The game has one of the worst opening segments I’ve ever had the misfortune to play. Right off the bat, you go into a typical boss fight, against an enemy with far too much health, and invulnerable to any damage except at predetermined moments. Accompanied by endless waves of enemies. For anyone new to the series, I expect they will have a hard time figuring out exactly what they need to do, and even for a seasoned Lego veteran such as myself, the battle went on for far too long.
Things get better after the shoddy start though, and the trademark Lego humour comes to the forefront. The games are based entirely on Peter Jackson’s take on the trilogy, with all the recorded dialogue lifted directly from the films. That leaves room for slapstick in the animation though, and here the humour is executed with aplomb. Many of the gags, which typically take place between dialogue or in the background, are reminiscent of the Lego Star Wars series, which you’ll either appreciate or not.
The scenery is lush, and though you’ll mostly rampage through it, levelling furniture and vegetation alike in your quest to collect the Lego “stud” currency, there are moments when you can appreciate just how well-rendered Lego Middle Earth really is. It’s interesting to note, that this is one of the most immersive recreations of the films we’ve seen in a game (including The Lord of the Rings Online). The world feels completely alive, with wildlife meandering around, people doing their thing, and scenic vistas. Once again, I’m left with an odd sense of amusement that the core gameplay mechanic is to smash it all up (but doing so remains as enjoyable as every other Lego game, and be sure to look for Sauron’s bonus level at the end if you’re after more such gratification).
There’s also lots to do. You’ll routinely have a large number of characters accompanying you on your travels (indeed, the entire Fellowship at one point), each of whom has distinct abilities. Sam can dig and light fires, Gandalf can create a shield and levitate blocks, Merry can fish, and on and on. Each character also has an inventory in this instalment, with the ability to select and use different tools from a radial menu (also new is the ability to, thankfully, switch characters from a similar menu, as opposed to relying on trying to “aim” at different characters). There’s still the occasional thing to build out of bouncing Lego parts, and doing so remains wonderful; waiting to see just what exactly will be speedily constructed by your characters, just as discovering, say, exactly how lighting a fire will enable a ravine to be crossed.
Lego Lord of the Rings has one of the best hubs to date. In between each level, you’ll find yourself in Middle Earth, free to explore it in search of yet more stuff to destroy, as well as mini challenges that reward you with more studs or bonus items. There’s even a map that lets you fast travel between various places, as well as “map markers” scattered throughout the place that will add points of interest to your map. It’s in this free-roaming part of the game that you can accept “quests” (typically fetch quests) that will reward you with special “Mithril” Lego blocks. These blocks are used to craft various items (provided you have the appropriate blueprint) which can then be used by your characters. It’s a neat system, and, combined with the map markers, gives you more incentive to go off and complete some of the optional objectives, beyond the typical sense of despair of having completed the game only to discover that it’s only fractionally complete.
What hasn’t been improved upon is the often awful platforming. In many cases, the camera can’t be repositioned when you need to jump across a gap, and without any sensible depth cues, it’s easy to miss sometimes. The combat too leaves a lot to be desired for similar reasons, and also because the character you’re controlling can get lost in a crowd on a regular basis. The game overall doesn’t feel as “fun” as say Lego Batman 2, despite having lots more to do. Perhaps it’s from knowing what to expect in terms of the storyline, or maybe it’s a personal preference. On a more positive note, there are opportunities to save the game mid-level, so you don’t need to feel obliged to see a level through to the end before quitting.
Gripes aside (though it’s telling that these gripes have been present in the last 10 games in the series), Lego The Lord of the Rings is a solid iteration on the Lego formula. There’s plenty of stuff to do, and sights to see that are worthy of the attention of any Lord of the Rings fan.
Performance & Quality
Once again, Feral’s port is flawless, and there’s no external launcher this time around to configure the graphics settings; you can set everything from within the game itself.
Local co-op only is supported.