I should say upfront that the hours me and my friend poured into The Battle for Middle-Earth were spent during the time when my critical faculties hadn’t properly come in yet. Even so, I stand by my claim that it has the best cavalry charges not just in RTSesses, but all of video games. Apart from those in its sequel, which may well be the ones I’m actually remembering.
Why the nostalgic hyperbole? Because I just found out about a fan project to remake EA’s Battle For Middle-Earth in Unreal Engine 4. The plan is for the initial release to be multiplayer only, with the addition of “destructible landscape and surroundings” plus “sophisticated physics”. The plan will not work, because EA have lawyers and they aren’t afraid to use them. But a boy can dream. The devs released the first footage of The Battle For Middle-Earth: Reforged last week. The trailer’s a little tacky, but there’s a good bit where a Balrog ragdolls down a mountain.
Seeing those units again has flung my memory floodgates wide open. I played and enjoyed the campaigns in both games, but I mainly remember me and my friend being ensnared in evening after evening of multiplayer dueling. We dabbled with the multiplayer in the first game, but it was its sequel that got us hooked. He embraced the power of Men early on, picking that faction exclusively while I cycled between Elves, Dwarves and Goblins.
I’d read that playing Goblins well was all about swamping your opponent, sending as many low-tier units into the fray as often and as early as you could. I might have gotten away with that, if it weren’t for the Men’s meddling cavalry units that excel at dealing with hordes. I witnessed countless Goblin deaths at the lances of those cavalry charges, while grudgingly acknowledging that they looked both spectacular and satisfying.
Then I swapped factions, and eventually my mastery of Men exceeded his own. I won one too many games in a row, and we never went back to it.
I bet I could entice him into a few games of this remake though, so it’s unfortunate we’ll probably never get the chance to. The end of this FAQ from the BFME: Remastered devs is heartbreaking, because while they talk about how they think they’re safe from Warner Bros they also ignore that EA have a history of shutting down projects like this. Warner Bros currently hold the Lord Of The Rings license, see, but EA developed and published Battle For Middle Earth.
The team say they’re hoping to release “the first beta-version in the beginning of the next year”.
Even if the project somehow makes it through the EA lawyer gauntlet, when I hold my hopes up to the harsh light of reality I doubt this remake could reignite my love affair with the series. The time of Men has passed.