The Lord of the Rings: the Battle for Middle-Earth II Review (PC)

Sometimes its worthwhile flogging a dead horse, and EA games proves that they are expert floggers indeed with this latest release of the LOTR game that didn't quite manage to rule them all. You can't really blame them, they feel the potential oozing from the product like power from the one true ring. But unlike Gollum's object of desire, this precious isn't quite as powerful as they expect and will probably walk itself to Mount Doom in a few months and happily toss itself on Peter Jackson's LOTR merchandise pyre.

The armies go marching three by three, hurrah! Hurrah!
With dragons like this, who needs real life?

Having said that, the game ain't half bad. Neither was the original. This one is a fair old improvement, because they managed to get the license for the books and the movies. That means if you've only seen the movies you're going to be pleasantly surprised by the array of monsters and races which come out of the woodwork. Middle Earth also turns out to be much bigger than previously indicated in the original game, so you get a much deeper, more authentic experience. The problem with more authentic experiences is that they tend to be boring. If you've watched the movies or read the books and gotten thoroughly irritated with all the walking, you'll know what I mean.

You can play single player, which is fairly lame, or in War of the Ring mode, which is as impressive as the name suggests. It's also as long and drawn out as the name suggests, so alert your friends and family so they don't worry too much when you emerge from your room several days after installing the game, looking vacant eyed and muttering about elven conspiracies. In this mode you must conquer all of Middle Earth, much of which would rather that you didn't conquer it. There are some very nice combat scenes to be had, but the action can get a little repetitive and there is the risk of loosing interest in between battles. You can also set the computer to play out the battles for you, which is an excellent way to defeat the purpose of playing the game at all. People who are looking to a future in accounting or data entry might enjoy clicking around a map, however most blood thirsty players will be getting their thrills from fighting the battles themselves. There are a few wrinkles which haven't been ironed out, such as the fact that troops you amass during battle disappear when you've won. This is rather confusing. It's not clear whether they evaporate magically, or if perhaps they are absorbed into the soil of Middle Earth. Either way, it's rather silly and quite unrealistic.

Would you look at those oceans, it's like you can go swimming in your monitor...
High walls make for long seiges...

To give single player a mention, its saving grace is all the new material and the somewhat improved AI, although that's not really saying that much. If you're even halfway acquainted with strategy games you'll kick its ass fairly regularly. There are two campaigns, depending on whether you'd rather be naughty or nice, each campaign has eight scenarios to play through.

There are some new features that may make your ears prick up however, my favorite was the ability to create your own hero. He wasn't perfect, but he was mine. The ability to build stuff anywhere is nice too, makes you feel less like mummy is holding you hand whilst you play. The naval warfare option is also a nice new touch.

Where the fun begins in earnest is when you get to pit your wits against others sitting at their keyboards with their elf ears on, intent on destroying you and taking Middle Earth for themselves. There is the option to play in skirmish mode or War of the Ring mode. Unlike some games, in which real players are more incompetent than the AI, LOTR has attracted a skillful player base, which means you can come up against some very stiff competition indeed. (Read: They annihilated me and made me cry.)  

War of the Ring mode may steal your life and suck you dry, but it'll leave you wanting more. There appeared to be people living on the server, the logistics of which don't really bear thinking about. If you're not feeling fanatical as that, you can always save and go see what's happening outside, though its unlikely to be as interesting as whats going on in the game.

Fido proved resistant to puppy training...
A good reason to run...

Graphically this game is excellent, we should expect no less from EA and from the LOTR franchise, and the sounds aren't half bad either. Combined they make for a compelling experience, one that will keep you glued to your screen long after bed time.

Top Game Moment:
Leaving multiplayer mode to go play some single player skirmishes by myself. The AI does wonders for your self esteem.

SECOND OPINION: Kresimir, Site Founder
I had to mention that I myself am extremely disappointed with A.I. in LotR II. In both Campaign and Skirmish modes. Even on hardest setting A.I. doesn't seem to be doing anything challenging. Enemy units tend not to react and their bases aren't pulling any moves. This is the most noticable in Campaigns. It is a shame as, if one can ignore that fact, this is a really great RTS game. I am confident that future patches will fix such issues. But what good of it, as I've already played it through... My game version is 1.01 at this point.




By richard58 (SI Newbie) on Dec 10, 2008
Very good game with good graphics but the gameplay is good but leaves much to be desired in the reality of construction.