauron's Army. They enforce construction and demolition projects, craft battle plans, and administer discipline to their underlings.
    The Uruk hierarchy is combative; Captains win their place by slaughtering those above them, and keep power by destroying underlings who might oppose them. This ensures endless competition among the Uruks, and winning the rank of Captain means an Uruk is one of the strongest, deadliest, and most devious of their kind.
    As a measure of their status, Captains often carry the best weapons and armor pried from the corpses of the foes they have killed, and bear the scars from the battles they have fought.

    What an Uruk that has made his mark in the society generally becomes, being granted new weapons and armor to befit their reputation among Orcs. If deemed worthy, or purposefully directed, a Captain can become the close Bodyguard of one of the Warchiefs lording over Mordor's lands, never wavering in their loyalty and always eager to prove their dominance.
  • Soldiers - The most common rank among the Great Orcs. Always dreaming, but rarely scheming, to become stronger and join the upper echelon of Captains, these runts gather around those that prove their strength. However, if given the opportunity, they would gladly take a place in the ranks, even if they have to step on their Captain's neck to do it.
  • Worms - Soldiers with an ear for secrets. They are rife across the lower ranking Uruk, very keen and knowing of a Captain's, or even a Warchief's, strengths and weaknesses. If properly coerced, they might just part with these tidbits of information.
  • Slaves - Below soldiers, they are forced to work and be punished for the slightest misstep they make until the day they die. Usually they can be seen being executed or tortured. They might have some information. Watch out for the symbol of worms. They may have weapons and try to hit you when you enter a fight, kill another slave, or attack randomly.


Enemy Types

Uruks can be broadly categorized based on their type of armament and general fighting style, though the Captains and Warchiefs can vary greatly in strength and power level depending on their rank, compared to regular Soldiers:

  • Warrior - Most frequently encountered type of Uruk. They vary from scrawny sized to large, and everything in between. They carry a one-handed weapon, typically a sword or club of some kind. They also possess handheld throwing weapons that they can use against targets from a fair distance. Generally the most common type of fighter that can be dealt with using basic combat tactics.
  • Archer (crossbow) - The most common ranged Uruk type. They are more scrawny than the other Uruks. Usually found on higher ground, to be safe from attackers as well as having a better vantage point to shoot from, otherwise they are found usually alone on higher ground or behind melee Uruks. Arrows cannot be countered, but can be dodged. As they have lower toughness than other melee-oriented Uruks, they are easily dealt with once Talion engages them, or they can be eliminated from a distance with the bow Azkâr.
  • Savage - Similar to Warriors, but wield two weapons instead of one. Always the larger of the Uruks with faces smeared in warpaint, they deal much more damage and are capable of throwing their weapons. Can be countered like Warriors, although they sometimes perform a whirlwind attack that cannot be countered but can be dodged. They cannot be attacked head on with low-streak sword attacks, as they will counter the attack, though can be attacked freely from the back. If chosen to be attacked head on, they must be stunned before any attacks can land on them. However, when the Hit Counter reaches 15x and upwards, sword attacks have greater speed and force, and will land on Berserkers from the front, without being countered.
  • Defender - Easily identified by their massive shields, huge spears, and tall stature, their attacks are slow, but have good reach. Their attacks cannot be countered but can be dodged, and show a red warning marker to indicate they are uncounterable. Jumping over them and attacking them from behind is the best tactic, though their defense can be easily bypassed by Elf-shot. The shields can also be destroyed after sustaining enough damage, after which they will also drop their spears, draw a sword, and become regular Warriors, though retaining their impressive height. When Talion's Hit Counter is at 15x or greater, his sword attacks are more forceful and will smash a Defender's shield in one hit, though this only applies to wooden shields, as Captains and Warchiefs tend to possess unbreakable, metal ones.
  • Hunter - The Uruk masters of the hunt, wielding sharp, jagged spears. These Uruks are smaller compared to the other classes, but can look threatening with all the spears and javelins they carry on their back. They tend to stand at range, behind other melee Uruks, strafing to get a better shot at their target, easily capable of bringing down the beasts of Mordor. Like Archers, they can't take near as much punishment as melee-oriented fighters.



When a Captain achieves his repuation, often times he must serve a secondary purpose in Orc society, besides warfare. These titles and occupations include:

  • Executioners - Brutal Executioners serve to keep Uruk society from crumbling into an endless spiral of revenge, murder, and slaughter for slaughter's sake. The Uruks have few rules and fewer punishments to enforce their bloody sense of order.
    When the Executioner is called to settle a dispute, heads roll, and the matter is concluded. In Mordor, the Executioners have expanded roles to including the punishing of unruly creatures and slaves. They excel in administering discipline, and their lessons never need repeating.
  • Beastmasters - Beastmasters are spawned for the job no Uruk would rightly volunteer for; taming and slaughtering the wild beasts of Mordor. They are ideal for their dual role as hunter and killer.
    Mordor is a place of wild beasts requiring domination. Beastmasters track and capture the creatures required to service the Dark Lord's army, and they exterminate the monsters that might impede its progress. They're the ones who trap Caragors and pen them, or bring down the enormous great beasts to be used as cargo carriers.
    Beastmasters also clear campsites and outposts, destroying the native Ghuls, Ungol, and rats, so as to make the sites usable for their brethren.
  • Slavers - Labor moves Mordor, and the Slavers move the labor. They are the ones who process captured humans, and dispatch their chattel to sites across Mordor via the Black Road.
    The Uruks realize slave labor has freed them to focus on foraging the Dark Lord's great war machine, and are looking beyond Mordor for more captives. There are whispers they are being aided on this front by a mysterious figure, a "Dwarf of the Coin".
  • Sawbones - As with Elves, Uruks excel at war, do not seem to age or sicken, and rarely die naturally. But when they do need healing they call for the Sawbones. These Uruks are imbued with a basic knowledge of herb lore and anatomy, allowing them to perform rudimentary medical treatment, which generally involves some form of amputation.
    Given their propensity for hacking meat, they often moonlight as cooks, and brew the putrid and flammable Orc-grog that keeps the Uruk army on its feet.

Behind the Scenes

Nemesis system

Talion facing a large Uruk.

While creating the Uruks, Monolith wanted to avoid fantasy clichés, and aimed to create realistic Orcs that are more interesting and complex than the typical fantasy archetype. The Orcs in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor aren't the typical highly aggressive, unintelligent creatures that they are often portrayed as, but instead are portrayed as exactly what human beings can become when they are driven by fear, domination, and power. Monolith drew a comparison with the Great War, where the situation of Allied soldiers in the trenches are similar to those of the Uruks under Sauron's control. The Uruks are pushed to the extreme, to the point where their society is ruled by power and in-fighting, a society where every Uruk wants to prove their dominance, where the strong can survive only by crushing the weak.

This allows Monolith to push Uruk personalities to the extreme, in turn making them interesting and memorable villains, while also creating a dynamic environment. Monolith drew inspiration from various movies, particularly Quentin Tarantino films, where almost every character is cranked up and taken to an extreme.

A common preconception of Orcs, in The Lord of the Rings, is that they are highly unintelligent, lacking even human-level intellect. While there were only six lines of Uruk dialogue in the entirety of The Lord of the Rings, these lines do show a sense of morality and personal conviction, but they do not live by these words: Uruks will always take the path that leads to glory.[1]


Morgoth created the first Orcs by breeding Elves he had captured and corrupted through torturing and mutilating them. In Lord of the Rings, the Ent Treebeard tells the Hobbits, Merry and Pippin, that Orcs were an attempt by Morgoth to copy the Elves. A similar interpretation of 'Trolls' was made by Treebeard, informing the Hobbits that they were a failed copy of Ents.

Orcs were highly dependent on their leaders in multiple ways. When Morgoth was defeated, the Uruks were confused and easily scattered by their enemies, after which they went into hiding in the Misty Mountains, showing how much they depend on the Dark Lord. Only when Sauron regained power did the Orcs become a considerable threat to Middle-earth. Despite their devotion to their masters, Orcs were treacherous, and would disobey an order out of greed or arrogance.

In the Third Age however, Sauron began to breed the "Uruk-hai" as the elite Orcs to fight in his armies. Uruks were a special breed of Orc, however, they were somehow infused with qualities of Men: they were Man-high and could travel through daylight. In his bid for power, the wizard Saruman made his own "fighting Uruk-hai" to prepare for war with Rohan and to rival Sauron's army.


  • As Uruks are Orcs, they are commonly confused as being different from Goblins. However, Goblins are in truth a subspecies of Orc. The name "Uruk" is simply the Black Speech word for "Orc". Christopher Tolkien describes Orcs as the truncation for Uruk-hai and can be used interchangeably. Orc is to Man as Uruk-hai is to Man-kind. This terminology is also described by J.R.R Tolkien in The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.
  • Uruks often fought alongside large armored Trolls in their battles, especially during the last days of the War of the Ring. These Olog-hai were a fierce and more violent breed of Trolls.



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