Preview of Lord of the Rings, Battle for Middle-Earth II: Rise of the Witch King

Gamespot has an exclusive preview detailing their impressions on the upcoming sequel to The Lord of the Rings, Battle for Middle-earth II, title Rise of the Witch King. Here's an excerpt:

A screenshot of the game, Rise of the Witch KingA screenshot of the game, Rise of the Witch KingAccording to producer Amir Rahimi, the upcoming expansion will attempt to fill in about 3,000 years of history from Lord of the Rings lore--three millennia that have been hinted at, but never fleshed out, by any interpretation of Tolkien's works. Specifically, the expansion pack covers everything that happened after the dark lord Sauron was defeated by the human warrior and king known as Isildur, and before the wizard Gandalf returned to the Shire to pay a visit to a young Frodo Baggins. According to the story in the expansion pack, Isildur did defeat Sauron by cutting off the evil warlord's hand, which severed his ties with the mighty "One Ring." But he then took the artifact for himself, and was later waylaid and killed by orcs, and his corpse--and the ring--sank to the bottom of a river.

The upcoming expansion pack for The Battle for Middle-earth II will add a new campaign, a new playable faction, and much, much more.

A thousand years later, the evil influence of the ring brought forth the nazgul--the spectral horsemen that serve the mighty Witch-King. The Witch-King was, of course, the terrifying being that rode a winged Fel beast, splintered Gandalf's magical staff and flung the wizard from his horse in the extended DVD scenes in the motion pictures, and then was ultimately defeated by princess Eowyn in the third movie. In the game, this powerful being instead rides a horse (this is 2,000 years before the events in the motion pictures, after all), and rules the kingdom of Angmar. Angmar borders Arnor, one of Middle-earth's mightiest kingdoms of men split into three parts, and the new single-player campaign will actually place you in the spiny armor of the Witch-King himself in a centuries-long campaign to topple the humans.

Yes, you'll be playing through the single-player campaign from the perspective of an evil army for a change, and your enemies will be an earlier (and larger) faction that resembles the Men of the West from the original BFMEII. Rahimi describes the Witch-King's armies as a "slow, strong, powerful evil faction capable of building walls"--essentially, an evil counterpart to the sturdy dwarves, and something that has been missing from the strategy series so far. Apparently, the faction will possess several sturdy, powerful units that can be accessible for beginners, though it will also have a few units with highly specific abilities that will be very suitable for veteran players who are willing and able to micromanage their armies to victory.

I played a bit of the full game, and enjoyed myself a bit more than I expected. The visuals are crisp (and true to the films), and the gameplay clips along at a nice pace.

Read the entire preview here.

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