Review: LEGO The Lord Of The Rings
We enter, yet again, another world revamped by the LEGO style and gameplay for everyone. How does it hold up to the other LEGO games?
- Worth The Time?If you're a LEGO video game fan or would like something different: Yes.
- Things LovedMassive open-world interpretation of Middle Earth; Nicely animated characters; Quirky humour provide a change of pace every now and then in cut-scenes; Dialogue taken from the movies adds authenticity; Beautiful soundtrack; Creative Story missions; Simple puzzle-solving keep the flow going; Lots of unlockable characters; Tons of collectibles, if that's your cup of tea; The Witch-King on a sheep.
- Things HatedOccasionally frustrating platforming; Silly co-op design choices; Co-op camera takes a while getting used to; Vague waypoints for fetch quests; Fetch quests feels forced
- RecommendationFor LEGO video game fans and The Lord of the Rings fans looking for their latest Tolkien fix. With added quirkyness.
- Name: LEGO The Lord Of The Rings
- Genre: Action-Adventure / Platformer
- Players: 1 - 2
- Multiplayer: Co-operative, split screen
- Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 PS3, Wii, PS Vita, DS, 3DS
- Developer: TT Games (Traveller's Tales)
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
- Price: Xbox 360 & PS3: R399, PC: R350
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
LEGO The Lord of the Rings released in December and still managed to tickle my fancy, even though it released in a year filled with giants.
For those of you not familiar with the LEGO games; let’s do some backtracking. In 2005, TT Games released LEGO Star Wars and they’ve been going at it ever since. Their formula consists of taking large entertainment brands and “re-doing” them in LEGO format. It has a certain charm to it, coupled with quirky humour. At first, the characters didn’t speak. They communicated with grunts and different variations of “Hmm”. Spoken dialogue only exists in the latest games, LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO The Lord of the Rings.
Other LEGO games include Batman, Indiana Jones Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean.
From the works of J.R.R. Tolkien came the major motion picture trilogy, The Lord of the Rings; The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. A few games have held the Lord of the Rings name, but none have been done quite like this LEGO version. All the characters are here, dialogue from the movies has been included, and the fantastic and wondrous soundtrack from the films feature alongside the quirky humour from the LEGO games. In LEGO The Lord of the Rings, you’ll play through the events of the complete trilogy, not just one of the movies.
The Dark Lord Sauron forges an all powerful ring that corrupts those who wear the other Rings of Power. The Rings of Power are worn among the leaders of Elves, Men and Dwarves. After a bloody battle, which seems anything but prosperous, all hope dwindles…
In a hopeless encounter between Sauron and a human named Isildur; Isildur trims down the Dark Lord’s fingers with a single swipe of his broken sword, resulting in Sauron losing his physical form.
Victorious; Isildur claims the Ring. While riding on horseback; he and his men becomes ambushed by a pack of Orcs. Isildur doesn’t survive the encounter. The Ring is lost at the Anduin river; waiting to be found…
The Ring goes through the hands of a creature termed: Gollum. After corrupting the mind of Gollum and prolonging his life; the Ring ended up in the hands of the most unlikely of creatures inhabiting Middle Earth. A hobbit. Bilbo Baggins.
Bilbo receives a visit from Gandalf the Grey on his birthday and not before long; Gandalf learns about the all powerful Ring. Gandalf instructs Frodo Baggins; Bilbo’s nephew, to take the Ring and leave the Shire.
An epic journey lies ahead of Frodo and his one friend: Sam. A Fellowship is formed and a dark quest begins. Mount Doom being the end of their journey…
If you’re familiar with the narrative and events of this story, no more need be said, but for those of you new to the Lord of the Rings tale, I’ll leave the rest for you to discover.
All the characters, both heroic and evil, have been made into LEGO form. This fact alone lends the game a certain amount of charm. The animation for these characters also boast a unique charismatic feel. The open-world environment based on Tolkien’s original map adds something great to the LEGO formula. In comparison to previous LEGO games; this one definitely ups the ante in terms of scale. Massive battles are being fought in the background or around you while you’re fighting Sauron or defending Helm’s Deep.
The environments are beautiful and detailed. Not as detailed as most games considered to be graphical powerhouses, for example: Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed.
It portrays the world of Middle Earth very well and while some areas may feel a bit empty; the rest of the areas make up for it in detail and change in scenery. The aforementioned scenery contains a lot of hidden items and secrets awaiting discovery.
The world does not consist solely of bits of LEGO; although there’s a fair amount of decorations supplementing the world bursting to the seams with LEGO studs. Studs make up your score and also works as a type of currency for buying additional characters once they’ve been discovered. Destroying everything within this world even remotely LEGO shaped and collecting all the studs that fly from these objects have a Zen-like feel to it. In my case it was more like a combination of Zen and peace, mixed with an OCD-like tendency to collect all the studs. It is fun collecting all these studs, but I cannot help but feel frustrated when so many studs gets scattered when hitting, punching or slicing the objects they spew from. It’s not the scattering aspect that frustrates me; it’s the fact that I lose some of them when I’m hitting an object near a cliff side. I’d also prefer it if they stay there on the ground only a few seconds longer for you to pick them up. I’ve missed the opportunity more than once to collect studs when I’m engaged in a battle or conflict situation.
No complaints in the audio department. The soundtrack from the films adds an extra layer of quality to the game. I’ve always enjoyed the films’ soundtrack and it made me genuinely happy to hear the soundtrack while punching some Uruk-Hai. The voices for the dialogue and cut-scenes have been taken directly from the films, resulting in authenticity and giving the game that Lord of the Rings “feel”.
I must admit that having this serious and authentic dialogue paired together with some of the quirky humour in the cut-scenes make for some rather odd results. A few rather emotional moments throughout the story have been made quirky with the added humour. This is done to adjust the story to a younger audience, I’m sure. Without a doubt; it adds something unique to the story, I cannot help but have mixed opinions when a character gets killed only after a bunch of tries by an Orc firing random objects from his bow. He started with an arrow and ended up dealing the final shot with a broom. Yes, a broom.
The developers have incorporated the traditional LEGO gameplay and puzzle solving with the epic tale quite well. I must admit that I was skeptic about how the game is going to play like a LEGO game with Lord of the Rings as a story. It’s the same elements from previous LEGO games such as the silver items only being destroyed by certain characters or items, platforms reachable only by one or two characters, orange handles only to be opened by strong characters and certain items only obtainable through “Free Play”. Free Play for the main story levels needs to be unlocked by playing through the level normally.
I was hoping to see some new gameplay elements, considering it’s such a huge and massive quest being undertaken. It’s not a deal breaker, just more of the same gameplay and type of puzzle solving.
Speaking of puzzles; when I say puzzles, I’m not necessarily talking about puzzles that induce headaches and /or suicidal tendencies. Puzzles mostly consist of a specific items being needed to proceed or actions needed to be performed in a certain order. It’s not at all challenging, but it is fun nevertheless. Certain characters may be needed to obtain items. For example: Frodo will use the Light of Eärendil to illuminate dark areas and find any treasures or hidden items within. Other characters will not be able to enter these areas.
Combat is unchanged from previous LEGO games. You may mash the “X” button to eviscerate your enemies, no matter what you’re wielding. Be it your fists, swords, bananas, shovels or buckets; you’ll most probably win with bits of LEGO and body parts flying. No gore, though. It may be over-simplified for some gamers, but it gets the job done.
The main story levels combine these LEGO elements and the unique characteristics of each character in a simple, yet functioning way. Some of the missions will have you take part in a major battle we’ve seen in the movies; the first level where you battle Sauron as Isildur is one of my favourite scripted battles. Other levels will have us playing “behind the scenes”: for example: Sam, Merry and Pippin gathering firewood and food to prepare for Frodo while he’s recovering and taking a nap. It adds an extra layer, while not overshadowing the main story.
When you’re finished with the main story, the entirety of Middle Earth is at your disposal. You may explore all the areas and hunt for collectibles. There’s no shortage of these. Not at all. Some of the collectibles can only be found in the story missions when going back and playing with previously locked characters.
Collectibles vary in use. Studs can be found everywhere and there’s no limit to them. Mithril Bricks are hidden throughout Middle Earth and while you’ll find most of them at the end of a platform based trail, some of them need you to perform certain actions. One specific Mithril Brick could only be acquired by destroying a certain amount of statues in that area within a given time limit. For that you needed a character that does a decent amount of damage over a medium range. In this case I used an Uruk-Hai character that threw bombs. I needed to have enough studs and his location to do so. The collectibles are interwoven with each other and that makes the back-tracking rewarding.
The map is also littered by fetch quests. These quests and their motivation feels a little bit forced. Finding a pair of special tap-dancing shoes for an Orc? Yes, you can expect quests in that line of motivation. When completing these quests you’ll unlock “Red Bricks”. These may be looked upon as “cheats” or modifications to your game. You’ll need enough studs to buy these alterations, but some of them can be very useful indeed. Like the one brick increases the worth of studs picked up by x10, or grants you the ability to have regenerating health. It’s helpful, but unlocking these require a lot of patience.
The platforming is pretty straight-forward. Nothing extraordinary here. It’s simple jumping and climbing. Although one aspect that really made me dislike some platforming segments is the fixed camera and if you’re not always jumping at the exact degree; you usually fall a fair distance and get to do that all over again. When going after collectibles, it really became a schlep after a while.
When choosing characters while exploring, avoid the heart and headaches, by choosing the characters you desire the long way. The reason for this is that when you switch to another character, you’ll sometimes be taken to the other character at the bottom of the chasm you’re trying to scale, resulting in your other character to leap back at you from the mountainous platforming staircase you so desperately scaled a few seconds ago. Here’s how to avoid the chest-pains: When activating your character selection wheel; don’t choose from the characters on the wheel. Select to the icon at the bottom of the wheel to open the whole tray of characters to choose from. If you choose from these characters you’re sure to avoid many frustrations. It takes a while longer and adds unnecessary and time-consuming cons to the list.
The co-op in LEGO The Lord of the Rings is pretty much unchanged from other LEGO games. It uses the same dynamic split screen used in the previous few games. Each player can move freely around the level without constraining the other player. The split-sceen line is not fixed and moves around depending on the players’ movements. It’s not bad, but it can take some getting used to.
My only major complaint about the co-op experience is that there’s some segments within chapters where the players are forced to play different story sections. For example: Gandalf battles a boss-character, while the other player continues with the story in the second part of the screen. It’s a silly design choice for me, personally. I just told my co-op partner to wait and let me finish the battle, whereupon we continued together after the battle. I sincerely dislike that, due to the fact that it’s both different plot points.