The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II

June 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

The real-time strategy genre isn’t exactly thriving on consoles and it’s a well known fact that this is most prominently to do with many developers struggling to conjure up a decent control system, one that is approachable opposed to finger twistingly complex.

However, EA’s The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II succeeds where others have failed, offering a remarkably intuitive control system that just feels so right, it’s even more impressive when you consider that the games origins are that of the PC. The control functions can be picked up in little time, thanks largely to a helpful in-game tutorial, that walks you through everything from the easy to the more complex of commands.

There are two sizeable campaigns, one for the good and one for the evil inclined. Whichever you opt for, you’ll take charge of many of the major races from the novels and the films.

Units attacked from the rear take additional damage and the game has the familiar papers-scissors and stones mechanic, and sees each of the units possessing their own strengths and weaknesses, the idea being for you to choose the right unit for whatever enemy type is thrown at you. It’s fairly standard stuff, but not entirely essential to make progress in the campaign.

For you see, whilst, Middle-earth II may be a member of the RTS family, a genre that is generally deeply tactical, the game is however lacking in any need for any real strategy. Just simply, amassing a vast army and rushing your enemy can win many a skirmish here. This simplicity is certainly another case of a developer targeting a licensed product towards the casual gamers who perhaps watch more films than they play games. Financially speaking this method certainly makes sense, but even so, hardcore strategists are likely to feel under challenged and will take their brilliant minds elsewhere.

Moving on, buildings can be constructed to gain command points and resources, as well as for producing new units to send to war. Structures can also be upgraded, allowing you to speed up the process of troop production for instance or to attach menacing weapons to a building to defend it from any silly enemy attacks.

The most important building of them all: The fortress is the home of heroes, in other words the main characters from JRR Tolkien’s world all inhabit this gargantuan structure. Unsurprisingly, this bunch are the most powerful characters in the game and are able to use special abilities to bring pain to enemies or to enhance the stats of nearby units.

The campaign mode whilst undeniably fun does have some blemishes, most of which are eradicated once you take the game online. No longer are you in competition with an artificial mind, but rather a fellow being, whom are generally blessed with more intelligence than your average AI opponent. Proceedings turn into a tense battle of wits, and tactics become a necessity.

With its well-mapped control system, Middle-earth II allows console players to enjoy battling mass armies rather than woeful controls that were seemingly devised for eight armed freaks. It may not be the most strategic RTS around, but it’s certainly fun, and without doubt the best option available for 360 owners who don’t have access to a games capable PC.