Your base is more than just a base here – it might be a lofty elven castle or a dark goblin stronghold – and your resource farms can be anything from lava tunnels to magical trees. Plus, if you think that watching a bunch of pixel-sized soldiers hack endlessly away at each other onscreen sounds boring, you’ve obviously never had a fire-spewing Balrog or a boulder-tossing Ent join the fray.
The game, however, doesn’t rely solely on its license. The strategy appears to be surprisingly deep and varied as well. For example, we were able to play defensively, allocating our riches towards impenetrable fortress upgrades and soldier enhancements, just as easily as we were able to go on a reckless but effective offense, swarming our enemy with endless untrained units and then casting a devastating Power spell (the huge writhing sea creature did nicely) at exactly the right moment. Factors such as elevation, starting location, troop formations and recruited heroes can drastically alter the dynamics of a battle, too.
Although the versus mode should keep any LOTR geek or RTS aficionado happy for hours, the game offers plenty of other ways to humiliate your buddies online. We’ll have coverage of these additional multiplayer modes, as well as BFME II’s good and evil single-player campaigns, coming your way soon.