I don’t normally play that many video games, partly because I’m too cheap to shell out the kind of money you need to buy games let alone a console to play them on and partly because I have been using a computer that refuses to play games any more advanced that minesweeper, or maybe Tetris at a push. As a result of this the last video game I bought was Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II (henceforth to be known as bfme 2), which was released in 2006 and was still far to advanced to run on my Stone Age computer. As such I have only just got round to playing now that I have my beautiful new laptop, so I’m now going to do a very retrospective review of it because I feel like it.
The reason a bought it was that I loved the first game (bfme 1). I’m not exactly a gaming connoisseur, so I haven’t got much to compare it with, but it is certainly one of the best games I have every played. Which is why I was so disappointed with the sequel.
It seems that the monkeys at EA looked at their game and tried to list all the features of it that maked is different from your bog-standard Real Time Strategy (oh sorry did I forget to mention that bfme 1 and 2 are RTS’s?) and them rip all those bits out, making the game little more than an Age of Empires clone.
The first game incorporated an ‘open world’ aspect to the campaign game; you could choose were your armies should attack next. In the sequel they removed this bit, replacing it with a completely linear progression from one battleground to the next. Another great feature of the original campaign game was that you got to keep your army from one battle to the next, so you could build up a good army before the big important battles which were always joyfully difficult. In bfme 2 however you might as well just hurl your entire army at the enemy without a care for how many of them die because you know you won’t be seeing them again anyway.
The worst part is that they made the campaign game criminally short; it can be completed in a weekend, leaving you with nothing but samey skirmishes and a very poorly done turn based Total War-esc gimmicky thing that is completely pointless and extremely dull. The campaign game feels like it was originally meant to be an expansion pack that the developers decided they could make more money out of by releasing as part of a complete game
Another great thing about bfme 1 was that you could only build buildings in certain places on the map where you could set up camp. This lead to a territory control problem in the game, meaning that you couldn’t just put all your buildings and your entire base in one corner of the map and wait for the enemy to attack because you couldn’t get enough resources to build a good enough army. In bfme 2 they have removed this restriction so you can, well, do exactly what I just described. Similarly the larger camps in bfme 1 had walls that you could put soldiers on and fill all your enemies with arrow as they approached. In bfme 2 you can no longer put people on the walls, which can now be built anywhere and are about as useful as the British Government (i.e not at all for those who don’t understand satire…).
I suppose I should judge the game on its own merit rather than constantly compare it with its predecessor because we all know that sequel are hardly ever as good as the original. Not that this makes the game any better; the AI is still completely thick; half your soldiers will charge headlong at the enemy when they approach and get carved into several pieces because they failed to realised that they’re archers and that charged at Gandalf in the hope that they’ll scare him into running away. This problem could probably be solved by building walls, but they would only collapse as soon as the enemy coughed too near them. This problem was solved in the original by allowing you to attach infantry to archers to protect them against their suicidal nature… no wait I was supposed to be judging the game in its merits without reference to the original.
There is a rather gimmicky ‘create your own hero’ mechanic which (as the name suggests) allows you to create a hero, who will be exactly how you would like to be, or a character from another one of your favourite fantasy series or a complete joke. For the record I went for the latter, leaving me with an elf called ‘sexy’, a dwarf called ‘stumpy’ and a troll called ‘trolling’ oh the wit. In any case there is no obvious place to use these new characters unless you play online against everyone else’s ideal selves or play the skirmishes against the computer, which are just boring and completely pointless.
So overall; a shit game, wasn’t worth whatever I paid for it whenever I bought it and would not even be worth whatever it would cost you from Amazon (or any were else for the matter) now. Buy the original, it will cost you less and is a much better game. The most worrying thing about it I suppose is that the game was awarded Game of the Year by the blundering fuckwits who read ING in 2006. Must’ve been a slow year…