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The Battle for Middle-earth II is a real-time strategy game. Similar to its predecessor, the game requires that the player build a base with structures to produce units, gather resources, research upgrades, and provide defenses. Units are used to attack the enemy and defend the player’s base. Players win matches by eliminating all enemy unit producing structures. Unlike the first game, the player can build an unlimited number of structures anywhere on the map, allowing for more freedom in base building and unit production. Players can build walls to defend their base; however, the walls can only be constructed within a certain proximity to the players fortress. They can also construct arrow and catapult towers on building plots around a fortress to provide defensive support and basic protection. Along with this, each factions’ fortress is uniquely equipped with a special power reached only by purchasing necessary upgrades. The game’s HUD, called the Palantír, shows the player’s hero units and their abilities, a mini-map, and objectives.
Units are classified into one of several classes: infantry, ranged, pikemen, cavalry, or siege Each unit class has unique strengths and weaknesses, emphasizing the importance of properly matching up units in battle to increase their effectiveness. Hero units are unique in that only one of each can be created; they consist of characters from the novel, such as Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Saruman, Nazgûl, Mouth of Sauron, Arwen and Shelob, or are created via the game’s Hero Creator (only accessible via the PC version). If the player kills Gollum, a non-player character, they are rewarded with the One Ring. The item can be used to summon one of two ring heroes for a price of 10,000 resources, Galadriel and Sauron, depending on the player’s faction. Ring heroes have extremely strong armor and powerful attacks, making them among the game’s most over-powered units.
The War of the Ring mode carried over from the first game in the series combines turn-based strategy elements with real-time skirmishes. Middle-earth is divided into territories; players can construct buildings to produce troops only in a claimed territory. During each turn, the player can move their armies into neutral and enemy territories to take control of them. While neutral territories are conquered by simply entering them, enemy territories must be wrested from the other player by defeating them in a skirmish. Troops can be garrisoned in conquered territories to defend against enemy attacks. When the player chooses to attack another territory, or one of their territories is being invaded by an enemy, they can either simulate the match and let the computer determine the outcome, or play the match by commanding the units in real time. The winner of the skirmish gains the territory, and all surviving units gain experience points. To win the game, players must either control the enemy’s capital territory, or take over a given number of territories in Middle-earth.
The Battle for Middle-earth II introduces three new factions with unique units and heroes: Goblins, Dwarves, and Elves. Rohan and Gondor are combined into one faction called Men of the West. Along with Mordor and Isengard from the first game, there are six playable factions. The troops of Gondor provide a solid offense and defense with standard infantry and archers, and the Rohirrim of Rohan act as elite cavalry. The Elven archers are effective at inflicting damage from a distance, and their support units, the Ents, can perform a combination of melee and siege attacks, they are often considered the strongest defensive faction due to their strong missile units and powerful ‘silverthorn arrows’. Although slow and expensive, Dwarven infantry, pikemen, and axe-throwers are very powerful and well-armored allowing them to prevail in even the longest clashes with enemy troops. A collection of wild creatures and beasts of Middle-earth make up the Goblin faction, this includes goblins, trolls, spiders, and dragons, which are effective in large numbers. Their only advantage is that the goblin archer and soldier units are cheap to make at only 75 resources and build faster than other basic infantry. Isengard troops are highly trained Uruk-hai under Saruman’s command. Berserkers are used by Isengard as one-man armies that move extremely fast and deal significant damage (particularly to enemy buildings and heroes). Additionally, Isengard is the only Evil faction that can build walls. Mordor forces are a mixture of Orcs, Men, Trolls, Mumakil, and Sauron’s lieutenants. Mordor Orcs have tough armor, making them useful for absorbing enemy damage while stronger units attack enemies. Trolls contribute greatly to the Mordor offensives, having strong melee attacks and the ability to throw boulders or wield trees like swords.
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