March 16, 2005

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The Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth 2
PC/XBOX 360 (forthcoming)
EA Los Angeles

I have a few problems with real-time strategy games. I love the idea of them, that I direct a living army of minature soldiers and coordinate their attacks, retreats and rallies and that, with some mental agility and keyboard/mouse alacrity, I can trounce my AI opponent. Unfortunately ...

A) I cannot multi-task.

B) I donít like rushing into things (like, say building an army) until I have explored every avenue.

C) I scream like a spooked junior high school girl when I see my opponentís forces.

By some algebraic equation of the aforementioned variables I am incapacitatingly horrid at the very genre of game that I adore. Yet still, Iíll pay $50 to play the newest, bestest-looking collection of polygon warmongers. Today that is Battle for Middle Earth 2 and it doesnít disappoint. No, I still canít win, even when I choose the defense-oriented Dwarves (one of three new races introduced since the last installment, the others being the ravenous and speedy Goblins and the agile and lethal Elves).

No, I canít win even though nearly all of the mistakes of the prior title have been fixed (no more tied-down base building or horrid unit balance issues). I canít win on the risk-style strategic map, I canít save my wandering heroes from Mordorís Haradrim, or the Rohirrim lancers. I canít win in the limited and superflous sea battles. I canít win when I zoom to ground level and watch my dwarves get massacred in gory detail. I canít win, and I donít even play against real people. Just the predictable computer.

But. There is one moment, when, sometimes, in certain game modes, Gollum creeps invisibly across the map, and if you are lucky enogh to spy and capture him, you can use the One Ring to summon the dark lord Sauron (or the power-mad Galadriel) and use them like a walking nuclear warhead to smite your enemies.

Finally! Victory, without cheat codes even! B+
ó Glenn Given