The Lord of The Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth II
The Lord of the Rings is one of those franchises that you can't help but think of in videogame terms. Thus, I am compelled to say: Lord of the Rings + RTS = Awesome
Unfortunately, Battle for Middle-earth, the first Lord of the Rings RTS game, was not so awesome. Fun to a degree? Sure, but it left many fans disappointed in the midst of the flourishing movie franchise.
But, hey, that's what sequels are for.
Battle for Middle-earth II, unlike its predecessor, does most everything right. It takes a beloved franchise rife with potentially great videogames moments and transforms it into a fleshed out, fully formed RTS experience. Half of what makes for a solid RTS, for example, is a rich world to draw upon, and that's something Battle for Middle-earth II certainly doesn't want for. The missions are well crafted both objective-wise and setting-wise, utilizing the vast lore of The Lord of the Rings books to make more some really memorable experiences.
The logistics of the game are all pretty sharp, too. Battles feel truly epic, with hundreds of characters on screen at once, and better yet, the chaos feels controlled though always intense. The emphasis is squarely on the action, with a plethora of units and heroes (similar to the Warcraft series) at your command. But, with such an emphasis on action, the strategic element of the game runs in the shallow end. For RTS purists, that can be a bit of a downer, but for the more mainstream audience that doesn't usually delve into heavy strategic games, this is a pretty big boon.
Strategy enthusiasts aren't left completely in the dark, however. Included in Battle for Middle-earth II is a Risk-like turn-based strategy game called War of the Ring. It's a bit rough around the edges, but if you prefer a little bit more depth mingled with your action, it's definitely a fun diversion from the main game.
And, if nothing else, Battle for Middle-earth II sure does look nice. The scope of the game is pretty huge, and with battles fielding a huge number of units, it'll induce a few moments of nerdish awe. But, like most RTS titles, it looks really nice far away, but when you start zooming in, all the flaws shine through. This would be a negligible if it weren't for the fact that a majority of the cinematic use in-game graphics, highlighting many of the game's imperfections.
Like, love, or loathe Lord of the Rings, there's simply no denying that Battle for Middle-earth II is a solid RTS. It helps all the more if you can recognize the subtle genius in zerging an enemy base with a battalion of LothlA?rien elves, but even if you can't, it's still worth a long look.