Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth II – Rise of the Witch-King

This is an expansion pack to a game which is a sequel to a game based upon a series of movies which are based upon a book. With this many layers of distance between this work and the source, there is the danger that the story being corrupted by added influences. In all truth, Peter Jackson and his people and subsequently Electronic Arts have added a lot of original content to the tale, but this has not come at the detriment of the story.

Synopsis

The game’s campaign mode follows the rise and fall of one of the most enigmatic characters from Tolkien’s works– the Witch-King of Angmar. The story enters many years after Isildur defeated Sauron and the War of the Last Alliance ended. This event was dramatized in prologue to the Jackson films. The Witch-King, leader of the wraith-like Nazgul, has set himself upon a quest to conquer the northern kingdom of Arnor. In doing so he conspires with many creatures and brigands to undo the house of men. Your quest in the game is to lead the forces of Angmar to victory, and in a brief epilogue mission, to lead the forces of Elves and Men to destroy Angmar in retaliation.

What’s New

With every expansion pack, new content floods a user’s senses. With respect to the story, most of the new units were created and added by the development team. Some significant additions were the Angmar factions hero units beside the Witch-King himself. They include a Nazgul lieutenant called Morgomir, a somewhat intelligent troll swordsman known as Rogash, a human conspirator named Hwaldar, and the enslaved ghost of a Arnorian captain called Kharsh, the Whisperer. These characters did little to effect the main story of the game. Their primary role was to make Angmar an adaptive and robust faction able to face off against the other six (Dwarves, Men, Elves, Goblins, Mordor, and Isengard) in a sustained campaign. These characters were crafted with respect to the source material, and were not disparaging to it in the slightest.

The other units for the Angmar faction include a variety of hill men, wolves, ghosts, orcs, trolls, and other beasts known to be in the service of evil from the books. Furthermore, most of the new units for the other factions, such as the Arnorian kings, Prince Brand of Dale, or the orc raider Azog, are literary in origin.

Everything Falls Apart

The Witch-King’s desire for power is rooted in Sauron’s dominion over him. Despite that, he is one of the most ruthless villains in Tolkien’s stories. Though his overall plan is in the service of Sauron, he takes a very personal stake in the outcome of these events. Throughout this fiction, and the greater worlds of the films and books, the Witch-King speaks of himself proudly and refers to his own innate superiority. This allows the player to taste what it is like to be conqueror instead of defender, and to relish in the suffering he or she spreads across the land.

Despite this, the inclusion of the epilogue section of this game is a welcome treat. It allows you to take on the role of righteous warrior, and slay the characters you previously commanded. Despite your efforts in the epilogue, the damage to Arnor is done, and the lost kingdom stays that way until well after the events of The Lord of the Rings are complete.

Closing

Ultimately, this expansion is another chapter in the epic of Middle-Earth. The previous games were narrated by Christopher Lee, Ian McKellan, and Hugo Weaving as their respective characters from the films. This expansion is narrated by the actor who provided the voice for Glorfindel, who is a primary hero of the epilogue campaign. This minor detail draws the expansion together with its sister titles, bringing to life one of the more obscure yet dramatic chapters in Tolkien’s legend.

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