In Battle for Middle Earth, you can play the forces of light or darkness in the classic world of Tolkein. Either you're the fellowship, struggling to destroy the ring, or you are working for the lands of Mordor, hoping to conquer all.
The game is very much like its Command & Conquer and Warcraft predecessors. You get to choose a side, and then use strategy and warfare to reach your goals. You harvest food, build barracks and stables, and track your progress. As your troops move across the land, you uncover more terrain.
The graphics are relatively well done, with rolling hills, trees, flying birds, and appropriate buildings based on the locations. You end up in the Mines of Moria, Lothlorien, and other well known locations. You often include key members of the story in your parties, from Aragorn to Legolas to Eomer and more.
There is an overview mode where you can choose which territory to work on next, and as you progress through the game you build up your units and your skills. In addition to the main objectives, there are often bonus objectives to give you extra tasks to aim for.
Because of this combination of overall scope and individual battle, the game is much more epic feeling compared to other games out there. The game isn't "realistic" in its graphics but they do draw you into the game. Of course having the game set in Middle Earth is a huge advantage for us fans of the Lord of the Rings story! It is great fun to play a strategy game and see Rohan cavalry thunder across the screen :)
When you work on setting up a strategic situation, and then watch as hundreds of your troops take on hundreds of the enemy, in a true middle earth setting, it really is a thing of beauty.
Perhaps the only downside is that occasionally you end up with a storyline different than the books - but isn't that the point of the game? If you knew what was going to happen, there'd be no point in playing ...
Highly recommended for strategists who enjoy the Lord of the Rings world!