What do you want from a LEGO game? This is a question I think we all ask ourselves before diving into one of these reviews. It is no secret that Traveller’s Tales churn out a ton of these titles. This year alone has spawned at least two I can remember. Of course, it’s always about the actual brand they are borrowing from that dictates interest. Lord of the Rings is probably one of the most successful franchises to crop up in a long time. TT Games already tackled the other classic trilogies Star Wars and Indiana Jones, plus got its feet wet with the Harry Potter series last year. Now we take a journey into the land of LEGO Middle-Earth, but the real question is, “Are you ready to go there and back again?”
Nine companions. So be it. You shall be the fellowship of the ring.
The Lord of the Rings outing follows the story of the movies fairly closely. It even has the voice acting lifted line-for-line from the films. This is a nice touch and adds to the gorgeous interpretation within the game. Of course we have the usual nods and comedy the series is known for. Seeing characters act silly during dramatic scenes, down to exchanging pipes with coffee, and ale with turkey legs. The game has style and expresses the universe quite well. The little touches mixed with the trademark LEGO humor go together nicely.
The structure is reminiscent of recent LEGO games. You have a main overworld map that is broken down into smaller portions. In each of these, you have various treasures and blocks to collect. As per usual, the collecting really doesn’t start until you complete the story portion of the game and unlock all the characters. Certain areas can only be unlocked with specific characters, thus the need to re-tread entire levels and areas is necessary. LEGO games are massive, and most of the time tedious after double-digit hours.
Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee!
The best way to play any of the LEGO games has always been cooperatively. LEGO LotR is no different, and in fact gives you tons of options while doing it. Once you start off on your main quest, you have access to all nine of the Fellowship characters. Each one, of course, has special abilities like Legolas’ arrows and Sam being able to start fires. All of these are used, with multiple applications at times, making co-op almost a must.
LEGO LotR handles co-op much like the previous games. Obviously it isn’t online. I think we should assume at this point that isn’t going to happen again. Instead, TT Games have developed this obscure split-screen method that distorts the view based on your position. It is disorienting to say the least, and even ends up with player two on the left side of the screen at times, which is weird. I understand the technical reasons for it, but the implementation takes some getting used to. However, this is still the way to go. Having a second player help collect and solve the game’s puzzles is a must. Not to mention that you can’t die, so playing with younger players is a possibility.
What about second breakfast?
While the core mechanics haven’t changed, there is plenty to like about LEGO LotR. For instance, the sheer scope of levels is impressive. The game opens with the massive battle against the forces of Mordor. Watching thousands of orcs onscreen in battle is incredible. The snow mountain pass is breathtaking, and walking around the Shire is as relaxing as you would imagine. Seeing these environments in the game is incredible. You will also have a bevy of quests you can collect in certain areas, again leading to more collecting and puzzle solving. As with any LEGO game, there is just an abundance of content to be had.
The game looks fantastic running on the HD consoles. The attention to detail is impressive, and the frame rate has some minor issues, but nothing game-breaking. The scope of some of the levels is impressive. I already mentioned the battle at the beginning, but even some of the later areas, like the mines, are littered with slick presentation and attention to detail. The game does have some loading issues, taking longer than I would like to get back into the action though. The voice work is perfect, as it is lifted directly from the movies, as are the music and the sound effects. TT Games has added in minor expressions and gasps, but for the most part, this is the movie.
At the end of the day LEGO Lord of the Rings is exactly what you would expect. Whether or not it is something you want is entirely based on your love for the two properties. LEGO games are not going anywhere. They are well made, cover fantastic franchises and, admit it; we all enjoy playing them from time to time. That said, if you enjoy the LotR series, you will undoubtedly love what TT Games has done here. It may not evolve the series, but it does enough to make fans of both franchises happy.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.