The Lego game series started strong with Lego Star Wars, dipped in quality with Indiana Jones and Harry Potter, and regained a bit of ground with Pirates of the Caribbean. Now, Lego Lord of the Rings takes the series to the next level with the most ambitious content yet. Is there enough here to make Lego Lord of the Rings worthwhile, or should this fellowship be broken? Read on for more info…and more puns!
Keeping with series tradition, Lego Lord of the Rings features levels and scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. However, where past games had characters simply pantomiming through iconic movie scenes, Lego Lord of the Rings features actual lines of dialogue snipped right from the films. It sounds hokey on paper, but the dialogue is exectued so well you’d think it was actually recorded just for the game. Though a few moments are missing, the biggest, most memorable scenes are here for fans to rejoice over.
In the same vein, the platforming-based levels of Lego Lord of the Rings are taken from iconic moments in the movies. You’ll be tracking down Merry and Pippin after their capture, battling the Balrog as Gandalf, and even defending the fortress at the battle of Helm’s Deep…and that’s just three of the game’s 18 stages. Many even jump between points of view: one level in particular jumps between Frodo in the Ringwraith dimension and his friends on Weathertop multiple times. Unfortunately, not every stage feels as wonderful as the last; the sequence in the Dead Marshes is particularly tedious. Still, a few weak levels out of nearly 20 isn’t bad. The same goes for the game’s boss battles and puzzles. Early fights like the one against the Watcher in the Water are brilliantly executed, but later in the game you’ll grow tired of the many, many cave trolls you’ll battle. On the puzzle front, there are some standouts, but you’ll collect so much firewood you’ll want to burn every Ent alive.
The action of the levels can also be a hindrance. The same button is used for opening your inventory and interacting with objects. You’ll often find yourself looking at your items when you meant to be lighting a bonfire. Quickly switching characters, opening the character wheel, and jumping onto vehicles are all mapped onto a single button as well, leaving you to dance on and off of your horse when you’re just trying to switch control to Gandalf.
Lego Lord of the Rings has a lot levels, of course, but just as important is the large number of playable characters. There are over 80 different characters available, running the gamut of Frodo to the King of the Dead. Like past games in the series, characters have unique abilities. Legolas is a nimble archer, able to shoot targets, perform high jumps, and swing from poles. Gollum can climb special walls to reach hidden areas. And Pippin? Well…Pippin has a bucket. Yeah, not every ability is equally exciting, but every one has its purpose for puzzle solving or for getting from point A to point B.
Oddly enough, many of these abilities are made moot during Free Play. This is typically the best part of any Lego game, allowing you to replay the level with all characters available, which gets you into secret areas and helps you acquire every treasure. Lego Lord of the Rings introduces the Treasure Trove, which is a stockpile of treasure items you can pick up throughout the game. If you’ve got any sort of bow in there, Legolas’ archery is useless. If you’ve got a bucket in there, Pippin’s bucket becomes…well, even less useful than before. Stock enough items up, and you can perform every task just with your inventory, eliminating the need for any additional characters. Unless you can’t bring yourself to use anyone but Gimli, this is a bit of a letdown.
Of course, every level in Lego Lord of the Rings branches out from a hub. Unlike previous games, however, this hub is an open world. This massive land has side quests to complete, characters to find and purchase with in-game currency, and collectibles to acquire. It’s the biggest and best addition to a Lego game yet, and developer Traveler’s Tales deserves a lot of credit for making it worthwhile. On the flip side, very little effort was put into the actual quests. Literally called “fetch quests,” every one involves bringing an item back to an individual for a reward. It’s a classic case of a good idea with bad execution.
Not every character is a quest-giver though. In Lego Lord of the Rings, there are many, many characters to track down and unlock via a purchase. They can be found all over the massive world, leading to an exciting discovery any time you come across new person. One very important person is the Blacksmith. His shop allows you to forge the new Mithril bricks into special tools, which go into the Treasure Trove mentioned earlier.
Those Mithril blocks are just one of the many collectibles to be had in Lego Lord of the Rings. You can find them hidden across the land or earn them by completing special objectives. Aside from them, there are Red Bricks to unlock. These serve as in-game cheats, allowing you to build faster, have double health, or run around with invincibility. Finally, you can find minikits throughout the game’s 18 levels – 10 in each one, to be exact. These have been the constant collectible in every Lego game, so the desire to find every one – usually extremely well hidden in a level – is strong.
Simply put, Lego Lord of the Rings is the best Lego game yet. Most levels and moments translate from the movies in very fun ways, and the voice samples from the films adds a nice touch to the typical Lego humor. With over 80 characters, Lord of the Rings fans will enjoy geeking out over every new interaction, and the unique abilities of each spice up the gameplay. Topping it all off, the open world is a perfect addition to the series, adding additional playtime that is just as enjoyable as the platforming stages. To be honest, I was never a Lord of the Rings fan before playing this game. Now, I really want to take a second look.