I haven't played that much of it (hence my comment). It is a small squad tactics game with some RPG elements (your characters earn xp and can spend them on various powers and items). It has basic elements such as facing, zone of control, and terrain bonuses.
If you like TBS and LotR then my guess is you'd enjoy this one. There's some novelty to commanding familiar characters. The game looks pretty good, though identifying characters at a distance can be tricky. The cut scenes introducing each battle are very well done (i.e. movie clips) just as one would expect (the music too).
I only played a few of the battles and there was some decent variety, from kill all to escape, etc.
The biggest knock I can give is that while I enjoyed fiddling with it, it just didn't compel me to continue playing it. Bear in mind this is not unusual for me and I have quite a few games that I have barely scratched the surface of. I tend to play my games in a streaky fashion where I focus largely on one or two at a time.
I don't think this one sold that well. It should be available used for about 25 bucks, which isn't a bad buy-in price if you like TBS.
I'll post my initial remarks from an OO thread below:
Posts are separated by --
If you look at the very last post that was probably why I put it down in the first place and just didn't feel compelled to go back.
Ok, went through the tutorial (same as the first mission) and the first two Fellowship missions on easy difficulty. You can also play the entire campaign as the host of Mordor and destroy the Fellowship.
The presentation is very nice. Characters and backgrounds look good. Music is pretty, nice ambient sound effects. There are cutscenes from the movies between missions that introduce the mission for you. They are a bit chopped together (they cut from scene to scene), for instance one moment showing Elron talking to the counil and saying someone has to bear the ring to Mt Doom and the next showing the Fellowship in a Blizzard electing to take the pass through the Mines, but they look great otherwise (letterboxed presentation) and so far do a good job of introducing each encounter.
The interface and issuing commands is simple but reasonably effective. The camera (controlled with analog stick) isn't perfect (not entirely free roaming) but not bad, especially for this sort of game. Movement is conducted with they d-pad. Shoulder buttons do various things based on context, but generally used for selecting characters and targets. Face buttons are used to bring up stats, select skills and such, plus the obligatory confirm orders. My only real interface gripe (and it is trivial) so far is that the X button exits from the hero upgrade screen to the main map and I keep hitting it when trying to buy skills.
Missions are rewarded based on rounds to complete them as well as survival of your characters. Characters receive experience based on their performance and it should be noted that even characters not in a given scenario earn a little bit. They gain levels with enough xp, unlocking new skill choices (I just got Frodo a stealth ability and Gimli an attack with a high chance to stun). These skills use up a mana-type pool (blue bar and all).
First mission is deal X damage to the witch king (X varies with difficulty level). I actually did quite poorly the first time through on this mission (even on easy) by allowing Aragorn to get taken down, which let the wringwraiths get in Sam and Frodo's faces. Because of zone of control, they couldn't then use their ranged attacks (they throw rocks) at the Witch King. I did much better the second time.
Second mission is in the Mines of Moria where you must get off the bridge past a cave troll while Gandalf holds off the Ballhog...I mean Balrog. The Balrog was quite impressive looking in my opinion. Completing that one openened up an optional mission which is a defeat all, so the objectives are quite varied so far.
The stunning skill I just obtained probably would have been a big help in that mission because you could have stunned the troll and run past (you can't just move past him because of zone of control). The skill effects are relatively understated so far, but to me that is in keeping with the style of the stories. This isn't Final Fantasy and shouldn't look like it.
I forgot to mention there are separate movement and combat phases. All orders are issued for a phase then it all plays out at once. Combat resolution is fast, almost too fast as it is a bit hard to keep up with the camera jumping from character to character at first.
Overall impression thus far is very positive. The presentation is slick. I can't really evaluate it critically as a strategy game because in all honesty I don't play them a tremendous amount. My instinct is that this is a light, easily approachable game that does have some depth to it (there are terrain effects, zones of control, etc), but that hardcore strategy types will probably consider it fluffy. There are an array of stats Strength, Agility, etc. for each character and you can upgrade these with skills, lending it a distinct RPG feel (which is certainly appropriate). It remains to be seen whether you end up having enough cash to buy everything or whether the choices you make will really have meaning on how your heroes/bad guys play down the road.
The battlefields have some variety, with raised areas that give accuracy bonuses to ranged, for instance. The manual indicates there is stuff like mud that has other effects (e.g. decreased speed) but I haven't seen that initially. I know that one of the missions I have yet to do has columns you can hide behind (this is mentioned in the tips given before starting the mission).
One other thing I forgot to mention is that although the back of the box says "Build a massive army" the missions at the start present more of a squad-based game on very small maps, which fits with the opening of first movie. I'm interested to see how the later stuff will play out (e.g. Helmsdeep). The focus seems to be on the major characters so it wouldn't surprise me if the game handled the AI for the bit players in the larger scale events, but we'll see.
So I didn't realize this before, but the optional defeat all mission I opened up is the first I've seen where I have a) grunt troops in the form of a gondor soldier and 3 gondor rangers and b) get to choose which heroes I want to use (you pick two...I went with Gimli and Aragorn).
There are 2 cave trolls (on opposite sides of the map naturally) and 5-6 goblins which come in from the sides. I focused on the trolls initially, which left me getting picked apart from the gobbos. I actually did ok, losing only the soldier (nasty crit from one of the trolls) until Gimli fell on the very last round (I knew I should have used that leaf of dried stuffamabob I'm carrying).
The mission that follows this has a victory condition wherein Frodo must survive. That should be interesting. I'm very reluctant to spend my winnings on healing items rather than permanent skills.
Some minor niggles:
It seems that with some skills you can use, the game won't automatically target the right spot. For instance, I use Dunedin Wrath, which adds damage to Gimli's melee attack and the targeting cursor gets put one spot behind where it should be and the map displays the red I can't attack here image. Not a big deal, you just have to bump the cursor over, but it is annoying.
It can be a bit hard to tell what things on the screen are when they get a moderate distance from you. I would bounce between characters to make sure I was moving toward the right thing when in the movement phase.
I don't want to make a big deal out of this, but thought I should mention I've seen at least one instance where an object that appears to block LOS can be shot through. There are definitely objects that can't be (I used a column in this mission to protect a ranger with a sliver of health). This was a stone block that I guess was intended to be decorative. It should have been made smaller or solid, IMO.
One cool thing I noticed is that the stance animations change when your characters get wounded. They kind of slouch or slump depending on the character, which is neat.
A word of warning:
Either I'm totally whacked or, in one of the most baffling design decisions I've ever seen, you can't access the pause menu from outside a battle (i.e. at the shop screens). Moreover, there is no autosave. Without thinking about it, you could easily exit from the game and lose all your progress.
If I'm missing something, someone let me know.