|The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth II|
|Developer||EA Los Angeles|
|Release dates||PC: March 2, 2006 Xbox 360: July 5, 2006|
Like it's predecessor BFME2 was well received in reviews, obtaining an average of around 8/10, with some 9s thrown in for good measure. It was similar to it's the first game in many respects, with returning heroes and units, but the gameplay has been altered quite significantly, with new factions added to the roster. The films story was covered entirely in BFME1, so the second game draws much more on events in the book, focusing on the war in the north - concerning Dwarves and Elves. Added is a 'create a hero' feature, along with 'war of the ring' and a polished online service.
Nothing suprisingly original in terms of play; each player starts with resources for building structures, and a single main building where heroes can be purchased from. The goal is to expand across the map in a fight for resources, and upgrade through the troop upgrade tiers at the same time. Rock-paper-scissors is back from the last game, as specific unit types counter others, swordsmen>pikemen>horses, etc. It would all be a bit simplistic if it wasn't for the hero units, with their special abilities and mmo style levelling they add another layer of play; as well as enjoyment. Heroes vary in respect of fighting skills and abilities, Saruman the wizard for instance has mighty spells on offer but can do little when surrounded, whereas Gimli the dwarf can hew many an Orc neck, but has little in terms of abilities. The player must use heroes well in order to succeed, gaining levels wherever possible while keeping them alive, as revival costs and times are high. Each one is catered to a different aspect of play, some give bonuses to nearby troops, such as Theoden, so work well in armies. Whereas others are specialists, like Eowyn who is excellent for taking down the Nazgul. The expected cast of factions are on offer, Elves, Dwarves, Men, Mordor and more are all playable with unique structures, heroes and units, making for varied styles of play. Unlike the first game, BFME2 opted for a traditional approach to building. The player starts with two builders, who can traverse the map and build structures anywhere, making base building far more flexible. Walls are exempt from this rule, and have to be built in a certain radius of the citadel. Sadly because of their expense, building grand forts and defenses is quite useless, they fall easily. Spending money on defending against rushes, or manning one is much more important than having an organized defence in this game. The gameplay has been sped up so much because players no longer start with castles that a match rarely hits the thirty minute mark, often being decided within ten. The initial minutes usually involve both players charging their swordsmen hordes straight for eachothers base – often you'll just watch as your Orcs walk calmly past Elves heading straight for your own base. This is because of one major flaw, buildings fall faster than units. It is much more damaging to your opponent to destroy a valuable resource structure than a group of their dispensable units. Therefore both players are usually left watching as each other's battalions hammers mercilessly at the other's structures, while attempting to pump out another group suited to the same end. Rush style gameplay dominated the online play, if your looking for epic battles then itd probably be best to search elsewhere.
Spells, or special abilities are another factor the player must consider. Basically, as you kill units and damage buildings you will receive 'points' which can then in turn be spent on a spell, a whole tree of these abilities are given to each faction. As points are spent and you progress up the tree the abilities become more powerful, until the point where the use of a single ability can destroy an army of hundreds, I.e. The Balrog. The more powerful spells cannot be used a great deal, however, as they have long cooldowns which both players must account before making a move.
'Create a Hero' is an ambitious addition. It allows the player to create their own hero, from the colour of their armor, to their race, and even their skills and how they progress. Theres a massive amount of options, however some combinations are far weaker than others, but the cost for the hero remains the same despite which abilities you choose. For this reason 'Create a Hero' isn't used often online, due to imbalances.
The campaign is similar to the first game in many respects, albeit without the boring skirmish scenarios. The player is given various objectives to fulfil in each mission, some optional. There are major set pieces to play, the most enjoyable being 'hold out' missions, such as defending the dwarf city Erebor from a huge force of Orcs. It is more challenging than the first game, offering just the right difficulty. However expect a shorter campaign, that takes about 8 hours to complete on each side, so 16 hours in total, which is still quite meaty.