It's not far off the warhammer engine, IIRC. There's an obvious parallel in statlines, though heroes have a couple of additional stats which act like a non-renewable reroll pot, or can be used for 'heroic actions,' which basically let you break the rules in particular ways.
Combat works a bit differently, and in a manner that didn't really appeal to me back in the day when the first box came out. I think it probably works fine if it's your first introduction to wargaming, but if you're used to WFB or 40k, there are elements of it which seem counter-intuitive. I think the general system was designed by Rick Priestly, and I have the general impression that if he could've gotten away with making some extreme changes to WFB without alienating its existing fanbase, it would have looked something similar to LOTR as it stands now.
I think partly what put me off it was that I didn't really like the idea of just replaying scenarios from the books- there's no way you'll get the entire fellowship through Moria in the game, for instance. It's the same reason I've not gotten into Historical wargaming.
If I actually had opponents to play on a regular basis, I'd be willing to give the system a fair go as far as LotOW/HS goes, as you don't have the same 'recreation' issues to the same extent, but from what I hear, there are better Western games out there, and probably pirate games too, for that matter.