Over the past 9 years, the LEGO series has evolved into an established franchise in the same vein as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed. Annual installments may have diminished the original luster of the series but each one is still a great game on its own. Developer Traveller’s Tales follow their established formula of taking a popular entertainment franchise and “LEGO-fying” it into a family-fun experience that captures the spirit of the source material. And just like the last time they visited Middle Earth, Traveller’s Tales have again captured the epic journey of Bilbo and company in LEGO The Hobbit.
The story of LEGO The Hobbit follows the first two films in the series chronicling the recruitment of an unassuming hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, into an adventure across Middle Earth. Bilbo joins Gandalf, Thorin, and the Company of Dwarves to reclaim their lost Kingdom of Erebor within the Lonely Mountain. Dangers will face players as . Because the game only covers two out of the three films, the game ends on the same cliffhanger as The Desolation of Smaug . There have been reports that the game will include the content from the third film as DLC when it releases this December. There is no telling why Warner Bros. couldn’t have waited to release the game but a sure fire way to upset their customers is to charge an exorbitant amount for the DLC or to release an entirely separate game that includes the last film (the same way that LEGO Indiana Jones did). Even though there is an obvious part of the story missing, the game does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the films and conveying the epic narrative of Bilbo’s adventure. The best parts of the films such as Bilbo’s confrontation with Gollum or Smaug’s terrifying reveal are faithfully translated to some of the best moments in the game.
LEGO The Hobbit utilizes the combat and exploration system that has been established in the series and also introduces a few unique features. The mining minigame (hitting the button at the right moment), the loot system (gathering materials to forge unique items), and brick construction challenges (first introduced in The LEGO Movie game) all work to enhance the gameplay while still retaining the core LEGO philosophy of “smash-all-the-things-and-collect-all-the-studs.” As an added bonus, you can use the unique abilities of each dwarf and combine them in different ways such as Bombur’s ability to use his rotund belly as a trampoline for others to jump out of danger. The humor inherent in the films combined with the classic LEGO slapstick bits creates lighthearted moments that are welcome in between the dark and somber scenes of the story. And there is just something that makes me smile when I see those little dwarves running around stacked on top of each other battling hordes of savage Orcs. I just can’t friggin’ help it.
One of the few frustrating aspects about the game is the difficulty of viewing the details onscreen. As the LEGO games grow more ambitious in capturing the grand visuals of their source films, it becomes harder and harder to make out the minute details that are needed to progress. It is common to encounter a situation in LEGO The Hobbit in which you find yourself jumping up and down maniacally in order to determine where your character is on the screen. A problem compounded by the visual similarities between most of the characters (the dwarves in particular). While it is greatly appreciated that the developers so wonderfully capture the grand scope of Middle Earth’s locations, some type of optional zoom-in seems needs to be added in the future so players can accurately see what they’re doing.
All in all, LEGO The Hobbit is a great addition to the LEGO family of games. Besides a few minor frustrations, the game succeeds at its goal of translating the epic adventure of The Hobbit films into a fun, light-hearted experience that’s suitable for everyone. If you played any LEGO game before, you know that the games are rarely ever less than great and that doesn’t fail to hold true here. The tried and true LEGO formula may be starting to wear a bit thin but chances are that you’ll forget all about it once you set out on your adventure, there and back again.
[+Captures the epic spirit of the films] [+New gameplay features] [+Humor in both gameplay and dialogue] [+Classic LEGO gameplay] [-Missing the third film] [-Hard to make out details on screen]