There’s such an over saturation of movies to video games that its hard to tell whats worth playing and what isn’t. Especially when we’ve had several of these types of games come along and wow us with their surprisingly good gameplay. Lord Of The Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth is the next game to saunter up and make us go wow.

Anyone who doesn’t live in a cave has known the hype that the Lord of The Rings movies have created, and the millions of commercial merchandising spawns that they have had. Don’t confuse this game with that crap. BFME brings to the table a lot of things that we’ve seen before in other games, but brings them together and does them well. Unit management isn’t done by single units, instead you create and control battalions who go out and fight for you. You also have the ability to create individual Hero characters (IE: Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Frodo, Borimir, Samwise, and all of the other fellowship people and more) that have special abilities that effect average troops around them or the hero characters themselves. For instance, Aragorn can summon a small army of dead to control. But he doesn’t do this until he has gained enough experience (kind of like Warcraft 3).

The campaign follows (for the most part) the story of the LOTR. Some things will stray from the story, such as you getting to keep Borimir and King Theodin who die in the movies. You can also lose any of the other hero characters and it won’t affect the story unless you objective says “Don’t Let Frodo Die”. Another aspect that doesn’t follow the story is the entire EVIL campaign, where you play as the bad guys who go out and kill all of the good guys. Special detail was paid to certain battles like Minas Tirith, Isengard, Helms Deep, and the Black Gate. Hands down, the best battles in the game.

Graphically, LOTR: BFME is impressive. Animations are smooth, but the game can be a system hog at times, even on high end PC’s. The camera sits in a fixed position for the most part, but you can zoom in swing around if you’d like. This isn’t really necessary though since you can see most everything from where the camera usually is. Sound design is also amazing, with voice acting from the actors that’s top notch and music that sucks you in.

I did have a few problems here and there. Unit path finding is ridiculous at times. I told Gandalf to get his ass to one place, instead he ran away and got stuck on top of the castle walls chatting it up with the elves. Dammit Gandalf, they look like girls but they aren’t! Also, in multi-player you have the option to play as either Isengard, Mordor, Rohan, or Gondor. Don’t bother choosing because Gondor is way to over powering with Gandalf, the army of dead, and its ability to build more things to boost economics, units, and the ability to win the damn game. Another thing is even when your units are getting shot at with burning arrows, the AI will do nothing. Most of the time the conversation between your burning units goes like this, “Wow, it’s pretty hot out. Hey, Jim, you seem to have caught fire with a burning arrow in your back,” to which Jim replies, “Eh, it happens.”

Overall, aside from a few gripes, Lord Of The Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth is an entertaining game that any LOTR fan will want to play. And regardless of what you want to play in multiplayer, just pick Gondor and get it over with.

Score (Out Of 10): 8.3