Lets get the elephant out of the room…
LEGO games are good, for the most part. More to the point, modern LEGO games are good; particularly the franchise tie-in games.
I am aware that there is a stigma against these games which classes them as “childish,” “immature” and “simplistic.”
For those of you who have played them, I’m sure that you will agree that they are childish, immature and surprisingly deep in gameplay and mechanics.
They take a franchise, absorb all the goodness, wipe it with a LEGO sheen and release a quality game with a fantastic sense of humour into the world.
I assure you that playing a LEGO game is fun and carries a great sense of reward. There are hundreds of collectibles, tons of different mechanics and a whole host of characters to unlock. All of these features rolled into your favourite franchises make for a solid game. Honest!
Time to get some statistics going!
01. LEGO Lord Of The Rings was released in Europe on the 23rd of November, 2012.
02. It was developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by Warner Bros, Interactive.
03. The gameplay is very similar to any previous LEGO game’s formula although I believe that it was the first to feature fully voice-acted characters and utilise the original dialogue from the source material, in this case, the Lord Of The Rings films.
04. I believe LEGO Lord Of The Rings was the first LEGO game to feature a free roam “overworld.”
05. LEGO Lord Of The Rings was the first LEGO game to introduce two new mechanics: “Illuminating Darkness” and “Throwing Characters.”
06. I think this was also the first LEGO to feature asymmetrical gameplay while in co-op mode.
Now for some opinions, me thinks!
I personally have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with LEGO Lord Of The Rings. It has re-energised my interest in the Lord Of The Rings story and universe, as well as provided hours of entertainment. That is not to say that it is a perfect game, by any stretch, though I shall cover that later. For now, lets go over some of the things that the game does right.
CHECKPOINTS! As far as I know, this was the first LEGO to feature mid-level checkpoints! Groundbreaking, eh?
I always became frustrated when I was halfway through a level in a LEGO game and have to leave for whatever reason, all of your progress in the level would be lost, except for the collectibles… Assuming that you remembered to “Save & Exit,” which may not have even been in the earlier LEGO Star Wars games…
Regardless, they were a welcome addition to this instalment!
The game world is beautiful. The blend between the LEGO structures and the virtualised Middle Earth is actually executed really well. Everywhere you go, there are animals or characters walking around and you do feel that you are moving through a living world. All the important locations exist in detailed levels, as well as in the overworld in a slightly less detailed form. When I save my game and quit from The Shire, I am adamant that those Hobbits are still frolicking and indulging in festivities, while I’m away. It is a very charming location and has translated well to the LEGO universe.
As mentioned earlier, the game features asymmetrical gameplay in co-op mode, to reflect the events occuring across Middle Earth simultaneously. It is a really cool mechanic and adds a great depth to the narrative while playing alongside your friends. A great example of this is when The Fellowship are escaping the Mines Of Moria. When the Balrog drags Gandalf down into the pit, The Fellowship have to continue escaping…
At this point, player one is in charge of slaying the Balrog while descending at great speed. Meanwhile, player two has to escape the mine and slay countless Orcs and Goblins. It adds a great cinematic feeling to the gameplay while reinforcing the idea of a fully immersive world that is so much bigger than you; Fantastic.
The roster of characters is fantastic and surprisingly in-depth. Traveller’s Tales have done a great job of including all the characters as unlocks, but reframed from filling it out with unnecessary copies of each character. The last LEGO game I played was LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 which, despite it’s generally good intentions” featured far too many skins swaps of Harry, Ron and Hermione… A brief glance and the internet tells me that there were eleven different Harry Potters in that game… I am genuinely surprised that there were so few.
Regardless, there are no more than three different Frodos and Sams and there are plenty of well-known and just as many lesser known characters. I was very impressed to see several named Uruk Hai [Lurtz] and Orcs [Gothmog] in the character menu, as well as a few character cameos such as Radagast The Brown and Gloin. [I’m not even sure if they are actually in the films…] In total there are 78 playable characters, excluding custom designs, which is a pretty reasonable number considering how many were available, on Tolkien’s part!
Unlocking the characters is quite nicely designed too, unlike the aforementioned HP game. As you progress through the story levels, you will unlock all the characters in the game…. to purchase. WHAT! Yeah, this means that they are now wandering around the overworld. You still have to go and find them, ensure that you have enough studs [LEGO Currency] and then buy them. Its kinda like hiring them for your adventure because each character has access to certain weapons/tools which can be used to complete certain puzzles in the game.
There are race-specific mechanics as well as character specific abilities. Hobbits, being small than average creatures, crawl through special doors. This means that when you encounter these doors, you will know that all the Hobbits you have access to can be used to negotiate this hurdle. But it isn’t just limited to Hobbits; Dwarves and Gollum can also complete this action! =]
Elves can jump higher than all over characters in the game. I’m not entirely sure why, but I guess it probably involves Feywild blessings and Elvish agility or something like that.
The character mechanics are where the bulk of the puzzles lie. While there are general race related traits, they are based around exploration and platforming, meanwhile the puzzles rely on characters specifically. Aragorn is the only character who can track. When you find a green and hazy [stinky] item, only Aragorn can pick it up. He then has the opportunity to follow mysterious green footprints to find the items origin an complete the puzzle. I can only assume that, in the expanded universe, it is outlined that Aragorn has no sense of smell and became King of Gondor due to outstanding toilet cleaning duties.
Beserker, the Uruk Hai who destroys Helm’s Deep, is the only character with bombs. These are used to destroy special Mithril walls, rocks and doors in the levels and overworld. He is an incredibly useful purchase, early in the game… Not that the game would tell you this though…
There are many, many more mechanics across characters, but I needn’t outline them all. I’ll tell you what though, ol’ Witch King sure thinks he is some hot stuff; 500,000 studs for a redundant character by the time you have that amount of money – You’re ‘aving a laff!
There are plenty of collectibles to find as well. Putting aside the “hide and seek” character system, you have to find: 80 Treasures Items, 180 Treasure Chests [This game’s answer to Minikits], 250 Mithril Bricks, 20 Power Bricks, 30 Blacksmith Designs and, the ever tedious 16 Map Stones.
In short, this is the majority of the game after completing the story mode; Collect-A-Thon! Finding all the Treasure Items, means that you can complete all the fetch quests in the overworld. Completing all the fetch quests grants you access to Mithril Bricks and Power Bricks. Finding all the Mithril Bricks means you can make all the Blacksmith Designs, to complete more of the fetch quests…?
And once all that is said and done, you should hopefully have 100% and be sick to death of LEGO games and Lord Of The Rings…
This is where LEGO games, including their Middle Earthian entry, fall down. They can become quite tedious after a while because you are just doing the same thing, again and again. Each of the story levels have hidden within them, 3 Treasure Items, 10 Treasure Chests and a Blacksmith Design. This means that after completing the story, you have to revisit each stage with your ever-growing group of characters and treasure items to unlock more of everything. Usually, I don’t mind a bit of revisiting as long as it doesn’t become a hourly occurrence…
Unfortunately, in this LEGO instalment, Traveller’s Tales decided to add some scripted sequences which involve running towards the screen. I don’t usually mind this kind of things, Hell, I loved the chase levels in Crash Bandicoot games… The difference between these sequences and those of Mr. Bandicoot are all down to the camera. The camera is way, way, WAY too close to the player. The controls are super floaty and the speed of the whole sequence plays a bit too fast. You are unable to see any of the collectibles until they are floating off into the distance… Of course, because this sequence is straight from a cinematic into gameplay, you have no access to checkpoints and if you miss those collectibles; you guessed it! You have to play the whole level again…
Yay…. *sobs solemnly*
A minor issue I have with the game is also the allocation of character abilities, regarding puzzle solving… During the “Fellowship” section of the game, all your characters have one or two main puzzle solving abilities. It is quite nice because it keeps you switching characters and leaves all characters feeling worthwhile. By the time you start the “Two Towers” stage of the game, you’ll have learned that Sam and Legolas are the only characters you really need. Assuming you are unlocking all your Mithril Treasures, you’ll have little need to use any other characters by the end of the game!
See, Sam has the obvious Hobbit mechanic and can move through small crawl spaces; One ability. He also has a frying pan, which allows him to complete cooking puzzles; Two abilities. He is the only character in the game with access to a Tinderbox which give him access to burning things… [Burn them; Burn them all!] Three abilities. He has a trowel to dig up items and grow plants; Four abilities. After stopping at Lothlorien, the elves give him Elven Rope to scale walls and pull thinsg apart; FIVE ABILITIES! He is just a jack of all trades!
Legolas, while not as good as Sam, is probably the next best character. He has the Elf mechanic and can jump extra high; One ability. He has a bow for ranged attacks. This is also used in puzzles a lot; Two abilities. I believe he is one of very few who can swing on poles; PARKOUR; Three abilities. Finally, he is a tall character which means he can pick up smaller characters, be they Dwarves or Hobbits; Four abilities. Pretty tidy between the two of them.
Also, he has twin daggers which is pretty cool.
But you can see how the variety of a large cast of characters is lost a little when you consider how many puzzles can be solved between Sam and Legolas… Oh well…
It occurs to me that I haven’t really mentioned the Mithril Brick element of the game; now seems as good a time as any. Mithril bricks are the main collectible in the game, but as you collect them, you are sure to come across Blacksmith Designs. By travelling to the blacksmith in Bree, you can forge these Designs from the Mithril Bricks and fill out more of your Treasure Items. Some of these Designs are comical, such as the Mithril Whistle Sword, while others are Mithril versions of puzzle items, such as the Mithril Elven Rope. The Mithril puzzle items can be used by any character in the game and save you from having to swap out your characters consistently. While this is a cool idea and I like some of the more comical items, it only enforces the idea of a redundant cast of characters, which is a great shame…
Putting all of these things aside, the game is fantastic. It has a great sense of flavour to it and I would definitely class it as one of the best Lord Of The Rings games, let alone one of the best LEGO games on the market.
I would recommend it to any fan of either Lord Of The Rings or collect-a-thon LEGO games. When I get that 100% status, I will know that I earned it.
I hope that anyone reading this has enjoyed my review and let me know what you think. This is my first critical assessment of a game and feedback is always appreciated.
This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Pictures were sourced from the internet. Trunco does not own any of them, nor does she claim to.
Completed on 12/10/13