LEGO The Lord of the Rings Review

Lee Abrahams

Dwarf tossing, synchronised horse dancing and deadly banana arrows can only mean one thing – someone has been on the wacky baccy again. That, or a new LEGO game has sailed over the horizon replete with the same trademark brand of humour that has seen us rejoice in sunbathing Stormtroopers, rubbish Robin hijinks and error prone wizarding at Hogwarts. Forget all those so called AAA titles, as LEGO is here to bring the fun. Well assuming fun means smashing stuff into pieces and then smashing those pieces into even smaller pieces, and so on.

The beauty of LEGO titles in the past is that they have never taken themselves too seriously, while still managing to stick to the source material they are based upon with superb accuracy. That blend of the expected and the unexpected, and often ludicrous, is what makes the series so great, and the Lord of the Rings franchise is an area ripe for parody. Considering the weighty nature of the films, and books (ideal for disposing of particularly giant spiders or possibly burglars if push came to shove), there is a lot to cover and thankfully it’s all in here.

The gang's all here.

While the story is a lot more sensible and straight-laced than most of its LEGO forebears, there is still plenty of room for comic timing, slapstick and slight twists on the original tale. For those fans keen to play through the story there is plenty here to admire, as the films have been wonderfully recreated to include pretty much all of the major scenes and events. Likewise, diehard fans can enjoy the little in-jokes and asides along the way. The superb cutscenes, voice acting taken from the films and wonderful land to explore, coupled with a hilarious Gollum, mean this game has it all. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more faithfully recreated version of Middle-earth.

That sentiment becomes even more apparent once you step outside the boundaries of the individual levels and are given the freedom to roam throughout The Shire, Rivendell, Rohan, Mordor and the rest. The whole of Middle-earth has been shrunk down and presented for your amusement, so that you too can have epic treks across mountain ranges, snowy peaks and canoe-filled rivers. Obviously things are not exactly scaled to perfection, as there would be little fun in actually trekking all the way to Mount Doom, so the liberties taken with scaling down locations while still presenting a vast world to explore has been finely balanced.

Unlike previous LEGO titles, this one also introduces a few light RPG elements. So you can take on quests from random individuals up and down the land, like the poor Uruk-hai that has lost his chef’s hat and can’t open his new restaurant. Items can then be found in levels and returned to the poor souls to garner rewards, be it mithril bricks to sculpt into new weapons or red bricks to unlock various helpful cheats. As ever you’ll be tasked with completing every quest, finding every item and snagging every secret character if you want to max out all of the achievements as you make your merry way across the land.

Comedy cut-scenes are back.

The levels themselves are generally well designed, with a good mixture of traditional platforming and puzzle solving, alongside some more generally fun tasks like smashing stuff up with Ents. The Ring itself is cleverly used in certain sections rather than being allowed to have uber-powerful status, and each character is given their own set of skills to make it well-balanced and ensure you aren’t just running around as Legolas shooting arrows into people all of the time. Though you can do that too if you want. Certain epic events can see you hopping between two locations at once to accomplish a variety of tasks and you never find yourself growing bored. At its most basic level there is plenty of brick smashing and building, but a mix of boss fights and gameplay styles help to keep it fresh.

The one niggle that does seem to raise its ugly head yet again is the sometimes sloppy implementation of co-op play, with wonky screen-splitting cameras causing a bit of trouble. A couple of the levels also overstay their welcome by asking you to repeat the same task over and over again, then proceed to drag things out for far too long - we’re looking at you Dead Marshes - whereas other levels are fun while they last but seem to be over in a flash. The on-rails horse riding sections are also novel, but would have benefitted from a bit more freedom to stop them feeling like little more than interactive cutscenes. There are a few instances of characters getting caught in scenery too, or endlessly failing to their death, but thankfully you can switch to another person and the AI will fix the issue in double quick time.

"You shall not pass!"

Thankfully the overall package manages to overcome such minor flaws. It will not take a dedicated player too long to rush through the eighteen story missions but, as with all LEGO games, the real value comes in wandering around the world of Middle-earth in freeplay and then heading back into the levels to use new characters to snag all of the hidden stuff you might have missed. On that scale this game delivers in spades, and will have you spending countless hours hunting down items and fulfilling the demands of Middle-earth's neediest patrons.

LEGO Lord of the Rings is the epitomy of a great game for all ages. It takes a revered series and adds just enough knowing winks and clever comedy to make it seem fresh and original, while still retaining the wonderful story and sense of adventure that you saw in the films and read in the books. It may not have many new tricks up its sleeve for people familiar with LEGO games, but that really doesn’t matter when the presentation and humour is this good. With Christmas fast approaching LEGO Lord of the Rings may well end up being “the precious” for a good number of people, and rightfully so.

That familiar epic refrain and some haunting melodies, coupled with great voice work directly from the films.

A wonderful recreation of Middle-earth, though spoiled by the odd technical hiccup. Plus, the characters are brought to life in a typically great, bricky, style.

The usual mix of puzzles, humour and brick smashing, interspersed with a medley of fun ideas. Great fun in co-op too, if you can stand the frustrating camera.

A superb recreation of Tolkien’s work, with that layer of comedy used wisely in between the serious storytelling. With such a well-realised world to explore, this is the perfect package for fans to enjoy, and newcomers to discover what they’ve been missing.

A good mix of level progression, exploration, secret finding and random tasks. One does not simply walk into Mordor, indeed.

LEGO Lord of the Rings is another triumphant addition to the series and uses a great open world structure, plus cleverly designed levels and abilities, to ensure you will have a plethora of tasks to see and do. With secrets hidden around every corner and stirring music to spur you on, what are you waiting for?

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