Game: LEGO The Lord of the Rings
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Windows PC, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
When the LEGO Lord of the Rings series of toys started to appear last year, everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before we got a video game in the series. Earlier this year LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game was announced to the world and the accompanying trailer showed us that the game would be fully voice acted, using actors from the film, and that we would follow the entire Lord of the Rings storyline; albeit in LEGO form. As a fan of the Lord of the Rings books and films, and having an open love for the LEGO games, I was excited to take this latest game in the LEGO series for a spin. I had my doubts though, did the humour and charm that the LEGO games are famed for even fit with the often dark tones of The Lord of the Rings? Would taking lines directly from the film and placing them into the game work? Or would it all just seem rushed? There was only one way to find out.
STORY: The story in LEGO The Lord of the Rings follows the story of the books and films to the letter. So if you’re familiar with the basic story of the trilogy then you’ll be well versed in what you should expect when it comes to the LEGO incarnation of the retelling. For those of you no familiar with the source text, the story follows Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit who’s been given the task of destroying a very special ring, The One Ring, a ring of immense power which once belonged to the Dark Lord Sauron who now wants it back. The only place where the ring can be destroyed is the place where it was forged, deep in the fires of Mount Doom. The group (the Fellowship of the Ring) sets off to Mount Doom where they intend to destroy The One Ring. They come across many challenges and dangers along the way, most of which you’ll get to play through yourself.
The story is well told – as it should be when you’re using the exact lines of dialogue from the Academy Award nominated film series – but can be a little bit unsettling at times when the game attempts to add humour to some really quite dark sections of the story. Obviously this is done to lighten the tone of these areas, it is a LEGO game after all, but people that are familiar with the story might find it a hard to swallow. Still, if you play through the game as is intended, with the mindset that it’s a LEGO game based on the series, with all the same charm and fun that a LEGO game brings, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with the humorous additions; just take your Lord of the Rings fan hat off while you’re playing and all will be fine.
GRAPHICS: Games in the LEGO series have always looked the same, and LEGO The Lord of the Rings is absolutely no different. There’s a mix and match of items in the game world, some of which are made up of LEGO blocks – and usually indicate which areas are destructible – and some areas which are modelled in the same way as they would be in any other game. This latest instalment into the LEGO franchise looks good, but it doesn’t represent a massive stride in visual prowess, if you put this and LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars next to each other, they’d look pretty much exactly the same. That’s not a bad thing, part of the charm of a LEGO game comes from how it looks and if Traveller’s Tales starting playing about with that it would cause more of an outcry that it did when they gave the characters voices for the first time.
While the characters and world look pretty much the same as you’d expect, a lot of work has clearly gone in to making the environment feel like you’re in a LEGO version of Middle-earth. When you sail past Argonath or fight through Amon Hen or the Mines of Moria, there’ll be no doubt that that’s where you are. The developers are clearly fans of the source material and have put a great deal of effort into making the world that you’re playing the game in as true to the fiction as they can possibly make it.
SOUND: The use of full voice acting returns with LEGO The Lord of the Rings, but in a different sense than it did with LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. In LEGO The Lord of the Rings, the developers have used the actual voices from the films in order to fill out their cast. This means that while you do have all of the people we’ve come to associate with the difference characters – Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey/White – there isn’t any new dialogue to be heard, not from the actors themselves anyway. You’ll get the usual grunts and noises that LEGO games have become known for too, which always adds a little to the comedy of the series too.
Another thing to mention is the music which, again, is taken directly from the films. The main title theme of the trilogy, a piece of music which is unmistakable and will instantly get people to take notice, is all over the game. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. It’s not that it’s a bad piece of music, exactly the opposite, it’s just that it plays every time the player figures out a puzzle, or gets to a particularly challenging part of the level; it almost gets to the point where you’re sick of hearing it.
GAMEPLAY: If you’ve played a LEGO game before then you’re not going to be surprised by what LEGO The Lord of the Rings brings to the table. Essentially, you’re going to play out the Lord of the Ring story we all know and love, guiding Frodo Baggins to Mount Doom in order to destroy The One Ring, all while smashing as many LEGO blocks as you can find in order to collect those sweet, sweet LEGO studs that are usually held within. Collect enough of these studs and you’ll fill up the bar at the top centre of the screen, when it gets full you’ll get the ‘True Adventurer’ status and you’ll gain an additional Mithril block when the results screen appears at the end of the level. “Mithril block?” I hear you ask. Well, these are used to create some of the items that you’ll be able to make by visiting a blacksmith. On your travels, one of the things that you’ll be able to collect are blacksmith blueprints for various items, some are weapons, others nothing more than a trowel for digging in the ground, but in order to make these items you’ll need Mithril, the more Mithril you have, the more items you can create, it’s very simple really.
In the last couple of LEGO games, things have changed a little. Gone are the days when you’d have a hub world, asking you to go through different doors in order to get to the different areas of a game in order. In LEGO Lord of the Rings, just as in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, there is a massive open world outside of the missions for you to explore, it isn’t just an empty world for you to walk around in either, there’s Mithril blocks to collect, puzzles to figure out and all manner of other things.
It’s easy to get lost in the open world areas of the game, but in order to combat this, a path will be shown to the player that will lead them toward whichever objective they’ve chosen as the primary path from their map. By default this will be the next area of the game, but the player is able to change that to any area on the map just by going into it and selecting a new target waypoint. The track that you’re supposed to be following is represented by ghostly, light blue studs along the path. When collected, these studs simply disappear and don’t give you any points. They’re just there to give you a direction to follow and nothing more.
There are plenty of times in the game where you’ll find that you’ll need a specific person in order to continue into some of the more secret areas of the game. These areas are a little less common when the fellowship is all together, as you’ve pretty much got one of every “class” at that point, but when the fellowship breaks up, you’ll start finding yourself wishing that you had Gimli with you so that you could launch him at specific rocks in order to break them. These sections of the game give the player a reason to come back in the “Free Play Mode” that’s unlocked at the end of each level. This mode allows the player to complete the level again but with any character they see fit, so they can get to all those character specific places that they may have had to miss the first time around.
LONGEVITY: There’s a hell of a lot to do in LEGO The Lord of the Rings, so much so that you’re not going to get through everything that the game has to offer in a single playthrough. As we’ve come to expect from a game in the LEGO series, as you play through the game you’ll unlock characters the will be able to get to certain areas of the map that you were previously unable to get to. This means that you’ll often be retracing your own footsteps because you’ve picked up a character that can get through a certain door. This lengthens the amount of time you’ll be playing the game dramatically. Add to that the fact that there are a plethora of collectibles for players to be spending their time with, blueprints, chests, secrets areas and the ‘True Adventurer’ status of each level, and you can see how you’ll be finding things to do in the game for the foreseeable future.
VERDICT: LEGO The Lord of the Rings is a much different LEGO game than what we’re used to. There’s no hub world, everything is fully voice acted and the world that we’re playing around in is much larger than we’ve come to expect from the series. That being said, nothing is taken away from the humour and fun that everyone seems to love. The fact that the developers have taken serious lines from the film and twisted them to fit into the story in a humorous way can be a little bit jarring at times, but it’s never enough to stop the enjoyment of the experience. Fans of the LEGO series of games will no doubt be picking this up for the same reasons they’ve picked up all of the other games, for The Lord of the Rings fans it’s a no-brainer.