Lego The Lord of The Rings is the latest in the Lego series of games. The Lego games have seen critical and commercial success in the past with its collaboration of various other big name franchises such as Star wars, Harry Potter and Batman. Does The Lord of the Rings make the jump to Lego as elegantly as previous games, or is the charm of Lego getting stale?
Lego The Lord of The Rings is a game that takes one of our worlds most beloved fictional fantasy universes and introduces Lego to it. The game focuses on the three films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, letting you play through all the familiar events from beginning to end; only now it's in Lego. You will start off in the shire, meet up with the fellowship in Rivendell and eventually make your way into Mordor. The game borrows music and voice acting clips from the movie, recreating all the cinematic moments. Therefore, despite the lego makeover, everything is incredibly familiar. The lego games have, however, been known to alter certain scenes for comedic purposes and this game is no exception. Expect Gimli to be more clumsy than ever and a lot of pigs and pianos added into scenes for no other reasons than to mess with your expectations. Also, ring wraiths carry fire extinguishers now so be careful. It all makes for some good laughs that I'm sure kids will appreciate a lot.
The game is structured around a massive Middle-Earth overworld where you can walk from one end to the other with no loading time in-between. This is arguably one of the more unique features of the game, one that I enjoyed a lot. You unlock more of the map by completing the various levels throughout the game, giving the world and the story a natural progression very true to the movies. For example, as you start in the shire you are free to explore that area. Once you are ready to progress, you will play a level structured around Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin trying to avoid the black rider. After completing this scenario, you will be able to walk to Bree and explore the town and its surroundings. This progression remains fairly unaltered throughout the game. It changes slightly once the fellowship breaks up. From here on out you are free to choose between Aragorn and Frodo, completing their respective levels and story in whichever order you desire. When exploring the overworld you will often come across characters that give you quests. These quests add replay value to the many levels in the game, encouraging exploration and rewarding you with new items and tools.
Simply calling this game an adventure game with Lego and The Lord of The Rings is a bit vague. It is more of a puzzle platformer where you must overcome obstacles by utilizing each character’s special ability. The game also puts heavy emphasis on collecting things. Smashing objects in the environment reveals Lego studs that acts as currency. You will be collecting these studs with an obsessive desire, smashing everything in sight until all the Lego bricks in the area have been reduced to nothing. The visual and audio feedback of smashing an object seeing dozens of studs shower out of it is incredibly satisfying. It makes the collecting really addictive, something that would otherwise have been a tedious repetition. Though the overabundance of studs scattered everywhere can make collecting them seem a bit trivial after a while.
The puzzles are very straight forward and once you learn to recognize all the little mechanisms you will swiftly overcome them. Eventually, solving these puzzles will simply come down to interacting with certain objects with the correct character equipped with the right item. It becomes a mundane repetition quickly which is a shame because the puzzles are what the levels are largely made up of. I'm aware that this game is meant to be an accessible kid’s game, but kids are smarter than this. You will, of course, also fight enemies and watching Lego orcs shatter into scattering pieces can be enjoyable. However the combat is shallow and there is no penalty for dying. Your only attack is to mash x repeatedly until your target is dead. Bosses don't fare any better. Every Boss encounter boils down to waiting for an opening to attack while dodging various hazards. While it sounds good on paper, however its execution leaves something to be desired. Apart from being heavily telegraphed and easy to avoid, since there is no penalty for dying you might as well not bother dodging at all and just wait it out. Eventually the boss says it's ok for you to hit them. Also I found out that holding down Y to bring up the character selection wheel renders you invincible as long as the button is held down. It is disappointing since boss fights can often the highlight of a game if executed properly, with fun and challenge. Here it is lacking both.
The controls are designed to be overly simplistic, utilizing as few buttons as possible. This was done in an attempt to make the game accessible. While the designers may have achieved this, the game sometimes suffers for it and there are a lot of missed opportunities with the unmapped buttons. The combat for example could have been more fun, giving you more than just one attack.
When it comes to item management the game can become a bit iffy. It wants every action that involves an item to be performed with a single button, B. This includes using the item, picking it up, dropping it and even accessing the inventory. Imagine how many times I tried to use an item and end up dropping it instead. If they had simply made use of the shoulder buttons on the controller, or the d-pad, then a lot of these actions could have had their own button. My main gripe is having to hold down B to access the inventory to select an item. It would have been much more accessible to use the shoulder buttons to cycle through items instead of essentially pausing the game while making the selection. Same goes for selecting characters.
With all its gameplay faults, the game is still very enjoyable. Despite the simplicity and straight forward approach, some puzzles can be pretty inventive and visually satisfying. Certain levels have two events playing out simultaneously. If you are playing by yourself, you would be required to beat the two events separately. Playing with a friend however, you will be solving both events at the same time. To name an example, one player may be in control of Frodo as he is invisible, while the other player controls the rest of the party. Your combined efforts will be required to solve a puzzle. Playing this game with a friend is definitively the way to go, it makes the game that much more enjoyable. It has an abundance of unlockable characters and secrets so there is plenty of replay value to be found. Finishing the game unlocks free-play where you can switch to any unlocked character on the go. I found free-play to be very enjoyable and I had fun playing certain levels with different characters and all the abilities at my disposal, unearthing every secret.
The presentation is where the game truly shines. The world is beautifully rendered with crisp visuals and impressive lighting effects. The weather changes from time to time, rainy or sunny. Days turn into nights making the world feel more alive, despite its inhabitants being made out of plastic bricks. Traveling through Middle-earth and absorbing all the views can be breathtaking. The music is beautiful as always, from the heartwarming sounds of the shire to the clashing of metal in Isengard. It gives each area its own unique identity, perfectly rounding out the world. I sometimes had to remind myself I was playing a Lego game. Surprisingly very little of the world is actually made out of Lego. This is in fact to the benefit of the gameplay since anything made out of Lego will stand out and be easily visible. Each object that you can interact with in the environment is made out of Lego. Therefore it is easy to spot when the game wants you to interact with something. This clever visual cue remains constant throughout the whole game which is important, as a player you learn to trust them. See something made out of Lego? Smash it. That doesn't work? Try figuring out which item and character can interact with it. It is a simple design choice that leaves no room for misinterpretation and I like it!
Lego The Lord of The Rings delivers a wonderful interpretation of Middle-earth to be experienced by kids and adults of all ages. Its shortcoming, resulting from its simple gameplay design, is easily forgiven when all is considered. This game is above all else fun and relaxing to play. The presentation, music and charm of Lego go a long way to make this game what it is. Playing with a friend will boost its enjoyment considerably and you are sure to have a great time. It's incredibly accessible, and as a kids game, it is perfect. Fans of Lego games will know what to expect, it's a familiar formula with a new coat of paint, take it for what it is. Any Lord of The Rings fan will find much to enjoy here and should check this game out.
|We liked Accessible, Inventive co-op scenarios, Incredible open world exploration, and Tons of unlockables.|
|We disliked Shallow combat, Mundane puzzles and Tiresome bosses.|