Review of Lego The Lord Of The Rings by Warner Bros
You just simply can’t go wrong with a Lego game! Childhood memories are reborn anew; structures, characters and vehicles are made alive once more. Melding with huge franchises such as Lord Of The Rings can surely only strengthen the brand, pushing it further onwards can’t it?
Lost forgotten tragedies of not being quite able to build the epic battles and infrastructures you once imagined due to resources or just plain lack of skill are gone! Alas, let us not become jealous of a videogame!
Going through all three films in just one game was never going to be easy, what with the LotR trilogy being rather lengthy! Telltale Games and Warner Bros. have done a fantastic job however, squeezing in all the fan favourite, action orientated sequences. If, somehow, you’ve been living under a Mordor rock for the past decade and not watched the films, nor read the books, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to follow the plot progression quite in so much detail as you might need. However, it’s a great refresher course for those who have!
Injected with lashings of the usual notorious Lego humour, it still manages to raise a smile despite the darker parts of the series. There is slightly less slapstick than previous entries, mostly in part due to the recent addition of character voices. These work well as long as you’re engrossed enough into the story at the time! Hearing an epic speech by Gandalf whilst you are very much aware that he’s made of Lego can be a bit of a downer!
Due to the action orientated components being twinned with the men, wizards, elves and so forth. Some of the slower, more deliberate sequences, generally, being handled by the Hobbits would normally be quite difficult to be enjoyable as a playable experience. Not so however! In come the stealth sections, where the jump button is replaced with a roll function and the style of play is quite different from the norm!
Acting as a puzzle element of sorts to the narrative, these help break up the game from potentially spiralling into a monotonous series of Lego beatdowns. There are several of these, all placed the right distance apart from each other so as not to become repetitive or strained. Exploring your immediate surroundings to find keys, cranks, or miscellaneous objects to throw for distraction purposes are necessary to progress here.
Taking a brick out of the previous Lego game, LotR also brings free roam to the table. Once completed, you may fast travel to any of the in-game ‘hubs’ such as the Shire or The Black Gate and wander around freely. Missions may be replayed in two forms, story or free roam, in the latter mode, you may take any characters into the story missions in an effort to attain just some of the many, MANY collectibles! Speaking of the collectibles, not all are found within the missions, a lot are concealed on the world map; are hidden via many methods.
Another puzzle element to the game, is discovering how to get those glimmering, precious, mithril blocks. Some require a certain character with a specific talent as it were. Whether it be a bow, Gandalf’s staff or the Berserker’s bombs. During free roam, characters can be swapped out at will, so providing you have unlocked the requisite character, that bricks’ as good as yours! Familiar faces wander about Middle-Earth, unlocking them is as simple as forking out some of your well-earned studs and they’re yours to keep.
Don’t go spending all those studs at once however! As per usual in the Lego games, there are bonus red bricks that can increase stud multipliers, make it easier to locate hidden items etc. These also come with a price and a quest though! Locate someone in need of assistance, let them explain how they lost something odd such as a golden carrot, and off you go! Usually hidden within a level, once acquired you then must return to the quest giver; and in exchange he’ll either reward you with a lovely shiny mithril brick, or depending upon the quest, one of the rarer red bricks, of which you may purchase for an inordinate sum of studs, cheeky so and so’s! A quick tip would be to buy the stud multipliers as soon as possible, they make up for their cost quickly… Along your travels you will come across many equipable items, there are plenty to unlock; many can be useful. Negating the need to switch characters quite so much, these items, when equipped, can bestow traits of others upon you, such as allowing you to smash Morgul rocks with a hobbit, or going fishing with Gandalf if you are so inclined! These require you to spend your even harder earned Mithril bricks on, providing you have the hidden blacksmith designs for them that is!
The game mechanics are mostly perfect, not one glitch or crash to speak of (yet!) however, two things of note. There isn’t usually much of an issue with the jumping, however when attempting to get a few of the Mithril bricks, there are platforming sections to traverse. These require very precise jumps; with the slightly ‘floaty’ feel, this can be quite annoying. The only other issue I have is with the targeting system, particularly with bows, the lock-on works well from a distance, it’s just when enemies are near, it can get a little unpredictable. Running around as Legolas taking out foes far and near with consummate ease is incredibly satisfying. Marred slightly when ambushed by a stray goblin, Legolas sometimes feels the need to halt proceedings, and focus entirely on a terrifyingly inanimate bush. Which can be a shame!
The graphics, as you would expect, are fantastic, the Lego looks like real Lego, the voices seem ripped straight from the film; we all know how epic the soundtrack is. All combining to emit an incomparable sense of immersion whilst playing. Menus are swift and few, loading times are short and drop in / out local co-op is seamless. Only one issue of note is of the draw distance, which can feel a little lacklustre in-between the hub areas, but nothing to hamper the experience. As is normal in Lego games, the option for dynamic splitscreen is always welcome, if at least a little disorientating if you lose focus on your character. With no option for online play, multiplayer options are best left for the couch, but to be honest, that’s how you’ll likely want it.
Should You Buy?
This could well be said for all Lego games, especially if you like the brand, but yes! The story will take around 7 hours or more, with plenty of replay value. Unlocking all the characters will take a while, finding all the collectibles will take even longer. It’s great for the kids, some puzzles could be tricky but not too tasking. Either way, a great excuse for the ‘big kids’ to jump in anyway! With all that said, this can be aimed as much at Lord of the Rings fans than Lego fans. Scenes are recreated with so much due care and attention, it’s clear that the developers committed themselves fully, and it shows.
Reviewed on the PS3, also available on Xbox 360, Wii, DS, 3DS, PC and PS Vita.