First, if you’ve never played a LEGO game, stick with me. They’re not simply kids games. They’re as awesome as LEGO’s, without the pain of stepping on one. With that being said, welcome to this review of LEGO Lord of the Rings. If you’ve ever seen the movies, you’ll be right at home with this game. If you’ve played any of the other LEGO games, you’ll notice a few changes, but in this case, change is good. Starting out, you begin, of course, in Bag End, as Frodo, with your trusty companion Sam. From here, the game progresses pretty much just like the movie. All of the characters you would expect are there, plus more than only die-hard fans of the series would recognize. Like previous LEGO games, Lord of the LEGO Rings is full of puzzles, platforming, levers, tiny doors, rigid plastic claw-hand fighting, and pib collecting. The game is broken up by LEGO acted cut scenes, modeled after the same scenes from the movie, and done quite well. The graphics are, of course, cartoonish, but that only adds to the game. Its one thing to watch the rugged manliness of Viggo Mortensen chop the head off an orc. It’s another to watch a yellow, claw handed LEGO Mortensen (with stubble dots) smack an orc in the head with a plastic sword and make his head pop off like, well, a LEGO.
The entire game looks like this, from the gameplay to the cutscenes. And, everything purposefully looks like it was made out of LEGOs. Boulders with the little bumps on top: check. Trees with LEGO piece leaves: check. Walls made out of actual LEGO bricks: totally check. You may be wondering why this is even a talking point for me. Of course everything’s made out of LEGOS…its a LEGO game. And yes, that’s true. But the intricacy in which everything is LEGOs is the impressive part. The designers didn’t stop at having just the breakable bits made of LEGOs. Even the far off scenery looks like it could be a big, pre made piece that you’d plop down in the middle of that giant, green LEGO board that you had as a kid.
These graphics only add to the actual gameplay. When you destroy something, it explodes into a shower of pibs (those little LEGO circles). These pibs are basically currency that let you buy characters, upgrades, and so on. And, maybe more importantly, there is something very satisfying being able to kick the pibs out of some Orcs as a little plastic Hobbit. Which brings me to my next point; every character from the fellowship (and more) are present, and each one has a different, unique talent or ability that allows the party to progress and open up hidden areas of each level. Some require you to beat the game and go back to reach those areas, but others are as simple as using Gimli to smash a special block with his axe, or using Legolas to jump to high platforms and create swing bars by shooting arrows at the wall. Not all about this multitude of abilities is good though. As you unlock more characters, you’ll realize that some of them have the same abilities as the original nine. Really, this is just a reason to find something wrong with the game. There are something like 50 different characters, and of course there won’t be 50 unique abilities that are needed to progress from level to level. It would have been cool if maybe Tom Bombadil could like, unleash a stampede of forest creatures, or set everyone on fire (why not), instead of just having a green thumb like Sam, but its just a minor gripe.
Not only does the game play follow the movie pretty much dead on, the audio does as well. This is the first LEGO game that features actual dialogue, not the LEGOish, Pictionary communication that the previous titles had used. While some fans may miss that style of dialogue, even the most die hard LEGO game fan will find themselves appreciating the LEGO Gandalf shouting at a Balrog. Additionally, the famous soundtracks are also included, and change depending on at what point in the game you’re at, and at what what hub location you’re at. All of this does a great job at not only recreating the movie in a fun, playable way, but also drawing you, the player, deeper into a little plastic version of Middle Earth.
This is one of the reasons why LEGO Lord of the Rings is so fun to play again and again. In addition to the unlockable characters and the bonus areas of the levels, the gameplay itself changes after the first play through. In Moria, maybe Pippin will fall down the well instead of pushing in the dwarf skeleton, and now you’ll have to crank him out before the troll bursts through. Wanna use the King of Gondor Aragorn and his super strong sword to lead the Hobbits? Go for it. Besides these little changes, there are loads of side quests that various denizens of Middle Earth will offer you. They range from finding a skeleton key for a swamp dwelling orc, to crafting a fancy mithril bow for a random hobbit in the Shire. A lot of these quests require you to visit the blacksmith in Bree and spend another form of currency, Mithril blocks, to create these specialty items (after you find the recipes, scattered throughout the game). You can also equip these items for extra punch, protection, or just fun.
Additionally, there are a bunch of mini games that let you rack up millions of pibs while you play as Sauron and destroy a slightly smaller LEGO replica of Middle Earth, or sneak around a maze of Orc towers, trying to destroy them without being seen, or bull riding a sheep through a series of flags for a Mithril block. These fun little breaks from the story keep the whole thing feeling fresh and deterring any would be monotony from creeping in. And, if all of that wasn’t enough, you can run around the hub areas just wrecking stuff. Go wild. You get paid.
Finally, like all LEGO games, this title was made with the philosophy of whatever is fun, must be twice as fun with a friend. And they were right. At any time, a friend can activate a second controller and assume the role of whatever companion they feel like, aiding you (or hindering you if they’re a terrible friend). Many times, playing with a friend will make the game a little easier, as they’re able to push another block into place, or toss a rope across a chasm. Other times, both players will need advanced characters that you haven’t unlocked yet, so there will be twice as much grumbling (ok, probably still no grumbling). There’s not much to say about the multiplayer that isn’t summed up by the saying the more the merrier. I guess, the only way it could be better would be if there was an online option, and you could run around, Call of Duty style, sniping the other LEGO characters with your Mithril Bow of Rage. Actually, that should happen. Developers, please release a patch that addresses this.
All in all, LEGO Lord of the Rings is a fun, cute, awesome excuse to waste a weekend or four. If you bring a friend along for the ride, even better. The use of actual movie music and dialogue pulls you in deep, and allows you to finally do what you’ve wanted to since the Fellowship was released: punch Gollum right in the face.
The abundance of mini games, hidden areas, and extra bits of fun, in addition to the surprisingly decent length story, allow for quite a few hours of Middle Earth enjoyment. I give LEGO Lord of the Rings 4.5 pibs out of 5.
- Come on, it’s a LEGO game
- Audio is straight from the movies
- Enormous amount of replay value
- Cute, but ‘manly’
- The puzzles can be both easy and frustratingly difficult
- Gameplay follows the movie fluidly
- Loads of fun for both LOTR fans and non fans alike
- Graphically rich and pleasing in a cartoony way
- Activating a second controller makes it twice as fun
- Just a handful of base “classes”, with a lot of the unlockable/buyable characters having these same base abilities with different models.
- Only one ending (duh)
- The LEGO shirelings and Co. can’t swim
- No flaming Denethor character
- No playable Balrogs!
- Third Age LEGO citizens love to stand in your way while you’re fighting.
Overall: 4.5/5 A-
Wondering if I’d do a beer pairing for a game that can be called “kid friendly?” Well, if I can shoot a LEGO troll in the face with an arrow, you’re damn right I can drink a beer at the same time. Also, dwarves. But, I’ll appease both sides of the coin, and start with a disclaimer. If you’re a child reading this, I suggest chocolate milk, or maybe a juice box to drink with this game. Ok, moving on. For your drinking pleasure, I recommend Woodchuck Amber Cider. Ok, sure, cider isn’t technically beer, but hear me out. The Woodchuck is tart and sweet at the same time, while being refreshing and easily chuggable. Why does this make it pair well with the game? Well, both are light in a fun way, both bring a smile to your face, and, for some reason, both make me think of a comfortable, autumn afternoon, maybe in front of a fire. Maybe its the quaint, simple life portrayed in the beginning of the Lord of the Rings story. Maybe its because Woodchuck is an adult take on a kid friendly drink. Whatever the reason, I can only imagine good times to be had, chilling out with a friend, knocking back a few Woodchucks while slashing and Hobbiting your way through an entire army of blocky orcs.