Anyone thinking about giving this game a go, REALLY don’t bother. When I started it, it was going quite well, but very quickly is broke down into fight every minute then watch a cutscene.
The over reliance of Gandalf voiceovers for movie clips seriously hampers the story mode. Nearly after every fight do you unlock an ‘Epic Scene’ that tells you either a bit of the film that doesn’t really concern yourself, or an explanation of events that just happened to you with scenes from the film which are quite irrelevant, for instance when I met my dwarven companion the Epic Scene was full of shots of Gimli with Gandalf’s voiceover saying something like, “This is Gimli, the Dwarf I travel with, he’s quite a nice chap unlike the one you have met. Shame you won’t get to meet him.” Occasionally though, the story will be told from in-game cutscenes that actually feature your own characters, when those happened I felt a lot more connected to the characters. Shame they were few and far between.
The battles are almost random encounters, just not quite. There’s a nice little icon at the top of the screen that gets brighter the closer you get to a fight making it feel slightly less random and much less annoying. They’ve put a few variations on the Final Fantasy style fighting. Most obvious of which is to change your party mid-fight. This is a major change and one I welcome quite enthusiastically, the amount of times I’ve got into a fight in Final Fantasy and think “Damn it, so-and-so would be really handy right now” I can’t count. Also the variation of the line ups; reinforcements, being surrounded and only long range is really quite cool. Shame they didn’t bother with different rows like Final Fantasy.
This game could have been great. But they turned it into constant fighting and ‘unlocking’ scenes from the film. And don’t even get me started on the Balrog fight.