The geniuses at Traveller’s Tales have done a great job of Lego-fying everything from Star Wars, to Batman, and beyond. As the Twinfinite Tolkien expert, I jumped at the chance to experience their latest creation. I’ve been a fan of the series and Tolkien’s other works ever since I read them in class in the 4th grade, and I had every intention of being hyper-critical of the tiniest detail. Happily, it surpassed all my expectations. Hit the jump to read about my time in Lego Middle Earth.
Everything people enjoyed about Lego games returns here, from the stud collecting to the puzzle solving and, most importantly, the building. The Lego touch on this game doesn’t detract from the high tension moments in the game. All the giant battles and the important moments are faithfully recreated. The different types of gameplay spread throughout help to keep players from getting burnt out on any specific play type. Stealth sections, follow missions, and giant tank levels keep the experience fresh. With only 30% of the game beaten after you finish the 8 hour campaign mode, unlocking new characters and abilities is a great way to keep players coming back for more.
Switching between the different members of the Fellowship is a blast (for as short a time as they are together). Changing between Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas, and the Hobbits is necessary to solve different puzzles and progress through the environment, but soon you’ll be flipping through the Fellowship just to try out their different moves and skillsets. Once the group splinters into 3 parts, certain areas of the overworld will be locked out until the rest of the Fellowship catches up plotwise. This was one of my favorite things about the game. If you try to enter an area that you aren’t supposed to yet, the Eye of Sauron flashes on your screen and the game reminds you that the Eye has to be drawn elsewhere before you can enter the level.
This little visual touch may be fantastic but it has help from the gorgeous overworld. As expected in any Lego game, some of the environments are destructible blocks, but for the most part the world looks like a giant diorama. Fast-travel is an option, like in other open world games, but you would miss out on the amazing scenery and views. The epic walking shots from the movies can be recreated here with little effort.
The biggest thing Traveller’s Tales did correctly was use the voices and soundtrack from Peter Jackson’s hit movie trilogy. Hearing Frodo and co.’s actual voices gave the game a greater sense of weight and importance. Hearing the familiar music swell as you get to important points gets your heart racing and pumps you up. You can tell the development team did their research and put every effort to making this as close to the films as possible. Credits even roll when you get to the end of a movie. As faithful as they were to the movies, they also added the Lego sense of humor. I found myself giggling like an idiot frequently, especially at dramatic scenes. The interaction between Legolas and Gimli, while humorous enough in the movies, takes on a whole new level of funny in Lego form.
While the majority of this game lives up to the lofty ambitions of the development team, it does fall short in a few places. The sound sampling, for the most part, works beautifully and helps immerse you in the world, but every so often the voices start to sound tinny and low quality. While this mostly happens when there are multiple voices in the same cutscene, this seems like an easily rectifiable problem that was just ignored.
Another issue I had with the game was switching between characters. While in previous Lego games a simple button press would suffice, here you are constantly switching between as many as 9 characters and the control setup isn’t ideal. I found myself switching to the wrong character a lot, which can get annoying when you’re in the middle of battle or platforming. Speaking of which, the platforming is easily the worst part of the game. While jumping in Lego games has always been floaty, there’s something about this one that makes landing that jump a bit harder than it should be. Couple it with the fact that you can easily fall off ledges, even if you can clearly see both feet nowhere near the edge and it can start to get frustrating.
Even with these irritations, I would highly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of Lego, Lord of the Rings, or both. It’s a more lighthearted approach to the beloved trilogy but it’s no less potent. Especially with the Hobbit trilogy coming out within the next two years, this could potentially be one of the last things we get out of the Tolkien/Jackson universe, and that is a sad thought.
[+Lines and music taken straight from the Jackson trilogy] [+Multiple characters with different skillsets to choose from] [+Lego charm and humor] [+Faithfully sticks to the plot] [+Mixes up gameplay to keep things fresh] [+Gimli] [+Beautifully crafted open world] [+70% of the game is meant to be played after the first playthrough] [-Voices get tinny from time to time] [-Platforming not up to par] [-Troublesome controls]