The Lord of the Rings. A tale of how things in small packages can change so much and affect so many lives. Itâ€™s perfectly fitting, then, that J.R.R. Tolkienâ€™s epic tale be translated into tiny LEGO brick form.
Once again, developer Traveller's Tales have delivered a beautiful game that not only captures the heart and soul of the source material, but also injects the warmth and charm that has made the LEGO video games so popular.
Over the years, TT have fine-tuned their plastic brick mash-up technique with the likes of their Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman games. Whether youâ€™re exploring Hogwarts castle, the Batcave, or the planet Tatooine, every game is both uniquely enjoyable and yet pleasantly familiar at the same time.
Their latest effort, which takes place across the three books (or films) of The Lord of the Rings, is no different. And once again, the developers have managed to up the ante to deliver one of the best LEGO videogame adaptations to date.
While their previous title, LEGO Batman 2, was impressive in scale, LEGO Lord of the Rings makes it look positively pint-sized. The new setting of Middle-earth is gargantuan in size and spreads out from the humble village of Bag End all the way across to the treacherous lands of the Black Gate. You can walk, run, or even ride to nearly any location on the map, and sometimes even off the map to discover hidden secrets not visible on the beaten track.
As Frodo and that other fat hobbit would say, â€˜itâ€™s a long road to travelâ€™ â€“ but the game never feels overwhelming or convoluted. Despite the sprawling mountains and role-playing-esque setting, the game is certainly no Skyrim. As in previous releases in the LEGO series, the game is delightfully accessible and players can easily call on a trail of blue studs that will lead you where you need to go. You can also activate â€˜fast travelâ€™ portals that help you explore the many different areas in Middle-earth.
Which is excellent because every corner of the map is worth checking out. Your starting point, the Hobbit-inhabited Shire, is buzzing with activity, with uber-tiny LEGO minifigs scurrying around and partaking in... Hobbit-like shenanigans. Such as drinking or weeding gardens. But youâ€™ll stumble across Bilboâ€™s 111th birthday party complete with firework celebrations and a giant feast. And when youâ€™ve finished smacking Hobbits and breaking (and rebuilding) everything in sight, you can then hop on the ferry to scenery-bash the rest of the world.
Youâ€™ll encounter the tree Ents of Fangorn Forest, the Knights of Rohan, the elves of Rivendell, the goblins from the Mines of Moria, and plenty more along the way â€“ every single one recreated in adorable LEGO minifig form of course. Even Treebeard is a well-envisaged combination of recognisable LEGO pieces. Itâ€™s incredible the amount of emotion those little painted plastic heads can convey.
In fact, the only exception to the famous plastic brick aesthetics lies in the background environments, a trend that has evolved over the years as Travellerâ€™s Tales perfected their art. The background environments in LEGO Lord of the Rings are stunning and rendered with high-detail textures that wouldnâ€™t look out of place in the original EA Lord of the Rings games. The end result firmly places you within Tolkienâ€™s (or Sir. Peter Jacksonâ€™s) world, but more importantly makes your minimalistic LEGO minifig characters stand-out beautifully in the foreground.
One of the more unusual decisions however was the call to use actual dialogue recordings from the trilogy of films. Fans of the original LEGO Star Wars games will recall the hilarious genius behind the mute (and often slapstick) approach to the re-telling of the story. So it was met with some disappointment when the cut-scenes here featured excessive vocals. But after the initial shock of hearing Sir Ian McKellenâ€™s booming voice coming out of a little plastic head â€“ there was a whole new appreciation and consequent humour that came from it. It ended up adding to the game, rather than taking anything away,
As with previous LEGO videogames, there is a Sauronâ€™s codpiece sized amount of extras to explore in this outing; including an insanely in-depth cast of characters to unlock. Dedicated players will be able to track down and then play with the likes of Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, Arwen, Boromir, the Corsair Pirates, Faramir, Gimli, Lurtz, and even the elusive Tom Bombadil. In fact, the cast of characters from the movies is so massive, you could probably assume that if youâ€™re a New Zealander, youâ€™re probably in this game as a LEGO dude. There is even a sickeningly cute, but equally devastating, mini-Balrog minifig to hunt down.
Unlocking characters is addictive, but youâ€™ll also be collecting silver Mithril bricks and LEGO set blueprints throughout your journey too. Each new object you locate and build grants your characters new powers or abilities, ensuring that youâ€™ll be tempted to play through earlier levels with your new improved characters. After getting through the entertaining 8 hour campaign story mode, I had still only clocked up 34% completion for the game. You can do all of this with a friend as well thanks to the two-player split-screen multiplayer.
LEGO Lord of the Rings will not disappoint fans of LEGO games. It is also a given that Lord of the Rings fans with a heart will totally get a kick out of this charming rendition. While the gameplay will seldomly challenge any experience gamer, there is a definite appeal due to the simplicity and sense of achievement with all of the hidden extras. Recommended for actual kids and those with an inner childlike passion for the worldâ€™s greatest toy ever; LEGO.