LoTR: Battle for Middle Earth Preview

By Socazius

In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past several years (I guess a room lit only by the warm glow of a computer monitor could count as a cave), you should’ve noticed that Middle Earth mania has been sweeping across the country with a fervor last seen when Hanson released their hit song Mmm Bop. Now, it may be arguable whether or not three bleached-blond one-shot wonders are more satisfying than gigantic battles involving magic, elves, trolls, and pterodactyls mounted by zombies, but note that Hanson didn’t have God-knows-how-many games released about them (Hanson: Sleepover Time Interactive Adventure notwithstanding). Out of all the games inspired by Lord of the Rings, Electronic Arts’ upcoming LoTR: Battle for Middle Earth stands head and shoulders above all of them.

Living Map of Middle Earth

Now you’re probably thinking “oh god, not another LoTR RTS”, but Battle for Middle Earth is far different than what we’ve seen so far. First of all, it’s made by actual experienced RTS developers, the same ones that worked on Command and Conquer: Generals/Zero Hour. They know what they’re doing with these kinds of games, creating what seems to be a good foundation for an RTS game. But most par RTS games have good foundations, what sets them apart is innovation and these Command and Conquer veterans have given the game that needed innovation.

“But Mister Socvazius, the RTS genre is dead; it’s not capable of innovation!” No…random person that refers to everyone as mister; the RTS genre does have a bit of originality left in it before it’s totally dead. As soon as you start up the game’s singleplayer and choose your faction – Rohan (Cavalry powerhouse), Gondor (highly defensive), Isengard (high tech units), and Mordor (huge numbers of troops), that becomes apparent when you gaze upon its world map of Middle Earth. Now, a couple RTS games have a map to give players an idea of what’s going on in the entire world, but none as complicated as BME’s; it isn’t a boring, static map, but one that has things going on like any actual world would – the beautiful water crashes against the beaches, wind blows, lava flows. You can see all of Middle Earth and its major places: Gondor, Mordor, Minas Tirith, The Shire; it’s like watching the actual world from a god’s point of view. Through this god’s-eye view of Middle Earth, you can control your armies and send them against your enemies…be they good or evil. Unlike some games based off of existing stories, where you send your armies and heroes is relatively nonlinear; you can march them pretty much anywhere on Middle Earth, though some battles – such as the Battle of Helms Deep or Minas Tirith – absolutely have to be fought.

Next: The Basics