Battle for Middle Earth II Review
|Genre:||Real Time Strategy|
|Release Date:||March 3, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Ryan Sayce (Stan)|
|Buy now at Amazon.co.uk|
Unless you happen to live in a cave you will have heard of the Lord of the Rings and as you're reading this probably even EA's Battle for Middle Earth franchise. Today we take a look at Battle for Middle Earth II, the second real-time strategy game set in Tolkien's universe and loosely based on the recent trilogy of movies.
Like most multi-format releases recently Battle for Middle Earth II is limited to 30 fps, however since this game is a RTS you really don't need more than 30 fps (I would still like the fps lock to be removed though). It is however quite possibly the prettiest RTS I have played making use of most of the next generation PS3.0 features to give it that extra wow factor. The frozen ice and smoke are what stands out most as being visually stunning although it has to be said there is very little in this game graphics wise that doesn't feel polished.
As usual I have little to say about sound. However the effects and voice acting really make you feel like you are in Middle Earth. I have to be honest I am not sure how many of the actors from the films other than Hugo Weaving (Lord Elrond) lend their voices to the game, but those that do really help and any others do a stunning job of imitating the other characters. Music is also of a high standard, this is one of the few game's that I actually left the music on during play, probably has one of the best soundtracks in a RTS game I have played, very atmospheric and true to the whole Lord of the Rings experience.
In this second game, the campaign story deals with the Dwarven and Elven side of the battle to save Middle Earth, although of course you get to play as Sauron and his minions but in my opinion these missions are the weakest part of the story mode so I won't be concentrating on them in this review.
As the events in the story mode take place outside those of the films you don't get to control the likes of Aragorn or Gandalf, however you do get to play as some of the other characters like Elrond and Arwen. Sadly these characters fail to have the same impact and feel as the hero's from the previous game, feeling more like beefed up regular units rather than a true hero who has the fate of the world on their shoulders. I found that occasionally your hero's path finding AI would walk him in the opposite direction to the one you clicked and this got my guy killed more than once, however this is one of the only bugs or AI problems I have seen in an otherwise very polished game.
In multi-player you get to control many of the factions in Middle Earth, including three races not previously available. The Elf, Dwarf and Goblin armies don't change gameplay a whole lot and I will leave that up to you as to whether that's a good thing or not.
The Goblins provide your typical weak but fast army with the Dwarves being the slow but strong tank style race, my personal favourite is the Elven army though as they seem to have the best balance. One of the changes from the previous game is the fact that you no longer take your soldiers with you to the next level and while this means that you don't have a unbeatable army within a few levels, it also means that most of the time you just cant be bothered to upgrade and level your basic army because you have to do it all over again the next map, so most of the time you end up just using your hero like you would in an RPG, not necessarily what the developers hoped for I think.
Battle for Middle Earth II has more new units including a much vaunted set of ships however sadly these are rarely used and when they are, they just feel as though they are an after thought. They are a little bit of a disappointment to be honest.
Resource gathering is also a little different, special buildings are required; for the Elves this is a Mallorn tree and for the Dwarves it's a Mine. For me this is a nice feature as it means that you don't have to worry about resource gathering as long as you can protect these buildings, one of the most annoying things in a RTS can be finding that your resource gathering unit has some how wandered into the enemy base and been obliterated, this isn't an a issue here.
Overall Battle for Middle Earth 2 is a solid and fun RTS game. However if you want realism and a game that requires you to read Sun Tzu's the Art of War then I recommend you go and buy Rome total war. Battle for Middle Earth II has lots of play time and therefore value. It also includes a Risk style game where you have to control all the parts of Middle-Earth, sadly this doesn't quite live up to the campaign levels.
My favourite addition to this game is undoubtedly the ability to build your base anywhere and then completely customise its layout with moveable walls, this means that you can create your base to suit what ever level or opponent you are playing. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan or a casual RTS player then I would recommend this game as it's all about fun rather than huge amounts of tactics. Perhaps not for the more serious strategy gamer though but you do get a hell of a lot of game for your money.
- Very nice Graphics Engine
- Very much part of the Lord of the Rings universe
- Great music and sound effects
- Custom bases
- Huge amount's of gameplay
- You don't need to be a Tactics expert to play
Not so good stuff
- Your hero's don't feel as epic as the first game
- Sometimes the AI can be a little crazy
- Nothing revolutionary
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