Gamescom 2012: LEGO Lord of the Rings Preview - Bricking It
Written Tuesday, August 21, 2012 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
The wondrous tumbling and destructible bricks of LEGO have spanned a number of franchises to date and it came as no surprise to see the announcement of the most recent project, LEGO Lord of the Rings. A game spanning the length and breadth of Middle-earth was inevitable when you consider the success of the LEGO Star Wars, Harry Potter and Pirates titles. However, the nagging question is always how much more can be added to the LEGO gaming structure in order to keep each game a unique standalone experience, rather than the same generic, stud collecting title with a few different skins. Thankfully Telltale Games’ Nick Ricks was on hand to spill the beans.
Tying into the fantasy roots of the novels, this game has an RPG element at its core, with players able to roam the entirety of Middle-earth in a bid to thwart the machinations of the dark lord Sauron. Naturally there are plenty of levels to occupy your time, with the developers keen to show off the epic battle of Helm’s Deep in all of its glory. As usual you can expect a blend of puzzles, combat and brick smashing to pass the time, with each character having their own unique attributes to bring to the fray. The cutscenes are spot on and the voice work has been lifted directly from the films, so there is a real sense of familiarity here. That does mean a bit less of the traditional offbeat humour is on show, which may well be a disappointment for some, but it is clear that the much loved franchise is being treated with plenty of care and attention.
With all of the LotR characters on show you can expect a lot of diversity and knowing interactions. Gimli may well state that no one throws a dwarf, but that doesn’t stop you from being able to do just that. Likewise Legolas’ trusty bow is a handy weapon and puzzle solving skill all in one, as is Gimli’s strength. While most of the abilities may seem familiar in one way or another to fans of the LEGO series, they are all carried off in a way that makes them feel right for the characters in question. Plus, as with the levels, they stay remarkably true to the books/films in terms of what players can or can’t do as Ricks promises. “There will be lots of famous characters from the books that were never in the films, but are in the game,” he says.
Outside of the standard levels you can explore the vast expanses of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, which is no small feat, and it seems to be lush open landscape that is streamed on the go. ”We wanted to create lots of different feelings for each area,” Ricks explains as he shows us around bright and breezy Hobbiton, with Halflings running around, perfectly realised Hobbit homes to explore and pigs to ride (if that’s your bag) so it’s easy to see the scope on offer. “We licensed all of the music,” Ricks explains as he enters a dark, brooding forest that immediately takes on a different tone. “We wanted each area to have it’s own look and feel, so when you leave Hobbiton the music shifts, the weather effects come in and it’s a whole different atmosphere.” A quick jaunt down the road leads to Bree, the foreboding Weathertop and on to the Misty Mountains and Rivendell, “It’s all there,” Ricks states with a smile. “All streamed and ready to explore. Fans of the fiction will recognise the landscape.” Obviously you will have to complete levels and progress the story to be able to access every nook, cranny and eyeball mounted tower of this fair land.
While the world is grand in scope it’s currently a touch deserted in terms of wildlife and enemies, but Ricks assured us that we could expect a vibrant world with twists and turns around every corner. “What’s really important about the hub is that we want it to have a sense of adventure,” says Ricks. “That means that you are thinking ‘what’s over that hill, what’s around the corner’ so we keep rewarding them for doing that.” He demonstrates this by merely straying off the beaten path for a few seconds to find a strange underground cave harbouring its own unique secrets, both in terms of collectibles and story. It’s pretty much what you would expect from the LEGO franchise, especially in such a grand setting, that there are countless diversions outside of the main story to take your fancy.
The RPG slant on the game also plays out in interesting ways too as Ricks states. “We wanted to give players a sense of progression, a sense of an epic journey.” So you can now equip your posse with a variety of items and gear in order to make their quest a little easier and open up new areas to explore, as well as having a handy backpack to stash your loot in. A new collectible item, the Mithril brick, is also scattered around the landscape for you to find and you can then trade these with blacksmiths in order to create new equipment. So now you have a specific reason to track down those handy extra bricks, rather than just aiming for that lofty 100% completion.
Those expecting a revamp of how a traditional LEGO game plays out may well be upset by the fact that most of the tweaks are merely superficial, but from what we have seen there is still plenty here to interest even the staunchest of fun haters. The Rings franchise seems a perfect fit for the LEGO world, and with so much in the way of backstory, a lush open world to explore and a real opportunity to hide a wealth of fun secrets away this could well be the LEGO game to rule them all. Having said that, it still boils down to the same brick smashing fun, stud collecting and simplistic puzzles that have been ever present since the get go. So if you were never too enamoured with other LEGO titles then LEGO Lord of the Rings will be hard pressed to change your mind.
Expect LEGO Lord of the Rings to quick build enough copies to be on shelves this October, though whether or not retailers will refuse to give up their precious copies remains to be seen.