LEGO The Lord of the Rings is a truly impressive game that utilises the powerful potential of today’s systems to good effect. But among so much innovation and creative effort, there’s no doubt that this LEGO game is still built around the same core gameplay, which may tire some who have been there and done that.
Like in the recent LEGO Batman 2 game, LEGO The Lord of the Rings is split into two main sections; the campaign missions and the huge open world to complete extra challenges. In this iteration, the campaign follows Frodo and co. from his humble Hobbit home right the way to the gates of Mordor, re-mastering many of the films’ iconic scenes in the classic LEGO style. But once you complete the campaign, you have the whole of Middle Earth to explore… literally the whole of Middle Earth. LEGO The Lord of the Rings has the biggest LEGO sandbox to date, with side-missions and challenges that will keep you going for months.
LEGO and The Lord of the Rings
The campaign is generally in keeping with the LEGO franchise. However, to cope with the scope of the film, the level design in LEGO The Lord of the Rings is much less confined when compared to previous LEGO games. LEGO LotR isn’t afraid to show battles in their full glory across huge expanses of land populated by dozens of LEGO figures all having it out with one another. Every so often, the game tries to switch things up a little, with new elements like clothing, ridable animals and character/story switching coming into play. But most of the time, new ideas seem under-utilised, and you’re mostly going to get the same rather mindless platforming we’ve come to expect from most LEGO games.
And that’s by far LEGO The Lord of the Rings’ biggest problem. It just doesn’t challenge. Despite its more mature setting, you’re not going to have any trouble whatsoever blasting through the campaign. Sure, LEGO games are known for their family-friendly gameplay, but if you’re any older than maybe 11, you’ll certainly get more out of the nostalgic cut-scenes than the actual gameplay. Platforming consists of the same repetitive actions, puzzles are rarely inspired and require no more than a few seconds to solve, and ultimately, there isn’t the same motivation to scour the huge open world for Mithril bricks as before.
Probably LEGO The Lord of the Rings’ most standout feature is its open-world environment. You can run from Bilbo’s front door in Hobbiton, to the fires of Mount Doom itself seamlessly, without any loading screens. It’s almost unreal seeing the environment change around you as you venture into different iconic areas from the films. This LEGO iteration is easily the most stunning LEGO game to date. The game uses less and less LEGO pieces to construct its environment, and instead focusses on making the world as realistic as possible. The result is simply astounding, and an absolute work of art.LEGO The Lord of the Rings remains more true to its source material than ever before. The main reason for this is because both the soundtrack and voice acting have been taken directly from the films themselves. This provides a very authentic Lord of the Rings vibe, but the result can mean that some of the traditional LEGO slapstick humour is lost. LEGO The Lord of the Rings at times feels more like a Lord of the Rings than a LEGO game. Sometimes there are flashes of classic LEGO clumsiness, but even then it seems out of place when compared to the very serious tone created by the professional voice acting and orchestrated music.
The concept of side missions is a good one, it’s a shame though that the whole thing is let down by a horrible navigation system that leads you in completely the wrong direction most of the time. Ok, so maybe Frodo didn’t have a TomTom when he was making his way to Mordor, but it’s a must if you’re going to get yourself around Middle Earth in one piece in this huge open world. Side missions are completed by finding and talking to LEGO characters dotted around the main areas, and then replaying campaign levels trying to find the object that they require. Sometimes, you may need to craft an item at the Forge, for which you require the specific blueprints for. However, I was disappointed to see that there is much less emphasis on unlocking characters, and I found collecting equipment just doesn’t quite have that same addictive compulsion that I have previously experienced. There are also multiple issues with character switching that are borderline infuriating at times.
Most of the enjoyment here is to be had reliving the story of the famous film trilogy, and exploring Middle Earth for yourself. With LEGO The Lord of the Rings, more than ever before, you’ve really got to love the source material, because the gameplay itself really hasn’t changed. It’s a game best enjoyed as a passive, casual experience rather than a stimulating one.
Publisher: Feral Interactive
Genre: LEGO Platforming with Lord of the Rings Style
Pros: The most impressive LEGO open-world yet, beautiful presentation, a lot of replay ability, some more ambitious level design.
Cons: Incredibly easy, core gameplay hasn’t changed much from other LEGO games, some character switching and AI issues, broken navigation.