Developer Traveler’s Tales has amassed quite the library of hits this console generation. Their LEGO games have sold like zit cream at a Trekkie convention and they have all garnered, for the most part, both player and critical praise. Some of the most revered franchises in geekdom have been given the LEGO treatment such as Star Wars, Indians Jones, and Harry Potter just to name a few. The amalgamation of these well loved franchises and the addictive gameplay of the video games they are attached to have given rise to one of the true success stories in recent video game history. It was probably just destiny and a matter of time before Traveler’s Tales turned their attention to Middle Earth for another round of brick building fun.
There has probably been no better lore left untapped for the LEGO treatment than Tolkien’s rich world of The Lord of the Rings. With its dizzying array of interesting characters and no shortage of epic set pieces, The Lord of the Rings seemed to be a perfect fit for the LEGO treatment and Traveler’s Tales has not disappointed. LEGO Lord of the Rings is a hilarious and supremely fun adventure from Bag End to Mordor, and everywhere in-between.
LEGO Lord of the Rings spans the entire film trilogy, letting you experience nearly every significant event from the films. The action plays out in typical LEGO fashion and anyone familiar with the other games in this series will feel right at home here. Every level is still bursting at the seams with hidden secrets and cool items to find, but the amount of collectibles has been ratcheted up several notches to the point of almost being overwhelming. It may almost be even too much content if replaying levels weren’t so much fun. In addition to the regular levels there is also a world map that can be explored at your leisure. Many of the other LEGO games have included an overworld map, but it’s bigger than ever in this game. Nearly the entire Middle Earth map is open to you with its own bevy of secret items and missions. Getting from one place to the other is a breeze though, as you can walk from one iconic point to another in no time at all. It may not be geographically correct as far as hard core Tolkien fans are concerned, but I found it exhilarating to stand in the Trollshaws and see Weathertop just over the hill. As easy as it is to get from place to place, there is still a fast travel option for those who don’t feel like wandering there and back again.
Playability is also as simple and addictive as ever. The low penalty for death may still cause some people feel as if they are not being challenged, but the real challenge in the LEGO games is and always has been the puzzles, and LEGO Lord of the Rings is chock full of them. Certain characters are still needed to access certain areas and some objects are still inaccessible until you figure out what you need to have to unlock them. There are also quite a few sidequests that NPC’s can give you to complete. These are a relatively new addition to the LEGO games, but they fit in perfectly. Some are simple fetch quests, such as a villager from Bree asking you to find his hat that he left on Weathertop (what the heck was he doing up there, anyway?), but others can be rather interesting and enticing, such as a dwarf who tasks you with finding a mithril tinderbox that allows you to engulf your enemies in a shower of colorful flames. None of these sidequests are necessary to complete the main storyline, but they are all fun and a welcome addition to the LEGO formula.
If you’ve played other LEGO games then you’re probably familiar with the humor that permeates the games and LEGO Lord of the Rings is easily the funniest one yet. A new addition to the LEGO titles that helps in the humor department is the inclusion of spoken dialogue. LEGO Batman 2 included it, but Lord of the Rings is the first title to include lines directly from the movie the game is based on. I can’t express how funny it is to hear these iconic and normally dramatic lines being spoken while something truly ridiculous is going on screen. I don’t want to give anything away, but King Theoden’s death is particularly hilarious. The soundtrack is also perfect as it is comprised entirely of Howard Shore‘s fantastic music written for the film trilogy. It also adds some surprisingly emotional depth to some of the scenes when things aren’t quite as lighthearted. These scenes are, however, few and far between.
Complaints I would have about this title are relatively minor. There’s still some small graphical hiccups, such as characters and objects clipping through each other, but this is still the best looking LEGO title yet. There are also, as is normally the case in these games, one or two sections that seem to drag on a bit too long. One case in particular is when you are tasked with following Gollum through the marshlands. This section could have been half as long, or offered some variations in the gameplay. Also, as much as I love the dialogue taken directly from the film, there are still a few moments when the voices don’t sound exactly as they should in that they sometimes sound a bit muffled, but again, this is a minor complaint and one that doesn’t crop up too often.
Traveler’s Tales has established a winning formula with their LEGO games and with Lord of the Rings, they have perfected it. I can say without reservation that this is easily the best LEGO game yet and is moreover the best Lord of the Rings game yet as well. You can plow through the entire story in an afternoon if you want, but there is enough available content here that you could easily spend between twenty and thirty hours without seeing everything the game has to offer. The sound of hundreds of LEGO studs scattering across the ground is still one of the sweetest sounds in all of gaming and when it’s all set against the epic backdrop of the world of Middle Earth, well… how can you really go wrong?