Its a solid rpg, but there are better. Pick this one up if your new to rpgs, love the lord of the rings, or can rent it.
The combat system is nothing new, but if it isn't broke don't fix it. A great title for someone who loves turn based game-play without the necessity of endless grinding. However, if grinding is your thing then training up for the post completion boss will be a nice challenge. During combat the order of who goes next is shown on the far right of the screen in real time. This means if you hover over a move that will delay your characters next attack it will show this change before you hit select your option. Each character starts off with two crafts or powers which expand as the game progresses. Here lies the more interesting part of character progression. Each category of craft or magic has its own skill tree, and you only gain more skills as you frequently use powers from that specific tree. Each use of a skill increases you progress by one point, and you can track you progress and change the skill you want to learn in the start menu. Furthermore, items later in the game can allow you to learn additional single skills or even entire trees as long as you keep them equipped. You can only have three characters out at once. If you want to keep all the different elements at your disposal to inflict greater damage you can weigh your options out: getting better gear or keeping that skill tree open.
Unlike other RPGs your party of three can be any combination of the heroes you want. The main character doesn't have to stay in, which is nice when leveling up a recently acquired mate. You gain a total of six people in your party, but by the time you hit that number you will have already found a nice harmony with three people and probably won't touch the others. Still the game forgives this and allows all characters not in play to gain half the experience, plus characters can be subbed out at any point during a battle, which can save health items. You can also choose what character to walk around as and that character will receive mission XP for an added bonus. The controls and camera are all very easy to use and the map can be zoomed in and out to get a good idea of where you are. Battles are encountered as either random, guards in front of chests, or story battles. The difficulty scale is pretty fair with the occasional ridiculously hard boss battle, but that's what makes RPGs so much fun. The difficulty can also be adjusted at any time.
Equipment in the game has also been masterfully organized by slot, character, and rank simultaneously. It's incredibly easy to go through you armor and see where you need to update to get the best stats for your characters. For beginners, simply choosing the highest rated armor, on a five star scale, will prove a good start until you understand the different stats and resistances needed to survive. For experts it will come down to what skill trees you want to keep and covering all of your elemental and weapon resistances. For each item an indepth description can be brought up on the inventory page. Whenever you gain multiple new items to equip, the game automatically sends it to each character under new armor. After equipping one piece of armor the game automatically sends you back to the new armor screen so you know you gave everything a look over, since by the end of the game there is a ton of gear you can look through. Also, unlike most RPGs, there are no shops to gain new armor or health items or sell bad ones.
The shining jewel of the game though is its story. Ironically though, it is not canon to the movies and books. The entire game is masterfully narrated by Gandalf along with cinematic scenes that you unlock through game play and side missions. The highlights of this two disc game are the grand battles of monsters and defense missions, from famous battles from the Balrog to the siege on Helm's Deep. In such battles you occasionally have recognizable heroes from the story battle alongside your three heroes making them that much more epic. Eventhough these scenes are the most un-canon, watching Gandalf scream "you shall not pass" along side your heroes is far too much fun to care. Overall this game is entertaining, a good pick up for your collection, and is solid enough that no wizard in the world can stop it from passing with flying colors.