The LEGO series of video games has been a very successful, having touched on every major movie series one can even think about, especially those in the legendary status that all gamers consider to be important. Having enjoyed numerous games in the franchise that have touched on Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean, I knew it would only be a matter of time before one of the most famous trilogies in both novels and movies came to fruition. Now, indeed, it’s Middle-earth’s turn to get the LEGO treatment with LEGO Lord of the Rings.
By now, most anyone who has touched a LEGO game knows the premise behind them. All characters involved in the game, both good and evil, are depicted as LEGO-style characters. With LOTR, it is no different, though the amount of characters is much greater than many LEGO titles of years past. Melee attacks have not received much of a change, though they are based on the character being used at the time, so obviously you can expect to be using a bow and arrow with Legolas, for example. New additions, however, have players getting the chance to use magic with Gandalf and, in a nice little twist, being thrown at various objects throughout the course of the game with Gimli.
The LEGO games cater to fans of all ages, especially since the violent factor tends to be softened when killing an enemy and seeing them shatter into multiple LEGO blocks instead of a bloody corpse. It makes the game very age friendly, so fans who are older and have younger children who may just be reading the books or watching the movies for the first time need not worry about nightmares of running into vicious creatures of Middle-earth and seeing a bloodbath ensue. It’s one of the main reasons I think the LEGO series has been so fantastic in its many titles, and LOTR loses nothing from being in this successful franchise.
As expected, gameplay will center around at least two characters at all times, providing a player with the chance to swap characters to use at any time, or a friend joining in for co-op mode. The amount of playable characters is quite high in LOTR, featuring Frodo, Legolas, Gandalf, Aragorn, Sam, Boromir, Gimli, and several others. Players will progress throughout the entire series of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, reliving their favorite moments in all their glory. When playing in co-op mode, I’ve found it to be both enjoyable and frustrating as the expected moments of players needing to work together can end in chaos, especially with friendly fire very much in play. I played LOTR with a couple of friends during this run and had both success and failure, especially the latter of the two, thanks to some free-range button mashing when there were multiple enemies. Playing the game solo doesn’t make the game any more or less fun, but can definitely be less frustrating.
While it isn’t a sandbox-style game, LEGO definitely wants the term “open world” to be used with this deep of a game. Players can freely move backwards to a location if they wish to get missing items for future battles as they progress throughout the storyline. Veterans of the movies will recognize the dialog quite easily as the scenes and lines are pulled from the movies themselves to give a very distinct and authentic experience throughout the player’s travels of Middle-earth. Of course, Middle-earth didn’t have LEGO coins to collect, but that’s beside the point. It can get a little repetitive like past LEGO games by doing the familiar hack-and-slash of plants, shrubbery, and various items like many adventure games, but while that can be a negative, the positive is that it’s all worthwhile in the end.
It’s truly rewarding to be able to see the entire Fellowship along the way in this game. The title is extraordinarily deep. I’ve found that LOTR can have in excess of 20 hours of gameplay, especially for those who are diligent enough to go and track down every last item possible. An open world adventure game needs to have those side items to find, or else a linear title is going to get frustrating quick, so the challenge is there, though the map will certainly help along the way. Each city, area and dungeon has a map of the area that will show various items that the players can grab which will not only go towards the final score, but will perhaps be a magical item that can make battles easier.
As expected with all LEGO games, there is some up-and-down with the gameplay. Not everyone is a fan of the G-rated style of battles, and sometimes the constant blast of LEGO pieces and collecting coins in the midst of battle can get boring. Fans of hack-and-slash style games sometimes want that added little effect that comes with adventure games. This, of course, is a personal choice, but those who pick up a LEGO game know exactly what they are getting themselves into. The previously mentioned issues with friendly fire can really be frustrating in close combat situations with numerous enemies, and considering the limited amount of life that each character has from area to area, several mistakes in a short period of time can make the experience far less enjoyable.
Overall, I enjoyed LEGO The Lord of the Rings. I’m not the hardcore LOTR fan that many people are who will pick up the game (confession: I’ve never actually read the books) so perhaps I’m not being fair when it comes to downplaying certain aspects of the game. However, taking the game at face value means that a gamer will get plenty of gameplay and enjoyment out of a game spawned by one of the truly epic trilogies of our time.