A glut of real-time strategy. A surfeit. A plethora even. That’s what 2006 feels like: one crispy, creamy confectionary after another. Well brace yourselves, here comes another, shining the light of Elendil onto an original that hardly needed it. Rise of the Witch-king is such an all-around quality follow-up to this spring’s The Battle for Middle-earth II that if you missed the original release, the expansion is all the reason you’ll need to pick up both.
Developer EA LA could have simply turned in the new Angmar faction, here led by a younger version of everyone’s favorite “no man can kill me” Nazgul, the Witch-king. It could have held the line with the new campaign that follows the Witch-king’s northland ascent through missions - like one in which you have to strategically take out different Mallorn Trees that give your enemy devastating special powers - that rate as some of the best you’ll play in the genre.
But no, EA LA had to likewise resuscitate the board-gamey War of the Ring mode and finally make it worth playing by adding features like units that carry through RTS battles, a smarter economy based on generating (instead of waiting for) resources, and a computer A.I. that attacks more judiciously and backs up in a pinch. It couldn’t resist tweaking the power and cost systems in Create-A-Hero mode to let you design more strategically nuanced “walking nukes” for either early or late game bombshells. Even multiplayer, with all the same match modes, is blessed with a dozen new maps.