Lord of the Rings: TBFME II - Rise of the Witch-king Review (PC)

The work of evil is never done in the land of Middle-earth, just because domination of the realm has hit a wall doesn’t mean the subordinate lackeys get to use up their vacation days.

For the third time the Battle for Middle-earth franchise visits one of the most recognisable fantasy lands ever created. This expansion sees the terrifying rise of the Witch-king, a direct servant and thrall of Sauron’s appetite for war.

Improved War of the Ring mode
Better hero creation

The single player campaign takes place shortly after the defeat of Sauron (the bit where his fingers are cut off) and the hearts of men fail to destroy the One Ring. The Witch-king will build a mighty army and make preparations for his master’s return and the fall of Middle-earth to the hordes of Mordor.

Having played the first game it was understandably hard for the campaigned experience of Battle for Middle-earth II to have the same grandeur and meaning. Yes the story for either good or bad were just plain boring and lacked any sense of tangible consequence.

Prepare to enjoy a great story this time around; perhaps because taking the role of the Witch-king gives ground to the whole affair, in any case I enjoyed building my dark legions of Angmar.

Graphically there’s no real difference from its predecessor, it’s still impressive to watch a huge clash of units poke and slash themselves silly. Of course the noticeable change will be the new units and their woven art style which fits really well reflecting their Mordor heritage; they don’t feel an obvious add-on.

Adding a brand new faction to the game is something the developers should be used to by now, what with the new Goblin and Dwarven sides in the previous title. Angmar is the newest kid on the block, a Northern and therefore icy realm which gives a nice change of scenery from the usual scorched or forest settings.

The role of heroes and powers are still very much an important and integral part of the gameplay. The new Angmar faction is a powerful and versatile force to be reckoned with and should never be under utilised. For those thinking you’ll be crushing goodies in no time think again, and quickly. With no inherent strengths or weaknesses, Angmar requires tactics otherwise you’ll soon be mush on the ground.

Charging head first is never a good idea, its best to observe your enemy and make alterations. With units such as Thralls, this kind of reactionary tactic can become easy as they can summon lesser units before them to battle foes. They also serve to heal and replace fallen units within their group.

Adjust to the new Angmar faction
New powers

Trolls abound, you’ll be using these large brutes more often but not as single beasts of destruction. These are weaker but more versatile forms of the lumbering giants, you’ll also gain vicious wolf packs. Yes they may look cute but can quite easily maul a number of unlucky soldiers in their way.

The Black Númenoreans are the corrupted men in the service of the Witch-king and prove to be a nasty bunch, and what army wouldn’t be complete without some wild men of Rhudaur too?

Yes the new faction does have an array of fiendish and down right nasty combinations, much like the classic factions. Angmar’s got the stuff, but perhaps they have a little too much as once you get used to how they shape up there’s practically no stopping team Witch-king. Some more balancing from future patches will surely address a few issues here and there.

If you’ve completed or even decided to skip the campaign then you can jump into the new and improved War of the Ring mode available. The maps size, as could be done previously, depends upon your tastes so if you want a full out war for the entire of Middle-earth then you can. Choose which factions you want thrown into the mix and begin your own campaign for good or evil.

There’s a whole list of improvements like AI movements and its behaviour, as well as better management of resources etc. Sadly the AI during a battle can still be lacklustre at times, failing to provide a real challenge or tension like scripted battle scenarios.

The developers have also revamped some of the hero creation process and put in a new variable cost system. Plus you can choose from a new class and have more troll types to create with. You can now skip adding powers at levels to make sure you can have the powers you want to have later on.

More direct control of their creation lets you make some formidable killing machines for use in multiplayer or War of the Ring mode. Some abilities are incredibly powerful and if managed well could make battles a tremendously easier affair for their owner. Have an end-level death wizard, or maybe a more rounded fighter benefiting your troops as well.

Great ice and snow structure styles
A successful, worthwhile expansion

The Rise of the Witch-king is a great expansion and worthy of the franchise as a whole. It carries that rare trait of success where many expansions suffer miserably and leave many gamers in despair. Not so for the Witch-king as it leaves nothing but added improvement in its wake.

Top Game Moment:
Dispatching my legions of Angmar for the first time out of my newly constructed Ice Fortress of death, and despair too. Oh yeah!

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