Review: Lego Lord of the Rings game
One brick to rule them all
Being half Scottish, many of my summers were spent camping in the glens. After the daily grind of hitting each other with sticks, getting bitten by midges and eating fried spam, my sister would fill our evenings by reciting The Lord of the Rings – from memory! Being a more committed geek than me, by the age of 14 she had somehow managed to memorise, literally, word for bloody word, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. However, she never managed The Silmarillion.
Four words: it's a book, a film... and a game
So my early life was steeped in Tolkien lore and I have always expected great things from any who aspire to reinterpret the books. The 1978 animated movie just left me hanging and over the last few years I may have grudgingly warmed to Peter Jackson's adaptations but have always been left hankering for something more. But a slapstick Lego version?
Be warned, if you're looking for the fear and peril felt so intensely in the books, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Even so, I was quite happy to trade all that scary stuff this time round for a carrot stealing pig and an overly camp Legolas.
It’s brave of Travellers Tales to release two Lego games in the space of six months and some say that all the games in the Lego franchise are too similar. I'd say that Lego LOTR shows that each title can be unique and demonstrates how the franchise can stretch itself and progress. Travellers Tales are quite willing to craft games of such quality and attention to detail that they go beyond just another title in an ever-expanding franchise and instead increase each game's value and appeal. Never let it be said that if you have played one Lego game you have played them all.
The narrative of the films is followed with a faithfulness that doesn’t feel watered down or changed for the sake of appealing to a younger and wider audience. The game, like the film, is split in to three episodes. The important plot points are dealt with in a reverent if somewhat mischievous manner.
Give me a ring sometime
I never thought that Isildur cutting the one ring from Sauron’s finger and Gandalf battling the Balrog in the Mines of Moria could be rendered in plastic blocks but I still found these scenes captivating. The only thing Lego LOTR seems to have trouble portraying is the physical size of the rings – here they seem to be the size to bracelets. Lord of the Bangles it is then.
Lego Lord of the Rings takes the usual Lego franchise elements of smashing stuff to collect studs, with puzzle solving and combat. It adds a whole new level with open world exploration in the exciting and stunning world I know and love. Yet part of the beauty of this game is its accessibility and inclusiveness. It’s so well structured it’s possible to follow the narrative without ever having seen the movies or read the books – you definitely don’t need to be a Tolkien convert to have fun playing Lego LOTR.
I me mine
Single player was enjoyable and amusing but where these Lego games really come alive is playing local co-op. Just like Lego Batman, the best fun is working together with a buddy, solving puzzles and fighting Orcs. I can’t think of a better way to spend idle away the hours than exploring Middle-earth with your significant other.
Even if you’re a lonely soul, you won’t miss out, as the variety of mêlée and ranged combat will keep you on your toes. Whether fighting Saruman as Gandalf, clomping around as Tree beard or taking down those poor Oliphants, I never got bored. I wish every game had me logging in to sneak a few minutes more fighting Shelob while my other half went out for a fag.
The dark knight
I found the game more puzzle focused than Batman with ample opportunity to take advantage of the large group of characters I have access to at any one time, that is, when the AI wasn’t throwing them off cliffs. The range of talents that are accessible with each character make short work of most puzzles, with Ghimli smashing and getting thrown around at every opportunity. Sam does a lot of fire starting and Legolas a lot of posing and shooting. I especially enjoyed forging special items from Mithril and collecting eggs, tomatoes and fishes for a lovely cooked breakfast – never mind that there’s Ring Wraiths waiting round the corner.
Gollum and the One ring melting in the flames of Mount Doom is by no means the end of this game. The war of the ring and the linear campaign maybe over but my time in Middle-earth has just started as the post campaign content is awesome and includes some of the best puzzles and coolest characters. While I ploughed through the campaign in around 9 hours I think Lego LOTR’s open world could easily eat at least 40-plus hours of my time.
Elf dating site is work in progress
Playing Lego LOTR on my PC – thanks Steelseries for the wireless controller and saving me from imminent carpal tunnel agony – I came across bugs galore in my review copy. For instance, there are sketchy sound levels, whacked camera angles and various character selection issues being just a few of the criticisms. I couldn’t even get the game to play full screen even after endless fiddling. Boo for console ports!
Overall, Lego LOTR is more mature and slightly bleaker than previous offerings. There's the usual Lego over polished look of the characters and backgrounds that's complemented by voice acting lifted straight from the movies. Together with cinematic cuts scenes, this game is definitely more of a homage to the films rather than a reinterpretation of Tolkien’s books, but with this amount of creativity and charm I’m not going to complain.
The Reg Verdict
Lego Lord of the Rings offers engaging gameplay with an innovative structure and an amazing open world Middle-earth. While the game is unfortunately beset by technical blunders, it still comes together as the best offering from the Lego franchise, until at least March when The Hobbit receives similar treatment. ®