Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II will long be remembered as the first game to do real-time-strategy right on a console. RTS games (good ones, anyway) used to be pretty much PC exclusive because they required complicated control schemes to really work right. Developer EA LA has streamlined the controls to work with a controller and the result is an amazingly good game of army building that will make Xbox 360 fans very happy during these slow summer months.
- Title: LotR: Battle for Middle Earth II
- Platform: Xbox 360
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: EA LA
- ESRB Rating: T for Teen
- Genre: Real-Time-Strategy
- Pros: Good graphics, satisfying gameplay, good value, fast pace
- Cons: Framerate issues, somewhat steep learning curve
Battle for Middle Earth II is a RTS game that gives you control over armies made up of Dwarves, Men, Elves, or Goblins, as well as the forces of Mordor and Isengard. In this game, rather than just taking part in the same battles as the movies, you get to fight battles in the northern part of Middle Earth. You also get to see other things such as what it would have been like if the forces of evil invaded Rivendell or The Shire. In addition to the campaigns for Good and Evil there is also a skirmish mode where you can set up battles against the CPU any way you like.
Of course, a main attraction in a game like this is online multiplayer and it is very well done here. You can play a normal free for all match as well as capture the flag, capture and hold, hero mode, and resource race. Depending on your skill and the skill of your opponent, matches can last anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour.
The reason why RTS games havent worked all that well on consoles in the past is because selecting units, assigning hotkeys, and quickly moving around the map are all much, much easier with a keyboard and mouse. BfMEII tackles these problems in a number of ways. By holding the right trigger you gain access to a menu that lets you look at your bookmarks, use special powers, or access the functions of the various structures you have. A typical game goes like this: First you build resource gaining structures, then build attack units, and also research upgrades all at the same time. Once you have units built, you can choose to select them individually, as a group, as a class, or you can go all out and just select your whole army. You can also, of course, make several groups and assign each one a bookmark so you can quickly access them and move them around the map. All of the commands in the game use a combination of button presses and it can be a bit intimidating at first. Once you get things figured out, however, accessing everything you need comes much faster and more naturally and the game starts to get really good.
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