Review by sfsuphysics
"TT Games brings another great series of movies to the Lego Universe"
Lego Lord of the Rings brings us the latest installment of other fantasy worlds brought to the Lego stage. The review of this game is going to assume you've played some of the other Lego games and are at least familiar with the mechanics. If you are completely new to the game the basic mechanics are you play characters in stubby Lego people shapes, bust everything up you see to collect studs (currency), rebuild some Lego structures to solve puzzles, and the game features a no death aspect in that you never can lose when you lose all hearts your character explodes into a bunch of studs and you reappear, this makes the game useful for both young and old as there's no huge frustration aspect to it by having to redo a level, except perhaps when trying to make a tricky jump or trying to find some hidden object. If you still don't know what the game is like swing by Youtube and search for Lego Lord of the rings or Lego Pirates of the Caribbean or Lego Star wars and watch some gameplay videos.
Overall gameplay is fairly identical to all other Lego games; you have various characters that you play through in a "story mode" many of which have some unique ability that allows you to get through the various puzzles that which permeate the level. Also much like other Lego games most of the game is not going through the story of the game but it's to find all the little secrets and hidden items that are spread about the levels, and world, in that sense they don't diverge from the previous games either in that it is literally impossible to get perfect on any level on the first play straight through, but only after you finish the game and then after you get various characters with the special abilities or items needed to actually complete various puzzles/tasks.
Another aspect which rears its head from the latest Batman Lego games is the open world aspect. The entire world of Middle Earth is in the game, in a somewhat compacted format. This game is based off the movies first and foremost not the books, so little details that are in the books may be missing if you're hoping to see everything from the novel reproduced in Lego bricks. While the world is compacted it still does take a bit of time if you were to walk from one edge of the world to the other, luckily there is a warp system in place where you can warp to various Map Statues that occupy just about every location in the game and then from there walk (or ride) to wherever you want to go. Returning are the ghost studs which tell you where to go as well so you don't get lost, in Story Mode they lead you to the next level in Free Mode they'll lead you to whatever item you highlight on the map whether it is a brick, a character or other hidden item (this last part is extremely useful and makes it reasonable to find everything in the map without randomly stumbling upon it). However you are limited to which characters you can switch to while roaming around if you haven't already finished the game, once you finish the game though you can switch to any character you picked up.
During the levels it's traditional Lego game action, you attack, jump, swap characters, use items all while trying to get to the end. Touch that lava on Mount Doom... instant death, then you pop up again almost right where you died the first time. "Puzzles" that need to be solved are usually knowing which character to use, see a target high up? Use Legolas to shoot an arrow at it. Cracked rock? Gimli's axe is what is necessary. Getting through the levels in story mode is an easy task, the game often gives hints when something new needs to be done, for instance a cracked rock that's high up? Gimli actually runs over and jumps up and down, walk near him the game tells you to press (action) to lift him and then aim and throw like he was an arrow, tossing dwarfs is ok to do in the game. Going through in "Free Play" mode however is a little more difficult as it's not always obvious where everything is hidden, luckily you don't have to worry about which characters to bring as you can always swap out characters from those you unlocked already.
Present in this game is just about every major and minor character from the movies, all of which become playable in some fashion although some do need to be unlocked, supposedly there are some exclusive characters that came as a pre-order bonus that do not appear in the game normally although they may be unlockable via a code however at this time I'm unsure if it's actually in the code of the game or is something that physically must be downloaded. All characters have some special trait that makes them useful, however there are not many unique traits that only one character has, for instance you can use Aragorn as king with his special sword to break black lego bricks, or the original owner of the sword from the Prologue, Elendil, or even Sauron himself can break them (when unlocked). However if there is someone that is unique, you can often get around that with various items that you find or craft in the game and equip on the character the instant you need that ability. Many characters however are not necessary and are simply clones of others, but this should be no surprise to Lego game fans, it simply is a source of completion to get all these little characters even though you already have someone who can do exactly what they can. There are a few characters however that do come from the book that were not present in the movie like Tom Bombadil and Radagast the Brown however don't expect them to do special unique things because they don't.
Just like other Lego games there's various collectables that you need to get to chase that carrot and get the 100% goal that is in all Lego games. Red Bricks make a comeback here too, various ones from the always coveted stud multipliers to the less desirable poop studs. Gold bricks are not in this game however, they have been replaced with mithril bricks. Also added to the game are plans which allow you to use your mithril bricks to craft various items that duplicate character abilities such as an a rope so Sam isn't the only one mimicking Indiana Jones in the game. Also there are quests, which essentially are various people who ask you for an item, often telling you were it is if it's hidden in a level unless it's an item you craft using your mithril bricks, in return they give you either a red brick (which you then need to buy), a mithril brick, or offer to join (again after you buy them).
While I am a big fan of Lego games there were some parts of the game that I really did not like at all. First the voice acting, now I'm not going to go on a diatribe about voices being in what traditionally is a voiceless game, but it leads into my next complaint. The cut scenes, there are just too many of them in the game, before a level, during a level, after a level, in between travelling points, there are way too many of them and they last way too long, and here's where the voice part comes into play, the voice is basically clips of the movie and the whole reason they last so long. It's almost as if the creators wanted to reproduce most of the movie in cut scenes and then added in the play levels in between. While you can skip the cut scenes you can only do that after you already seen them once. While yeah there are some humorous Lego bits in them (not enough humor in my honest opinion) if you've already seen the movies (which you probably have if you're playing this) then the scenes simply make you feel like the game is dragging on. Also there are some glitches in the game that make it far from bug free, sometimes events never trigger which makes it impossible to continue, or sometimes you manage to jump where you're not supposed to be and get trapped, luckily you can quit the level and hopefully it occurred near a checkpoint so you don't have to go through everything again, while they don't always happen I've experienced 4 situations where the game would not continue due to an event not triggering, and 2 situations where I managed to jump where I wasn't supposed to and either couldn't move or couldn't go back to try and completely the level. Lastly, there are a lot of reused effects from other Lego games that seems like they're really just reusing old tricks, already mentioned was Sam's rope = Indiana's whip, also Aragon has an ability to find stuff and it's basically like Jack Sparrow's compass ability complete with same graphics (just different color), and Gandalf's magical moving/building essentially being The Force from the Star Wars games or Harry Potter, however it's not big it just seems to regurgitate the same tricks to make a character seem more useful. Finally there's Frodo, good god that hobbit is useless, the only useful thing Frodo does the entire game is he has the glass vial that makes light so you can peak into dark areas (apparently everyone in the game as afraid of the dark, and I do mean everyone), Sam however is overloaded with abilities, he can dig, he can make plants grow, he's a pyromaniac (yeah it's amazing how many things he sets on fire to continue), oh and he can cook and swing a frying pan like nobody's business! Frodo? Ehhh he has a light bulb and uses his camouflage cloak twice during the game.
Overall this is a good fun Lego game, as mentioned earlier most of the game is going to be unlocking everything in it, and if that's what you like that this game is the same. If you're looking for something a lot deeper than previous Lego games look elsewhere. If all you care about is the story aspect of the game it will seem like quite a short game, you really need to try to get everything in order to stretch out the game play (I think I was at 24% completion when I finished the story missions + bonus mission) While there are issues I don't like about this, overall it was fun to play what was one of the better movie franchises out there. Probably look forward to Lego The Hobbit coming out after all of the movies do, here's hoping they keep making Lego games. Having played all the Lego games and seeing some awesome franchises Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Batman, now Lord of the Rings gets added to the list makes you wonder what's next, Marvel super heroes would be one I would look forward too as I enjoy that comic franchise more than Batman, only time will tell though.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/27/12
Game Release: LEGO The Lord of the Rings (US, 11/13/12)
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