The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth

From Tolkien Gateway
"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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The name The Lord of the Rings refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see The Lord of the Rings (disambiguation).
This article is about the game. For the the book by Fleming Rutledge, see The Battle for Middle-earth (book).
The Lord of the Rings- The Battle for Middle-earth box.jpg
The Lord of the Rings
The Battle for Middle-earth
Video game
DeveloperElectronic Arts
PublisherElectronic Arts
PlatformMicrosoft Windows
Release date6 December 2004
GenreReal-time strategy

The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth is a 2004 real-time strategy video game developed by Electronic Arts, based on the events of The Lord of the Rings film series and the first entry of The Battle for Middle Earth series.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

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 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.

Factions[edit | edit source]

The game features for factions (two for good, and two for evil):

Each faction has their different types of units and are 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.

Game modes[edit | edit source]

The game contains 2 main game modes, Solo Play and Multiplayer. Solo Play contains the Campaign Mode and Skirmish Mode, while Multiplayer allows for online and LAN matches. There is also a Battle School Mode, which serves as the game's tutorial and consists of several pre-recorded games and cinematics to show the player the basics on how to play the campaign and skirmish modes.

Campaign[edit | edit source]

A world view of Middle-Earth, shown at the start of the campaign mode
World view during Campaign mode

The Campaign Mode includes 2 different campaigns, the Good and Evil campaing. On starting a new campaign, the player can choose the difficulty (Easy, Medium or Hard). Each campaing follows the perspective of either the forces of the West (Gondor, Rohan and the Fellowship of the Ring) or the East (Mordor and Isengard) during the events of the Lord of the Rings.

Upon choosing a campaign, the player starts on the Living World Map, a sky view of the map of Middle Earth. From here, the player can access each scenario available to start the Battle Mode. On the World Map, the player can check all the territories of Middle-Earth, all armies, as well as where each hero or group of heroes are located. This offers a stategic side to the gameplay, as by measuring the size of the army from the other forces, the player gets a grasp of how strong an upcoming battle can be, and how strong their forces must be in order to stand a chance.

There are two types of scenarios on each campaign, mandatory and optional. Mandatory scenarios are levels in which the player is forced to play on a specific scenario in order to move forward with the story. These levels tend to represent a important point of the story, such as the Battle of the Hornburg or the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, to name a few. On the other hand, optional scenarios are levels the player can choose to play or not. These levels tend to be available between each mandatory scenario, with the player being required to pass a minimun amount of levels in order to access the next mandatory level.

After choosing a scenario and entering Battle Mode, the player must complete a set of objectives in order to win the level. Most objectives go on the line of defeating all opposing forces or surviving a certain amount of time. Once the player finishes a level, they are given rewards according to their perfomance during te battle, which is measured by factors such as number of resources, units created and lost, enemy units defeated, among others. Additionally, each scenario has one or more bonus objectives, which give additional rewards to the player. Rewards range from additional Power Points, to increasing the maximum size of the armies.

Unlike most RTS games where units trained on each scenario (aside from heroes) are resetted after each level, armies are kept from the moment they were trained all the way until the end of the campaign or if they are killed. Experience, as well as unit upgrades, are also kept, which means an army will increase its strenght the more battles it participated in. This encourages the player to enter as many optional scenarios as possible, as they will require the additional levels to prepare their armies for the final battle.

Good campaign[edit | edit source]

The Good campaign starts with the Fellowship entering Moria, where they must navigate through the mountain, fighting hordes of goblins. After going all the way to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, a balrog appears, and Gandalf alone fights the fallen Maiar. Meanwhile, the army of Rohan (led by Éomer), is send to defend one of several territories of the region from the armies of Isengard. The story then switches from the Fellowship's journey to Mordor to Éomer's army freeing more territories until the events of the Breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen.

After Éomer defends two more territories, a group of Rohirrim arrive at the eaves of Fangorn Forest, following a group of Uruk-hai. Sometime after the initial contact, Éomer forces arrive to the skirmish and finish off all the remaining enemies, giving Pippin and Merry, who had been previously captured, a chance to escape to the forest.

After another skirmish, Gandalf joins Éomer, while another Rohan army lead by King Théoden (who is now accompanied by the Three Hunters and Éowyn) goes to Helm's Deep to prepare for the final battle against the forces of Isengard. Here, the forces of Rohan must survive until reinforcement arrive, while receiving aid from groups of Elven archers and Rohan refugees who arrive before the battle. Shortly after the battle and with Isengard armies decimated, the last of Saruman's forces are attacked by Treebeard and a group of Ents.

Meanwhile, on the territories disputed by Gondor and Mordor, Faramir (momentarily joined by Frodo and Sam) and his group of Rangers are ambushing some of Sauron's forces, starting small skirmishes throughout the land until Sauron launches an attack at Minas Tirith. While this is happening, Sam has been able to pass through Shelob's Lair, freeing some Gondor soldiers trapped there and starting a small battle on Cirith Ungol.

With Sauron's forces pushed back to Mordor, the armies of Gondor and Rohan must pressure Sauron to flush his main forces out of Mordor to give Frodo and Sam a chance to finish their quest. From here, the forces of good can attack and liberate territories with remmants Isengard and Mordor's armies. After defending and freeing some of these territories, Sauron will movilize his forces to the Black Gate, where the Men of the West can choose to keep attacking other territories or go straight to the final battle.

The final battle takes place at the entrance of the Black Gate, where both Rohan and Gondor's armies participate. Depending on the stategy, either Gondor of Rohan arrive as the main forces for the battle, with the other army arriving as reinforcement some time later. The armies must survive against the last forces of Sauron long enough to give Frodo and Sam time to arrive at Mount Doom. After a long battle, Barad-dûr finally falls thanks to the efforts of the ringbearer, signaling the end of the campaign.

Evil campaign[edit | edit source]

The Evil campaign begins in Isengard, where Saruman starts breeding Uruk-hai to kickstart Sauron's war efforts on the lands of Rohan. After taking out a scouting unit and a small number of ents who attack Isengard upon seeing Saruman chopping down the forest, Saruman moves his forces to Fangorn, in order to attack the Entmoot and kill Treebeard.

While Saruman's forces are ravishing the lands of Rohan, Lurtz is successful on his assault of the Fellowship, defeating most of the heroes, albeit Frodo and Sam manage to escape. With his task complete, Lurtz and the rest of his army start the attack on Rohan's territories. After various skirmishes, (including a succesful siege on the city of Edoras) both armies start their final assault on Helm's Deep. Although the fortress is well defended, and the forces of good receive reinforcements in the form of the few surviving Ents, as well as Éomer forces, Hornburg inevitabily falls, bringing the end of Rohan.

With Rohan's fall, only Gondor remains as the last bastion against Sauron's will, so the Dark Lord prepares for the last part of the war. For this, he first moves his forces to the region of Near Harad, in order to "convince" the Haradrim to join his cause, either by offering large rewards or by force. With the size of his army exponentially increase, Sauron begins his assault on the lands of Gondor, while Saruman continues his skirmish on the remaining territories of Rohan not siezed yet. As the fortified city of Osgiliath falls to the forces of Mordor, the remaining forces of Gondor retreat to Minas Tirith, leaving the rest of the land unprotected from the invasion.

At the same time, Frodo and Sam arrive to Cirith Ungol, in order to sneak into Mordor. But somehow, Smeagol was able to alert the guards on the post, and a small army is waiting the hobbits there. Alas, even with the help of a considerable number of gondorian soldiers, the heroes fall, and the One Ring is finally on the hands of its former master. As if it were to sense the full power of Sauron back, a balrog suddenly appears in front of Barad-dûr, increasing the strenght of his army even more.

Now that the One Ring has been retrieved, the fall of the free peoples of Middle-Earth is inevitable. The forces of Sauron and Saruman relish the last moments of the war, attacking every land they want until they set their eyes on Minas Tirith. While a small battalion of Rohirrim arrive to Gondor's aid, their forces are simply to small to even cause a dent to Sauron's army. Even the Dead Men of Dunharrow, commanded by Aragorn, cannot stop the might of Mordor. Finally, after a long battle, the White City falls, and with it, falls all hope for Middle-Earth.

Skirmish[edit | edit source]

Skirmish mode is the regular battle mode from the campaign, where one can play against the CPU or another player (for Multiplayer mode). This system uses the custom battlemap system, which uses the campaign maps without their specific objectives. The objective is to defeat each enemy player by destroying all of their settlements (castles, camps and outposts).

For the singleplayer skirmish mode, the game offers a leveling system for each faction, in which the player increases their level by winning against the CPU depending on the difficulty level. This leveling system does not offer any additional features on gameplay, serving only as a way to measure the player's experience using a particular faction.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Role Actor
Orcs, cattle Dee Bradley Baker
Aragorn Chris Edgerly
Éomer Chris Edgerly
Legolas Crispin Freeman
Boromir James Horan
Gimli John Rhys-Davies
Treebeard John Rhys-Davies
Saruman Christopher Lee
Gandalf Ian McKellen
Theoden Phil Proctor
Éowyn Kim Mai Guest
Lurtz Isaac C. Singleton Jr.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Aggregate Scores
AggregatorScore
Metacritic82/100[1]
GameRankings82.27% [2]
Review Scores
PublicationScore
Eurogamer8/10 [3]
GamePro4.5/5 [4]
GameRevolution7/10 [5]
GameSpot8.4/10 [6]
GameSpy4/5 [7]
IGN8.3/10 [8]

The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth received generally positive reviews. Reviewers on Metacritic praised both graphic and sound design, specially on the voice acting department, while others noted the overall lack of complexity of the strategy system compared to other RTS games. [9]

The site Eurogamer compares it to Rome: Total War, praising the use of groups of soldiers per unit, giving the gameplay a sense of grand-scale battles. The reviewer also places a huge emphasis on both the simplicity of the resources system as well as the graphic design of the game, stating that:

Graphically, Battle for Middle-Earth is one of the best looking strategy games out there; it can strain a little when there are too many units on screen, but in general it's an impressive feast for the eyes, with every major location from the movies recreated in loving detail.
Eurogamer

Sales show this trend, as the game, as of end of 2004, EA reported that The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth had reached the platinum status, meaning that it had sold at least one million copies worldwide, driving the companies overall sales during that period.[10]

External links[edit | edit source]

References

Licensed video games set in Middle-earth
 Melbourne House: The Hobbit (1982) · Lord of the Rings: Game One (1985) · Shadows of Mordor (1988) · War in Middle Earth (1988) · Crack of Doom Software Adventure (1989) · Riders of Rohan (1990)
 Interplay Productions: The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (PC) (1990) · The Lord of the Rings, Vol. II: The Two Towers (1993) · The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (SNES) (1994)
 Vivendi Universal: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) · The Hobbit (2003) · War of the Ring (2003)
 Electronic Arts: The Two Towers (2002) · The Return of the King (2003) · The Third Age (2004) · The Battle for Middle-earth (2004) · Tactics (2005) · The Battle for Middle-earth II (2006) (The Rise of the Witch-king (2006)) · Conquest (2009) · Heroes of Middle-earth (2023)
 Turbine/Standing Stone Games: The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (2007-) (Mines of Moria (2008) · Siege of Mirkwood (2009) · Rise of Isengard (2011) · Riders of Rohan (2012) · Helm's Deep (2013) · Mordor (2017) · Minas Morgul (2019)) · War of Three Peaks (2020) · Fate of Gundabad (2021) · Before the Shadow (2022)
 Warner Bros: Aragorn's Quest (2010) · War in the North (2011) · Guardians of Middle-earth (2012) · Kingdoms of Middle-earth (2012Armies of The Third Age (2013) · Shadow of Mordor (2014) · Shadow of War (2017) · Rise to War (2021)
 Glu Games: Middle-Earth Defense (2010)
 Traveller's Tales: Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game (2012) · Lego The Hobbit (2014)
 Daedalic Entertainment: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (2023)
 North Beach Games: The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria (2023)