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WB Review: The Lord of the Rings Battle for Middle Earth

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“The world has changed, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air.”

I personally felt it whilst playing ‘The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth’ for the first time on my PC back in 2004. The ‘Battle for Middle Earth’ is a Real Time Strategy game based on the epic film trilogy created by Peter Jackson who in turn adapted the Lord of the Rings from the legendary works of J.R.R. Tolkein. This was the first official movie licensed game where I thought “you know what? this game is unlike any other movie licensed game that I’ve ever played before. They have actually got things right.” Movie licensed games often have a bad reputation for being cheaply produced with little care taken into the actual quality of the game, just so that it can be quickly made to be released at the same time of the movie and in doing so, drain even more money, from folks like you and me, into their greedy little hands. However, in no way does this game meet that reputation, in fact it acts as a role model and a perfect example of what should be expected of a movie licensed game. The gameplay is very closely linked to other games within this genre such as ‘Command & Conquer’ and ‘Age of Empires’ as you build your fortresses upon the foundations that the map provides, gather resources to put towards the production of your buildings and battle forces and also creating all out war!

Story

The game’s story follows that of the films/novels whilst also providing extra material that will provide you with background information as to what else was happening in Middle Earth whilst the Fellowship was on their quest. In this game you will take control and use your own tactics in many of the franchise’s climactic battles such as ‘Helm’s Deep’, ‘Minis Tirith’ and also ‘The Black Gate’. One of the great qualities of this game is that it does not just provide you with the good campaign, which follows the events of film/novels closely, but you can also choose to follow the evil campaign where you will work for the forces of Sauron and aim to destroy all of Middle Earth whilst trying to reclaim the ring. The main linear structure of the story is displayed in specific flagged locations on the map of Middle Earth. The player is required to choose the next location and in doing so progress to the next chapter of the story. However, to give more depth to the story, the player is given different options at times in between missions that act as large side quests which often take the form of skirmish matches against the enemy with specific objectives. Completing these side missions are not just needed to advance to the next chapter but provide you with extra perks such as allowing you to increase your maximum population by 50 or add a percentage increase to your resource income. It also gives your army more experience, the attack forces you create in the game will follow you through your quest, as long as they don’t die! and you can level them up which makes them stronger, heal faster and also unlocks different abilities. A nice little addition to this is being able to name your different groups of soldiers. The story pretty much follows the same structure as the films, you will begin in the Mines of Moria as the 9 members of the Fellowship leading up to the showdown between Gandalf and the Balrog. This acts as the tutorial mission and eventually the story branches off into all different areas in Middle Earth as you follow all members of the Fellowship. The game includes key moments from all three movies and during the large scale battles such as ‘Helm’s Deep’ and ‘Minis Tirith’ you will see hundreds of soldiers, monsters, hero’s and war weapons on screen as you face off against waves of enemies.

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Gameplay

‘Battle for Middle Earth’ is very fluid in the way that it is played. It is a fast paced RTS that requires you to think quickly and on your feet adapting to world around you. One of the key tasks in ‘BFME’ is gathering resources which can be done in many ways. The simplest and easiest of which is to build farms. Creating farms will provide you with an income and more farms will give you a resource bonus where it will give you a percentage increase. Another way in which you can gather resources/gold is by exploring the world. Hidden across Middle Earth are Wargs, Cave Trolls and Goblins that when defeated and their cave is destroyed will reveal hidden chests containing gold which can be used to put towards buildings and your army. The detail in the game and the amount of upgrades that can be implemented is astounding. All buildings and soldiers can be upgraded with better armor, stronger weapons and fire arrows whereas buildings can be upgraded with stronger walls and perimeter defenses such as trebuchets and arrow towers. One of the only issues that I have with the game is that you can only build upon specific locations marked with your factions crest. The ability to build where you want would have added that extra sense of freedom and a heightened sense of control. This however has been noted and implemented into to sequel where you can freely build where you want and even customise the shape of your base. The game gives you four playable factions to choose from: Gondor, Rohan, Morder and Isengard, each of which having their own unique buildings, army, defenses and heroes. The main purpose of the skirmish matches is to completely destroy the enemies base and take down their central hub, which can take a long time depending on the difficulty chosen before the game. At the higher difficulties, enemies will often rush and attack your base so it is important to ensure that you have defenses at the ready whilst you build your attack force. The attack forces that you can create cover pretty much everything that you have seen in the ‘LOTR’ franchise. Everything from goblins, orcs, soldiers, horse riders, mumakil, trolls and heroes can be used in game, all of which having their own advantages over different types of enemies. Even the mighty Balrog can be spawned for a short period of time when enough magic points have been earned.

Conclusion

Overall, ‘LOTR:BFME’ is a fantastic example of how to use the rights to a movie franchise in the most effective and fan pleasing way. To Lord of the Rings fans, this is the perfect game for you and you will enjoy recreating the scenes from the films/novels whilst building your armies and leveling up your hero characters. With the addition of having an exciting and engaging campaign that allows you to take the role of the bad guys as well as the good characters and the inclusion of a multiplayer mode, there is more than enough in this game to keep you occupied and challenged. Though some heroes such as Gandalf and Aragon are very overpowered and can often wipe out huge battalions, the game is challenging enough to provide a tense and exciting experience of being in Middle Earth. I have many fond memories playing this game for hours on end when it was released and still continue to go back to it, just to relive those experiences and memories. I am a huge ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan and from all of the games that I have played set in the world of Middle Earth, the ‘Battle for Middle Earth’ is in my opinion the greatest out of all the ‘LOTR’ games purely on the amount of detail and love that has gone into the game and how it allows you to experience Middle Earth not just as the heroes, but as the villains too. I highly recommend picking up your sword or bow, mount your horse and give ‘BFME’ a go, I guarantee you will find it as entertaining and fun as I did. In the words of Gandalf the Grey, “fly you fools”.

 

"The world has changed, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air." I personally felt it whilst playing 'The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth' for the first time on my PC back in 2004. The 'Battle for…

Review Overview

Score: - 9

9

A Must Have

The Good: Uses footage, voices and actor's looks from all 3 films. Excellent gameplay with the ability to create huge epic battles. Beautiful visuals with great representations of locations from the films/novels. In-depth story campaign allowing you to choose to be good or evil. Intense and challenging Multiplayer mode. The Bad: Attack forces move quite slow which interrupts the pace needed for big scale battles. Some Hero characters are very overpowered in comparison to other attack forces. Not much freedom in terms of where you build your foundations.

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9

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  • Felipe Doege

    Very nice review, too bad they fucked up the base-building in the second game. If they kept the same formule as the first one, BFME 2 could have been the next warcrat 3, but alas, EA…

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