Finally, a real-time strategy game for the casual gamer-Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth Anthology. A very basic level game along the same lines is also hosted on DominoQQ for the players to enjoy. The price is right, $20 for three games, but this game’s most attractive feature for making the game play fun is it includes a difficulty setting: Easy, Medium, and Hard. With the Easy setting the player is guaranteed to win as long as they pay some attention to building troops and defenses, and even then the enemy will have surprise attacks that will keep you on your toes and make the game challenging. I haven’t even tried Medium or Hard for I like winning and watching a single battle as it unfolds.
Battle for Middle-Earth also includes options for playing on a less that optimal computer system. The player can turn the graphics low and take away additional features to sacrifice graphics to increase frame rate. I like being able to play new games without having to update my computer constantly and this is one of those games. However, even after making these sacrifices to the visuals, Battle for Middle-Earth still has high graphics and details on every unit.
Powers and heroes can make the difference in battle. You can call reinforcements or summon a temporary power-up for all troops. With heroes you have a stronger combatant and they can lend support to your other units. Many times these are your main defenses against surprise attacks from the enemy.
The original Battle for Middle-Earth is entertaining. It follows the story from the movies, but not too closely, each campaign level has its own unique objectives. In between levels dealing with the story is a Risk game setup. You can choose which territories to attack in order to level-up your heroes and units. The final battle at the Black Gate or Minas Tirith ends the game. It is easier to play the Good Campaign rather than the Evil Campaign because the good guys survive longer to level-up, while the evil guys’ main strength is in sheer numbers. The Risk part of the game can be boring sometimes for every battle is the same, only the story levels are not repetitive.
Battle for Middle-Earth II kept the good features of the original and upgraded the rest. There are still heroes, powers, an evil and good campaign, but it doesn’t follow the movies. The Lord of the Rings atmosphere is still apparent, but every level is unique and fun to play. Also, the game is split. You can play a campaign type game, or you can play a true Risk type game.
Also included in the Anthology is the expansion pack for Battle for Middle-Earth II: The Rise of the Witch King. In addition to the good and evil campaigns there is a new faction made by the witch king and his men. Basically, the Witch King is trying to capture the Kingdom of Agnor after Sauron’s defeat. The campaigns are more difficult to win, even on easy, but the units will retreat if they are losing. Another new feature is to customize how your heroes level-up, do you want one that is cheap enough to arrive early in the game or someone who is all powerful that shows up near the end because it costs so many resources to summon? Again it keeps the atmosphere of the Lord of the Rings environment but without following the movies closely, and each faction receives new heroes never seen before.