LEGO The Lord of the Rings: Review

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Anyone who is a fan of the LEGO video games knows they are a decent puzzle plat-former. The games are aimed towards the younger generations, targeting children to young teens. Built around this premise, the objectives are straight forward and easily highlighted. The games are put together well, the controls handle nicely for the most part, and the formula stays pretty consistent throughout the games. Unfortunately, that consistency is what is slowly killing the franchise. With practically no innovation, the games are becoming a stale repetition with a setting and character roster change. The games may be advertised for kids, but there are a large amount of casual players that make up those sales figures. Eventually, the continuous use of that mediocre formula will simply cause the games to flop, and the time will come when relying on the low expectations of the consumer will be the end of the LEGO series.

The Lord of the Rings has always been a towering figure of literature. The success of the movie adaptations had Traveller’s Tales wanting to expand that success to include the video game industry.

LEGO The Lord of the Rings is the first game in the series to take every character line and music audio and incorporate it into the game. The idea that this would make the games more enjoyable is sound, however it takes away any uniqueness the game might have had and turns it into a playable cartoon version of the movie. Players will see the more memorable parts of the trilogy, but nothing fully fleshed out beyond that.

Where the game excels is in the environment. The weather and lighting put the game far beyond the reach of its predecessors. Stepping onto the Pass of Caradhras and getting hit by the blizzards, delving into the depths of the Mines of Moria, stomping around the tower at Isengard, or peering over the edge of Gondor, all of these settings give fans a huge thrill. It’s the ultimate geek/nerd combination. There are the standard LEGO comedy bits in the game, and most of them were actually funny. We laughed when a character got shot with a banana.

The combat system has been enhanced, not so much in the controls, just in the animation. Sword clashes result in a shield being ripped away or a nice deflection before decapitation. Hacking at trees and watching them sway before breaking apart is enjoyable as always and seeing studs fly from the rocks you are going ham on is amusing. But while this hack n’ slash button mashing is fun, the problem lies in the simplistic puzzles. Certain characters are needed to accomplish their relegated tasks, and while playing as different characters can be fun, switching from one to the other simply to knock down a pedestal is rather tedious. The puzzles themselves are not well thought out. Collect wood, start a fire to burn up that vine holding the rocks in, jump across the gap. Toss Gimli to break apart a cracked section of brick and build something from the destroyed blocks. All of these get repetitive very quickly. Not only are they simple but they also give tips and practically solve themselves. It may be geared towards kids, but the developers seem to think kids are morons. My 4 year old was solving the puzzles while I was killing Orcs.

The game whittles down to the basics of the LEGO world. Breaking apart the environment to collect LEGO studs, salvaging ripped apart blocks to form a ramp, or simply finding a crawlspace for a smaller character as always are the main objectives of each level. No real deviation from a tried and true formula that should have been tossed away several games ago. It’s molded around the story fairly well, but at times it’s a very distinct difference between feeling like a movie and coming across as a lack of artistic vision. The true feeling of the game really comes down to a copy of the movie with random LEGO blocks littering the sets. It feels like the development team was counting on the belief that the Lord of the Rings title would grant them all of the profits that the movies raked in.

Pros

  • Great visuals
  • Combat animations are improved
  • No lack of love for the film recreation
  • Character audio meshes with the game

Cons

  • Simple puzzles
  • Tutorial hand-holding throughout the game
  • Lack of uniqueness
  • No innovation on formula
  • Stale objectives outside of the storyline

Rating 7

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