Rating: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
Release Date: November 13, 2012
The LEGO franchise has been turning pop culture sensations into adorable blocky video game versions for years, creating games accessible for both kids and adults alike. The newest LEGO release, LEGO Lord of the Rings, is another successful addition to the already expansive series, and is exactly what you hope for from a LEGO game. As a Lord of the Rings fan, I was anxious to see how the game would approach the series, and whether or not it would live up to my high expectations. I was not let down.
The game itself is true to what has come before it in LEGO games. The storyline of each movie is separated into a story level, which is adapted to fit the LEGO world. I love how the game is able to allow you to follow through with the same storyline as the original media but makes it ‘playable’ in a LEGO style way. This rendition of a LEGO game is slightly more challenging than the previous games in the franchise, however. The puzzles will catch you up more so than the others, and the boss fights are much more involved and multi staged. Many times you are forced to switch back and forth between characters to complete specific challenges in a set amount of time; if you don’t finish the task, you have to start over. This is the first time I found myself ‘failing’ and having to retry again, and I liked it. It’s still on the easy side, and you can’t really fail – the boss battle will loop continuously until you get it. But you are forced to figure out tougher puzzles and challenges than before, and it’s a nice stimulating change.
Just like cutting grass in The Legend of Zelda, there are tons of environmental elements to punch and break for studs. More than once I got sidetracked clearing an entire area of its blocks, only to leave that area and return with them all back again to be smashed once more. I personally love to spend my time smashing everything (the bonus level makes my life in this regard) but I also like that if you want to power through to the next section of the story, you can.
As expected, there are little comedic additions throughout the game that have become a trademark for the franchise. In the introduction as the different nations received their rings, for example, one clumsy human king dropped his, and after standing on it to keep it from spinning, the king next to him shot him a disapproving look and shook his head. I live for these little lighthearted moments. There are a lot of cutscenes; more than in any of the other LEGO games I’ve played before. While I understand that the trilogy has a heavy storyline that really can only be expressed through heavy scenes throughout the gameplay, sometimes the length of them disconnects you from your personal experience with it. And when that scene ends with you running away from something, you sometimes are unprepared for the shift.
The music is so unbelievably good. Pulled straight from the original Lord of the Rings trilogy soundtrack, it adds a level of intensity that I have yet to experience in a LEGO game. Certain moments that gave me chills while watching the movie gave me the same chills while playing the game, which is something I have yet to experience with a LEGO game. The fact that TT Games is able to blend the intensity of the Lord of the Rings story with the adorable LEGO environment is in part the well used soundtrack.
This is the first LEGO game with voice acting I’ve played, and while I was hesitant about it at first I came to absolutely love what it adds to the experience. I like that it is the same voices from the movies – if they were going to include voice acting, it had to be the original voices or none at all. The dichotomy between the voice acting and the expected “hmms” and “uh-huhs” usually used exclusively during a LEGO game works really well, and doesn’t sound disjointed or choppy at all.
Unfortunately I have yet to play LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, and so the new approach to the world map in between story levels is new to me. Instead of a static environment while exploring à la LEGO Harry Potter the camera now shifts with you, allowing you angle it the way you want with the right joystick. The availability of camera shifting threw me at first. While the camera shifting allows you to be more explorative I found it to be slightly unintuitive and occasionally unresponsive, which sent me jumping into water or off of platforms that I had carefully climbed to get a mithril brick. Gah. As I got more used to it the effectiveness of movement improved, and I really enjoy the change in being ableto fully look around the environment.
Something else new is the inclusion of side mission quests, which adds to the already immersive and grindy post-game clean up of red bricks, story mode treasures, and obtaining “True Adventurer” by collecting enough studs in any level. Characters across Middle Earth have lost, misplaced, or had stolen various treasures, and they need your help to find them (as if you don’t have enough on your plate). These are both craftable items and treasures hidden throughout the story mode. The crafted items require both mithril bricks and blueprints, which you collect throughout Middle Earth and the the story mode levels. Collecting these is similar to previous games: as you unlock new characters and craft items you gain more skills to unlock even more bricks, blueprints and treasures. Helping out these friends has many benefits: more Mithril bricks, red bricks that unlock bonuses, and treasures for your ‘treasure trove’.
LEGO Lord of the Rings does not disappoint in any way. True to the epic adventure that both the books and the movies provided, Traveller’s Tales has turned it into a fantastic game that is successful based on the fact it doesn’t try to recreate the movies, but instead re-imagines them. The few moments of comedic silliness balance well with the intense story driven game, and the soundtrack and addition of voices only serves to enhance the experience. The gameplay takes a step up in difficulty and puzzle ingenuity which provides a bit more of a challenge, even though you still can’t technically fail anything. The change in the map exploration is a welcome change once you get used to it, and the sheer level of free range exploration available to you is great for smashing away every LEGO rock and tree in sight. There are hours and hours of gameplay left for you once you complete the main storyline. Collecting treasures, bricks and blueprints, as well as the new addition of character quests, will keep you exploring, smashing and collecting studs, and as I work towards my Platinum trophy I know this will be a game I continuously return to. Whether you have been a LEGO game lover from the beginning or are thinking of picking up your first, LEGO Lord of the Rings is a game that just about anyone can enjoy.