Battle for Middle-Earth 2 will satisfy any Lord of the Rings fan.
The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth 2 was the first of its kind in the Real-time strategy genre for the Xbox 360. Since then, developers have used the game as a basis to further expand the RTS genre onto the Xbox 360.
The Battle for Middle-Earth games have been a huge success on PC with thousands of Lord of the Rings fans able to play as their favourite armies and take to the battlefield in huge battles. Now EA have released the game for 360 owners, hoping to further expand the game's popularity.
One of people's main concerns over the game was how the control scheme would pan out in the game and overall - it does a pretty good job. EA have come up with a relatively simple way of using the thumbsticks to control the cursor and camera. With the A button you can select a unit, and order an attack on a unit by moving the cursor over the enemy and hitting A. Holding down Left trigger (LT) and hitting A will select all military units on the screen. By holding down the Right trigger (RT) you bring up a small order menu where you can build units if you have selected a building, for example. The controls are rather intuitive and are something more console RTS games are now using.
Battle for Middle-Earth allows you to play as both the good and evil side in a singleplayer campaign that takes place while Frodo and The Fellowship are on their perilous journey to Mordor. The story is well told and you will encounter some noticeable characters that were left out of the film in the game. In the good campaign you will predominantly play as the Elves, Men of the West and Dwarves; and an evil campaign which you will play as Goblins, Orks and Uruk-Hai.
To add to the singleplayer experience, the game has a Skirmish mode that allows you to play the AI on various maps, ranging from Minas Tirith to the mysterious Mirkwood forest. In this mode, you can select any race to play as: Men, Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Orks or the Uruk-Hai. Each faction has their own strengths and weaknesses, for example Elves have superb archers, whereas Dwarves are slow moving but can pack a punch. No matter who you select to play as, you can select what enemy to play (I can't count the amount of times I relived the scene from Minas Tirith from the movie). You can also select if you want any allies and what difficultly the enemy will play as. Skirmish mode is a nice little add-on and can at least provide some replay value to the game.
There are also some obvious, yet subtle, tactical elements to the gameplay. Cavalry can easy wipe out a band of archers, whereas Uruk-Hai pikeman will clean up any cavalry charge up ahead. Combined with the tactical element to the game, an impressive power ability is featured. As you play through a game, you rack up experience points for killing enemies, and more. With these points you can purchase special powers like healing allied units, and more expensive ones like summoning a ferocious dragon to fight for your side. Certain powers are associated with each faction though, so there is no ability for Elves to summon the Balrog. You also have the ability to summon heroes to lead your soldiers in battle. The heroes at the top of the list, like Gandalf, cost a lot of resources but if looked after, they can dish out a whole load of hurt to an enemy army.
Multiplayer in the game can be an enjoyable experience with modes to cater for everyone's taste. There is the typical skirmish mode which is a free-for-all battle against other opponents with the victor being whoever survives. There is also capture-the-flag, capture-and-hold, and a resource race that can be finished in pretty quick time. Finally, there is Hero mode where a both players are given a hero and you have to fight it out until a player's hero dies. The multiplayer is a lot of fun to play, even with friends, and even now it doesn't take long to get into a decent game.
The visuals of the game are also well worth noting. The game's variable environments look excellent and are very well designed. Units also look fairly detailed and their character models look just how you would expect them too. Each faction also has their own unique look. Elves have a more natural and elegant look with trees incorporated into their buildings, whereas Orks have a more degraded appearance with flimsy, dirty structures. However the game suffers from an almost unbearable frame rate collapse during large scale battles which is quite a disappointment. The audio is also great. Some actors from the films provide voice acting for their roles to give the game a more endorsed feel. The music is also quality, which you would expect due to the films having such beautiful musical scores.
Despite some technical hitches with the game, it still offers a full package of things to do from the singleplayer campaign, skirmish, and online mode. Any fans of Lord of the Rings would enjoy the game's loyalty to the books and a story that is lesser known to people will certainly give you some enjoyment.