We all love LEGO games, our inner child loves that nostalgic feeling of playing with LEGO while the modern-day child loves the modern medium of video games. When it comes to the games, the humorous take on our most loved series makes us laugh at the childish pranks and how the story is reinterpreted at a basic level through the art of LEGO. Unlike other franchises I could mention, the LEGO series has very much attempted to bring in something new with each title whether that’s a dynamic approach to the world in which it’s mimicking or an overhaul to the gameplay. At its heart though the same core thing remains, good simple fun dressed up in a charming package accessible to gamers of all ages and abilities.
Finally The Lord of the Rings receives the LEGO treatment and brings with it familiar scenes from across all three films. This time the game uses the film’s narrative and the characters talk – while this may be necessary to tell such an epic tale we should all be familiar with the films, I know I am and for me having voices instead of the usual comical grunts and growls LEGO The Lord of the Rings has lost some of the charm that made the previous LEGO games so special. The story is translated perfectly from the films with some of the larger important pieces being taken as straight copies into the game, whilst other parts of the story are glossed over or not given as much focus as they should have. It does make for quite a short story, before you know it you will be knocking on the Black Gate asking for a pass directly into Mount Doom! In around eight hours I had gone through the story and finished with 26% completion so there is a lot of content to find and play within the hub world and by replaying the levels in freeplay.
Graphically the game looks stunning, the textures of the landscapes look real with a slight blur to their edges that makes each scene look a little like a Tilt Shift photo, unfortunately though LOTR does suffer from a severe case of screen tearing especially during cutscenes and there is also a nasty pop up to objects as they load in when you navigate about the hub world. Blue ghost studs guide you through the hub world either to the next part of the story or towards a side quest or hidden item. There is plenty to find and luckily there is a map stone which when activated will show you all the secrets that are hidden in a particular area, you can then open the map and set waypoints which the blue studs will then lead you to.
Gold bricks have been replaced by Mithril blocks which can be smelted down by the blacksmith to craft quest items, give these to the quest giver in exchange for a red brick which once purchased can be activated in the extras menu for bonus awards and cheats. Any character may also equip these Mithril items during freeplay, each may carry up to eight items in their inventory, these can be from things that you may need all the time like Sam’s spade or mission items like firewood. The Mithril items are always available through one of the slots so you won’t have to inventory juggle and to be honest the items don’t really play a huge dynamic to the game.
The hub world is where you will end up spending the majority of your time. It expands as your journey to Mordor progresses and levels will often link seamlessly into the hub world. You can return to these areas later to explore, find hidden items and solve the many puzzles or you can just roam about the world to finish any additional quests you may have missed. You can also fast travel between the map stones so travelling to level start points to replay them isn’t too much of a chore.
Platforming in LOTR is pretty tight although there are still the odd sections that include precarious ledges that you must navigate or jump between. Depth perception with the usual camera issues is what sees these sections fail but the rest of the jumping sections work well enough that this is less of an issue than in previous LEGO titles.
In this day and age I find it mightily frustrating when co-op games refuse to support Xbox LIVE. So many of us enjoy the LEGO series and I’m sure we would certainly enjoy playing in the crazy world of LEGO with our friends. This omission has been something that has been a regular thing in LEGO, even though you could online co-op in one of the Star Wars games, it’s nice to have a game I can local co-op with my family but surely ignoring LIVE support is a missed trick!
I found LEGO The Lord of the Rings to be a bit of a let down, and more like a translation of the films with the odd LEGO block thrown in rather than a translation into the charming world of LEGO. While the level design was enjoyable I felt it plodded along giving a straightforward path with tricks and puzzles I’d experienced many times before in previous LEGO titles. The puzzles and style of the Harry Potter series left me with a smile and I really enjoyed how each level unfolded making me want to dive deeper into them and find everything but with LOTR each level seemed to follow the journey of the films rather strictly only offering creative differences at very minor parts. The hub world certainly goes some way to make up for the lack of creative licence in the level design and it’s novel to see such emphasis placed upon the world but I feel that the main levels have suffered because of it. It’s good but not the best in the series!