There are a lot of reasons to be pumped up for next month’s release of The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II on Xbox 360. Not only do we stand to get a fresh serving of pure Tolkien goodness from a team that has proven itself pretty skilled at adapting the license, but we’re also witnessing the first next-gen attempt at a real-time strategy game - a genre that has been woefully scarce on consoles.
Now you can add another incentive to the list. Following our recent hands-on session with the multiplayer portion of the game, we’re convinced BFME II could also provide one of the most thrilling online experiences currently available through Xbox Live.
We spent most of our time battling in the basic versus mode and found all of the traditional RTS standbys present. Between two and four players chose their race and starting position on a map, and then set to building a fortress, amassing an army and sniffing out the competition. Collecting resources was crucial not only to acquiring the money we needed to buy new structures and upgrades, but also to increasing the total number of units we could command at any given time. Last man - or dwarf, elf, goblin, orc or Ringwraith - left standing won the match.
This is where BFME II sets itself apart – the undeniable appeal of waging war in a miniature Lord of the Rings universe. In addition to the six very different races, we were given over 35 multiplayer maps to select from – every one of them faithfully recreated from either the films or the books. A few, such as Mount Doom and Helm’s Deep, even have immediately recognizable landscape features that can figure into the match’s strategy.