This game has a reputation for being heavier on strategy than most other traditional-style PCE RPGs, but that's pretty much baloney. It's standard role-playing stuff with a battle system that has you view the action from an overhead perspective as your characters and their enemies run around the field--think Fang of Alnam or Emerald Dragon. Actually, the fights most remind me of the scrums that take place in old Ultima Exodus for the NES; so if that's your idea of good "strategic" combat, you'll probably have a ball with this. Just keep in mind that the battle graphics are ugly, each brawl can last an extremely long time, and you'll be rewarded with very few experience points for most of your hard-earned victories.
That doesn't sound very promising, but the game is actually pretty good. What makes the battles tolerable are the frequent item drops. It's fun to acquire pieces of special equipment and deck out your characters with them or sell them off for big bucks (which you'll often have to do, as gold is about as scarce as XP). And the names of all the weapons, spells, and items are presented in katakana, making the game a breeze to play--unless you can't read katakana, of course, in which case you'll have to put in a lot of time and experimentation to make efficient use of magic and equipment.
And you probably won't want to devote more time than is absolutely necessary to learning the game's fundamentals, as the Lodoss War expedition is a vast and lengthy one. This isn't a linear adventure, as there are many spots where you have a choice as to which part of the world map you'll explore next. There are also many secret paths to discover and certain entryways that either can't be accessed or don't even exist until you return to their respective areas at a later point in the quest. And some of the late-game dungeons are absolutely enormous, maybe too damn big in a couple of cases (but at least you can save your game whenever you want, and you'll typically come away from dungeon forays with lots of useful loot).
This is a long and hard game, and after all the trials and tribulations it puts players through, it comes to a very abrupt end, so some may not feel particularly satisfied when all is said and done. But I think most people who won't ultimately enjoy it will arrive at the realization very early on and quit before they've invested much time in it. The folks like me who'll dig the nonlinearity and equipment managing will find themselves spending plenty of long late-night sessions with the game. And fans of T's Music will want to check out the work done by the company for this title, although a lot of it isn't red book fare, and while it has its good moments, it has plenty of mediocre ones as well.
The battle scenes also aren't particularly pretty, but they do give you a wide variety of foes to tangle with.
Few experience points are doled out to victors in randomly occurring fights, but you can earn lots by aiding certain people in completing special tasks...
Gold also is in short supply, but your enemies drop plenty of items that can be sold off in town marketplaces. You make your way around each town by selecting destinations on simply sketched maps.
Sometimes, just discovering the entrance to a particular dungeon is difficult enough. If you can't read the in-game dialogue, you may not realize that a new route is available to you until you simply happen to stumble upon it.