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Real-time Strategy



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Q4 2006



- New Race and Units

- More Hero building Content

- More War of the Ring mode



- Material doesn't feel fresh

- Poor Unit AI



Review: Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II (PC)

Review: Perimeter: Emperor's Testament (PC)

Review: Joint Task Force (PC)



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The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II - Rise of the Witch King *gasp*

Score: 7.0 / 10


The last expansion pack I played for an RTS game was the Dark Crusade expansion for the Warhammer 40K series, Dawn of War. Having now played this game on the heels of that stellar expansion pack, I can once again appreciate really what Dark Crusade brought to the table. This doesn't mean that Rise of the Witch King is bad; it just means that it doesn't exceed the standards of what most PC gamers will expect from an expansion pack. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as the game does what would normally be expected of it. In this case, that would mean, providing additional content and to do so in a manner that would be acceptable to fans of the original game.


rise of the witch king          rise of the witch king


Rise of the Witch King isn't a reason for gamers who passed on Battle for Middle Earth 2 to now pick up the game and this expansion pack. In fact, fans who had a lukewarm feeling towards the original game may also decide to give the Rise of the Witch King a miss. There is the new race, Angmar, new powers, and a smattering of new units and revisions for the existing races. The problem is that the new content doesn't feel particularly new. The Angmar faction isn't particularly original as we have seen trolls and "evil men" units before. Also, the technology tree of the race isn't unique; the same buildings and upgrades are researched as




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they always are in the same, or race equivalent buildings as other factions in the game. In an age where other RTS games offer truly unique factions in a game, the old formula of mirroring another race and changing the skins on those units is dated. While not on that level of disappointment, it is without question an aspect of the game that is a letdown.


The single player campaign is fairly challenging, if in a 


somewhat tedious manner. I played the campaign on the easy mode, and I still found myself getting into a jam on occasion, as the AI controlled factions would send wave after wave of enemy units to raid my base. By repeating a simple strategy of holding raiding parties away from my base by besieging the opponent base, and then sending siege artillery to take down the enemies buildings, I was able to these missions. Of particular note, in relation to this strategy is the imbalance of power afforded to the siege units. This imbalance ultimately undermines any kind of success through different strategies and takes this element of achievement out of the game as management of your faction's development becomes singular in nature. This problem is further compounded by the fact that completing missions can take quite a while as the process of having your forces destroyed, holding off the enemy, rebuilding your forces, then attacking the enemy is repeated over and over. Repeating the same strategy in different missions, was not that much fun just as repeating the same strategy within the mission over and over was not that fun.


rise of the witch king          rise of the witch king


The unit AI also seemed to have some problems with attacking when attacked and in attacking successfully when in a large group. There were many cases where I found that units would just stand there and take arrow hits all day without attempting to fight back. Also, there would be other times when I would send a large force to decimate a smaller, weaker force of enemy units and only one group of units would actually be attacking that force, while the other groups of units would just crowd around behind the attacking group and try to find a way to the enemy. In other cases, I found that I could rain down artillery fire on enemy buildings with enemy troops standing right next to said buildings just watching as their buildings were reduced to rubble. In yet other cases I found enemy units that would simply stand next to my unguarded mills without attacking them.


The additions of new units will be great for those playing multiplayer as it will add some level of freshness to the game. The new heroes and units for each faction will no doubt bring a little bit more staying power to the online community playing this game. These will also add something to those that wish to play through the newly expanded War of the Ring mode again.


For those gamers that were fans of the original from a single player aspect, Rise of the Witch King doesn't really add that much more such it should grab your attention. For die-hard Lord of the Rings fans, the minimal content additions will likely be enough, just for the chance to play through a single player campaign as the Witch King. However for the remaining, casual Lord of the Rings fans, and those uninitiated to the Battle for Middle Earth series, this expansion pack will not serve as reason a compelling reason to play the game now.


- Mark Leung

(February 2, 2007)


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