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The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-King

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA
Release Date: Nov. 28, 2006

About Greg Hale

I've been an avid PC gamer since the days of DOS and the original Duke Nukems, though I've also dipped into the world of consoles. My primary poison is those of the shooter and MMORPG variety, in which I've stayed competitive for over a decade. Lately, however, I've been branching off into more strategy-based games, such as League of Legends and StarCraft II.

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PC Review - 'The Battle for Middle-earth II - The Rise of the Witch-king'

by Greg Hale on March 18, 2007 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Full of exciting content, including an entirely new faction, completely new single player campaign, and additional units for all six existing factions, The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II, The Rise of the Witch-king, allows players to explore the evil side of Middle-earth. The all new single player campaign’s innovative units will help to tell the story of the evil Witch-king’s rise to power, domination of Angmar and invasion of the great kingdom of Arnor, home to Aragorn’s ancestors. To fully experience the evil side of Middle-earth, gamers can now play as the Angmar faction in skirmish, multiplayer, and War of the Ring modes.

The Rise of the Witch-king is an expansion for Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth II. It looks to make the already-good game great and extend the gameplay that made the original so darned addictive.

You begin as the Witch-king, who is running from the events of Battle for Middle-earth II. With defeat on your heels, you make your way to Angmar to gather enough power to try and beat the good guys. You start off saving Rogash, a troll from the North, who in turn unlocks his troll brethren for your dark purposes. You then go on to unite the Black Númenóreans and the Orcs of Gundabad, setting the stage for the rest of the story.

The epic story progresses as you try to build your empire, and it ends with the King of Gondor coming back down to stop you. The RotWK expansion doesn't dilute the Lord of the Rings history at all and even enhances it by fitting in perfectly with Sauron's diabolical plans.

RotWK provides many new additions to the original game, including a new faction (the Angmar), many new troops for existing factions, a revamped War of the Ring mode, new character classes for the hero builder, and a new Angmar campaign. The War of the Ring mode brings changes to the world map; economics and siege weapons are instituted, and armies in RTS mode are now also viewable from the isometric view. Skirmish mode has also received upgrades and boasts smarter multiplayer A.I.

The new faction, Angmar, is brutal, vicious, and built for straight-out combat. Most of the units start off pretty meekly, but they can be built up to tough, gritty, and all-around hardy enemies. The thrall master can summon spearmen and orcs to aid him, while the Black Numenoreans comprise a majority of the general ground units. The rest of the ground forces consist of: the inordinately powerful Snow and Hill trolls; Dark Rangers, which are ranged units, naturally; Dire Wolves, who are large and fast; the Troll Stone Thrower, a siege weapon; and the magnificent Sorcerers.

Of the new units, the most interesting is the Sorcerers of Angmar. The Sorcerer has a straightforward close-combat attack, but his spells are his most potent weapon. Standard spells are Fell Strength and Black Ice, which boosts your troops and slows down enemies, respectively. Your third and final spell could either freeze enemies, inflict souls upon creatures, or rain down dead bodies upon enemies (mmm, raining bodies). To an effort to balance the game, Sorcerers can only specialize in a single spell from their repertoire, and each spell casting sacrifices an acolyte or two.

The Angmar faction has some distinctively impressive powers. They can freeze some of the landscape, which increases allies' efficiency in dispatching enemies; slow down an enemy's resource creation; freeze some of an enemy's buildings, thereby halting its offense and resource creation; and increase offense and defense. Some other powers require nature's assistance, such as Fell Wind, which pushes together a small group of enemies, and Avalanche, which can put out fires in addition to raining down snow, ice, and rocks. Finally, the Angmar can summon all sorts of creatures to the front lines, including Orcs, Barrow-wights, Mountain Giants, and a werewolf.

The Angmar heroes are good, but certainly not the most powerful heroes in RotWK. They can take on smaller forces with no problem, but pit them against some bigger groups, and well … you're going to need to resurrect them. Backing them up with a sizeable contingent is always a good idea, since they'll provide that extra help in taking out any resistance standing in your way.

Fear not — the rest of the baddies have not been left out. The Witch-king remains a hero for Mordor, but he is also one for Angmar, albeit with a completely different set of abilities. Haradrim Lancers and Black Orcs have been added as basic units. Isengard gets some axethrowers and soldiers from Dunland and a hero unit, the Uruk Deathbringers, who can deal out great damage, but at the expense of their own health. The Goblins gain Half-Troll Swordsmen and a hero unit, the Fire Drake Broods, who are immune to fire and can climb mountains.

The expansion pack also brings some new and useful units to the "good guys." Rohan peasants are upgraded to Rohan Spearmen, effectively becoming the new pikemen. Only used in the final attack against Angmar, the Knights of Dol Amroth are a new hero unit that can plow down any standard enemy. The Elves gain the Lindon Horse Archers and the Noldon Warriors hero unit, which has both ranged and close combat attacks and is completely upgraded upon purchase. The Dwarves get a new hero character, Prince Brand, who also happens to be a human, and the Dwarven Zealots hero unit, which brings new meaning to berserker rage.

Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth II - The Rise of the Witch-king is a fantastic expansion. It does everything right, fixing some troublesome bugs, adding new units and a new faction, and continuing the story without completely destroying the original good-versus-evil concept that has been the staple of the Lord of the Rings universe. All in all, it's a solid game that adds to the fun of the original.

Score: 7.9/10


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