With LEGO Lord of The Rings gaining much success, can a similar world and its characters in LEGO The Hobbit do exactly the same? Or will it falter and be lost in Middle-Earth? Read on to find out.
Game: LEGO The Hobbit
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
LEGO The Hobbit takes place during the first two films of the movie equivalent trilogy (An Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug) with the third installment coming as DLC at a later date. Although a huge chunk of each movie features in the game, not every scene makes the cut, but that’s kind of expected seeing that it’s a game! Traveller’s Tales has modified the storyline so the events that occur in the movies fit into the game’s chapters. It makes sense and works more than well enough to service the gameplay. Plus, as you’d expect, famous faces like Bilbo Baggins Gandalf the Grey feature alongside locations such as Hobbiton, Goblin-town and The Lonely Mountain. Everything is recreated fittingly in all its LEGO glory, and it’s great.
For those of you that are familiar with the LEGO games, The Hobbit is more of the same. It will never blow your mind from a graphical standpoint, but the world has been recreated with great detail and is filled with charm. Locations are vibrant and easily recognisable if you’ve seen The Hobbit movies. Bilbo Baggins’ house for example looks beautiful in LEGO form. Character models may come across simplistic, but again the attention to detail is superb and fans will absolutely fall in love with LEGO incarnations of Gandalf the Grey and Dwalin. Slight graphical issues pop up now and then, including slowdown and screen tearing, but they’re infrequent and don’t ruin what otherwise is a very solid and gorgeous world.
Just like other LEGO titles, Traveller’s Tales get the audio pretty much spot on in The Hobbit. Alongside a score that matches The Hobbit universe perfectly, the voices used in the movies are present to add a layer of authenticity. In fact there are even a few extra gags here, giving the game that usual LEGO wit and charm. It’s not all perfect though, with some of the audio sounding way off for some of the side characters. They sound like someone that would be more at home in Downton Abbey rather than The Hobbit. Weird. Main audio aside, the familiar ‘chimes’ when collecting studs and ‘thuds’ when breaking parts of the environment are still present, sounding great as always.
The LEGO series usually has similar gameplay from one title to another, and there’s no difference here. You collect items, you break things, you build new creations to proceed and you have a bunch of characters from the world you are involved in by your side. There are a few slight changes to the gameplay in LEGO The Hobbit that breathe some new life into the series, but ultimately they’re not really enough. Building things has always been a part of the series, but here that element has been added to in attempt to evolve the feature. It’s something that should’ve been part of the LEGO games in the past, but for some reason it wasn’t introduced. Essentially, you have to select a group of parts that are needed to help build a new LEGO creation on-screen and the quicker you do it, the more studs you receive. While it works perfectly fine and adds little bit of depth, unfortunately it becomes tedious and is far too long-winded and a bit of a chore. Other new additions include the ability to collect supplies like wood, rope and stone then using them to either build or to trade for new supplies from characters dotted around Middle-Earth. Unlike the slight change to the building part of the game, this addition works well and suits the game down to a tee.
Lastly, there is a new ‘buddy’ mechanic that sees you team up with another AI character to proceed further in the story. Be it, smashing though a wall or climbing on top of another characters head this adds another form of interaction to the mix, but the biggest problem has to be the characters themselves. There are far too many that look like each other and the lack of variety in characters is apparent from the off. This results in a somewhat frustrating experience when you’re trying to figure out which character you need for a certain section. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with any part of the gameplay, and at first it feels refreshing with the new additions, but after a lengthy playthrough, it becomes clear that the new features don’t exactly add much to the overall package.
One thing that the LEGO titles have in an abundance is longevity. For those that like to complete a game 100%, there is so much here to keep you coming back for more. The main campaign and its missions can be completed in around 6-8 hours, but aside from the main campaign there is enough content here to to shake a staff at. Be it side missions, collecting/purchasing all new characters, collectible hunting for new blocks or the two-player co-op mode, you can probably add another 15+ hours if you want to fully complete the game.
I’m a huge fan of the LEGO video games, getting hours of enjoyment out of the many titles released so far. Sadly, I can’t completely say that about LEGO The Hobbit. It is fun, with plenty of charm and wit, but it falls short where it really matters – the gameplay department. The grandeur of the movies is present, but the simplistic puzzles and lack of variations stop it from becoming one of the better titles in the franchise. Kudos to Traveller’s Tales for trying to change things a little, but the developer hasn’t completely managed to craft it’s magic on this release. Next time, some help from Gandalf might do the trick.