Lord of the Rings Tactics review

PSM2 shakes its tactics with the first decent PSP role-player

If RPGs were rated on how 'beardy' they are, Lord of the Rings Tactics would measure 8.0 on the hirsute-o-meter.

If you felt a spod playing the LOTR games on PS2, this is like going speed-dating in a Babylon 5 T-shirt then arranging your Star Wars figures by rarity. It's a number-heavy, turn-based RPG brimming with goblins and men in pointy hats. But it's also rather good.

The action revolves around key scenes from the films, including Gandalf's scrap with the Balrog and the infamous Battle of Helm's Deep.

But you can now experience these scenes from the side of the enemy - there are good and evil story modes, so if you want to fight against Frodo, Gandalf and company, you can.

This was explored in The Third Age on PS2, but in Tactics it's a full-on campaign instead of a hastily tacked-on extra.

But while there's plenty of room for strategic play, it's often far too straightforward for hardened RPG veterans. Finish a battle, for example, and your characters automatically level up.

We'd have liked to tweak and configure every tedious element of our characters a la Disgaea.

But, aside from that minor niggle, there are loads of character-specific moves and powers to buy, and a vast throng of memorable 'hero' characters to play as, including Aragorn, Frodo, Boromir and, on the dark side, Saruman, the Witch King and the evil Sauron.

Yup, everyone is here and while this arses about with the timeline of the series somewhat it'll be a dream fulfilled for many a LotR fan.

Tactics is the first proper RPG on PSP, so in that context it's an absolute winner.

Otherwise, when compared to everything else, it's an enjoyable slice of strategy with problems here and there - oversimplified character development, an occasionally dodgy camera and some dingy low-res visuals - but well worth considering.

That said, if you detest RPGs, avoid as you would the cold embrace of death. But for anyone unimpressed by the distinctly average Untold Legends, this is an ideal alternative.

All we need now is Nippon Ichi to make a PSP version of Disgaea...

Lord of the Rings Tactic is out for PSP on 2 December

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Alternative namesLotR Tactics