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Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth

 It is amazing!!!

I played for six straight hours last night as Uruks from Isengard.

The world is massive. And the heroes and special weapons are incredible if you are a big LOTR fan, I played so long last night for one reason only... To summon a Balrog!!!

I was playing in one level and every time I conquered an enemy camp and built a timber factory to build resources, Ents kept kicking my ass. So I made a unit of Beserker Uru Kai and sent them with Lurtz and Saruman and a unit of battle engines MWOAH HA HA HAAAAAAA let's just say our fires were well stoked last night.

Yep, I love it but here is a caveat, this is the first Battle Sim I have played, so I have nothing to compare it to. I thought it would be cool to play with characters and creatures I know and love. The engine is just brilliant, within a few hours I was sending off four units of 100 UruK Hai to conquer, defend and destroy.

The power-ups are astounding and I love that you can build armouries and then equip units with beserker blades, better armour (all from the movie) and then you can sent units off into formations, blood-lust rages (you can even attack your own troops to build experience points).

If you build enough resources you can them summon your heroes (good or evil) and you build special experience points allowing you to do all sorts of weird things like battle cries which make selected units fight harder and of course... You get enough, you can summon a Balrog... My God!!!

You can play as Rohirrim, Gondor Men, Isengard Uruks or Mordor Orcs. You have basic grunts with swords, archers (crossbows in the case of the orks and uruks) pike men and berserkers. Then you can build wag riders (awesome), mounted rohirrim and so on. You can build siege engines and as mentioned above, power up any troops or summon major characters, who all have special moves. I had Saruman casting spells all over the place, brilliant.

You encounter Trolls and goblin enclosures too throughout the world.

The attention to detail is incredible in this game, the opening movie sequence is beautiful, but I think you have to be a LOTR fan to really love the game. Everything is perfect, even the tutorial, which is brilliant and needed in my case, was so smooth. The sound effects and dialogue are also brilliant, everything is in character and as it should be, Jackson himself would be happy with this.

All in all for me, who is a hack and slash, beat-em-up fan who always thought battle sims were for geeks... I give it 10/10 and will see you again in a year, as I doubt I will ever get off the thing, it is THAT good.

Oh, one more point. All the above is just me learning the craft in skirmishes, where you select locations from a list of about 20 around middle earth. Once you actually play a campaign, you can summon oliphonts, mountain, cave and drum trolls and all the siege engines from the movies, and defend or attack classic locations and cities like Minus Tirith, Helm's Deep, Rohan and so on. Great little missions like if you attack Osgiliath, you have to capture 200 enemy heads to fire into Minus Tirith!!!

One other factor, which seems to be different to other battle sims, is that you get a few almost RPG style missions that require more than the normal build, train, equip cycle. For example, in the Mines or Moria you only control the fellowship against endless hordes of goblins and you just have to hack and move and go deeper and deeper until... Yes, you guessed it... Balrog time!!!

Excited yet?


Reviewed by Justin Thorne © 2005

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