One brick to rule them all!
If there was one thing that worried me about the release of LEGO Lord of the Rings, it was that the customary humour found in all of the LEGO games would water down the LotR experience for fans of Middle-Earth. In the previous games, such as the excellent Batman 2 or the Star Wars titles, the humour was brilliantly entertaining and provided plenty of laugh out loud moments. But there is something quite serious about Lord of the Rings that would be spoilt but repeated moments of slapstick humour.
But it became apparent right from the very start of the game, that TT Games have treated the story with respect. The laughs are still there, how could they not be when you have LEGO representations of characters played by the likes of Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean on the screen, but they are appropriately placed, allowing the story to shine through and not be belittled. And the story is followed faithfully, capturing each major event in delightful LEGO detail, allowing even those who have never watched the movies or read the books to keep up with what’s going on and maybe even come away as new fans of Tolkein’s world.
But the story, no matter how good it is, is only a small part of the game. The game is filled with exploration and collectibles that will have the player coming back for many hours after the main story has been finished. Running through the main game will only account for around eight hours of gameplay, but going back and finding all of the secrets or locating all of the collectibles will easily triple that time.
Anyone who has played the previous LEGO tie-ins will know more or less what to expect. The player will find themselves running around, smashing pretty much everything that they can find to collect the little LEGO studs. Each of the levels will involve a variety of different puzzles, usually based around the different skills of the characters, and there will be lots of button-mashing combat along the way. In this respect, not much has changed.
Players unlock, or can buy, different characters as they progress. The character roster for Lord of the Rings is huge, with many characters that can only be used in free-play which becomes available for each level after it has been completed in the story mode. Being able to go back into each of the levels is essential, as many of the secrets and collectibles can only be accessed by character skills which are not available in the story mode.
So, the different characters have different skills, such as Gimli and his ability to smash certain rock tiles, or Legolas with his high jumping and ranged attack. But in a new twist to the standard LEGO format, the characters have an inventory of sorts which, when the appropriate equipment has been found or crafted using blueprints, will allow those characters to take on some of the other skills available in the game. Whilst this can make certain characters pointless once the right equipment has been found, it can make life easier for the collectors as they no longer have to rely on having the right character for the job.
The equipment found adds another level of collecting to the game, with a massive number of items to locate or craft. Not all of these items are useful, with some just having a humorous cosmetic effect, but the LEGO games have always managed to tap into the obsessive collecting part of the brain and the drive to find them all will push many players into lengthy gaming sessions. Many of the items have to be forged from special Mithril bricks, which are another collectible element found throughout the levels, after a trip to the blacksmiths.
Both the voices and the epic soundtrack are taken from the movies, giving the game an authentic feel. That being said, the voices don’t always sound as impressive as they should. As for the visuals, the set pieces are absolutely stunning to see, making the game the best looking LEGO title to date, and the characters are easily identifiable as their movie counterparts. It is especially nice to see a LEGO representation of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in the game, given the imminent release of The Hobbit movie.
As always, the game can be played in highly entertaining local co-op, and as always, online play is missing. This is a real shame, but veteran players of the LEGO games will already be used to this.
Although the general formula of the LEGO games has not changed since the beginning, each new entry has tried something new and LEGO Lord of the Rings is probably the best title so far, as long as you are a fan of Tolkein’s epic tale. If not, it is still amongst the best and a thoroughly entertaining videogame romp. For the fans, don’t dismiss LEGO Lord of the Rings as being childish just because it involves LEGO, this is the best tie-in game and shouldn’t be missed.