The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth
The system works with units of several puppets and in as such more related to the popular 'Total War'-series than to more traditional RTS games like Age of Empires or its predecessor in several ways, The War of the Ring. Still it has many characteristics of a more traditional game, like the 'top down' camera stance, resource gathering system and relatively low number of units on the field. Against this are put some progressive issues in the game, like the single resource type, money, as upposed to the five different resources from Age of Empires or two from The War of the Ring. Also there are two different strategy modes, which shows some Total War-influence, of which one is a strategical overview of the south of the western part of Middle-earth. In this part of the game a player can decide, within certain borders, which areas of Middle-earth one wants to attack with its armies. Each area gives certain different bonusses to your armies, or create corridors along which your armies may pass. The other part of the game is the battlefield mode, when you can build and use your army to defeat the enemy army in one area. This dual system clearly shows some Total War-influence. Another progressive feat of the game is the strategic use of special powers, and bonusses provided by for example your heroes or villains like Gandalf, Aragorn or Saruman. This enhanced version of the system already used in The War of the Ring creates even more strategic possibilities for the player but makes balancing harder: the fast-running and far-shooting Legolas can easily kill and entire very expensive Orc army controlled by a computer player. The last (not the least) of the progressive features is the limits to which one can build a base: only a limited number of building spaces is available on a map, thus limiting the number of buildings or defenses one may build. This does make balancing better as even the best possibly defended fortress may fall within a few enemy sieges, thus forcing the defender to break out regularly, and, even better, prevent from getting in such a situation, while still not having to fear being destroyed by a single sneaky unit of enemy soldiers who secretly passed your defense units when you were waging a big battle somewhere else on the map, as can happen in The War of the Ring.
Next to two different single player campaigns, one Good and one Evil, one can also play online against human players. This system uses the custom battlemap system, which uses the campaign maps without their specific objectives. One can, in custom battles as well as online, choose between four different factions, being Rohan, Gondor, Isengard and Mordor, each with different types of units and balanced against each other: Isengard is fairly cheap with focus on technological advancements, Rohan focuses on Riders and Archers, and thus a more strategic command style, Gondor on defense and very strong, but expensive units with possible technological advancements and Mordor on lots and lots of simple, weak masses of units with a few weak units with very strong attacks, and therefor also can benefit from a more strategic command, though sacrificing minions may here be a very acceptable and effective tactic.