It seems like so long ago the beginning of the epic Lord of the Rings movie franchise began, but now only a year or so after the final movie of the trilogy we are seeing games based off the movie licenses continuing to hit store shelves. The latest game from this pedigree comes from EA in the way of a real time strategy game. In fact this game is being ported from the PC onto Microsoft’s new console the Xbox 360, trying to change the idea that RTS games can’t work on the consoles. How does EA’s latest attempt with The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth II end up? Read our full review to find out!
Now for those of you who are thinking that you thought this game was already released; well you would be correct in that assumption, as Battle for Middle-Earth II was originally released not too long ago on the PC and had a very warm reception. The idea for an RTS style game using the LOTR franchise seems to be a perfect fit, but how does it turn out on the Xbox 360?
One of the big hurdles the developers were going to have to jump over were the controls, which has been a massive issue for console RTS as they never have been able to fully recreate the same sort of control as the PC. Well although EA has not eliminated this gap, they sure have brought the gap a lot closer together with a very intuitive control scheme. Explaining them in words is a bit difficult, but luckily EA has thrown in some tutorials to give you everything you need to know in learning how to control the game at hand. These tutorials aren’t going to be dreadful either, as they get the job done short and sweet.
Once you get the controls of the game down, you are ready for the action, and we will start offline in the single player campaign. It is here where you will be able to take both the side of good and evil and go on two separate campaigns through the land of Middle-Earth. There is a story to coincide with both campaigns, one in which feels pretty good and goes along with the LOTR feel at a good rate. The single player campaign aside from the LOTR elements just has that good solid foundation that continues to grow as you play. There are some dry spots where things don’t feel overly interesting, but the majority of the game manages to really pull the single player experience together for an enjoyable time.
Although many may be turned away from this game by having to use an Xbox 360 controller rather than a keyboard and mouse, one thing that the Xbox 360 version of the game highly improves on is the online play, which plays much smoother on the 360 then it did on the PC. The online experience is not overly deep but it plays extremely well and really allows you to test your abilities against others from all over the globe. There are some new modes online as well that were not in the PC version, like Capture the Hold and King of the Hill, all of which continue to add more depth and more excitement to the game.
My time with LOTR: Battle for Middle-Earth showed me a game that plays just as well on the 360 as it did on the PC. The controls did take a bit longer to grow accustomed to and it was a bit weird to see an RTS on the consoles, but the overall this game was a huge success. This game manages to not only prove that you can have a strong playing RTS on a console, plus the developers added some new content just for this game. Battle for Middle-Earth 2 does not revolutionize the genre - it just makes great use of some already great ideas.
Visually Battle for Middle-Earth II is both stunning and disappointing all at the same time. Starting with the bad I should just say that the frame rate in this game does not hold up all that well, especially in some of the more intense skirmishes. On the positive side, the battles can end up being in epic proportion, and these are the times where you can see really what this game was made of. The environments are well thought out with plenty of detail and just a great sense of style. It is too bad the whole game couldn’t sort of level out, but there were some glaring issues that hindered the visual style of the game.
Through my time with Battle for Middle-Earth II, I found a lot to really enjoy with this game, a lot of which many of us enjoyed on the PC as well. First off, this is just a good solid RTS and although there is really nothing new in this game it does manage to put a very fresh and interesting look on this game. Both the online and offline play in Battle for Middle-Earth II also play really well and give this game some serious replay value, something that RTS games are always known for.
Battle for Middle-Earth II may not be the revolutionary, mind changing, forever remembered RTS title that some may be hoping for, but it still has a really good first outing on the Xbox 360 which really does prove that further RTS titles should be considered for the platform. For fans of the franchise that have not yet checked this game out, I would highly recommend you go out and give this game a test run - it is definitely worth a look.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.