There are two kinds of Lord of the Rings fans: film buffs and bookworms. When the popcorn-eaters boot up the real-time strategy contest Battle for Middle-earth II, they'll be delighted to find that the movie's clashes weren't the only ones fought in the war for the One Ring. Meanwhile, the folks who liked the saga before Peter Jackson made it cool will finally get to see some of the conflicts that Tolkien only mentioned in passing. Everybody's in for a treat, since Battle for Middle-earth II scratches all itches.
Both groups of fans want to see their favorite moments replayed with visual splendor, and the game definitely delivers that. The graphics have received a major upgrade from the already impressive first game; individual units feature some eerily lifelike animations. Too bad it lacks a cinematic camera mode to allow you to really appreciate all the pretty stuff - we'd like to zoom back and take it all in at once or change camera angles on a whim.
A major gripe about the first BFME from veteran RTS players was its base building, which was simplified for novice players to the point of absurdity. Thankfully, BFMEII corrects this and takes off the training wheels. You can build wherever you damn well please, and often must: to get the most out your resource buildings, you often need to spread them out on the map. Tactically, this makes picking off enemy resources easy and defense a lot trickier.