One Game to Rule Them All?
After nearly 8 years and 10 games later you would have thought by now there would be no need to review these games any more. A franchise is turned into a family friendly mix of action, platforming and puzzle solving with all characters and item being replaced by Lego counterparts.
The game has rarely strayed from it's initial formula but has seen tweaks and additions that have at times both benefited and detracted the fun from each installment. So in the end you know what to expect and the only real question to ask is how does this one compare to it's predecessors?
In all honesty I can say while Lego Lord of the Rings is not the weakest installment overall (in my opinion that belongs to the first Indiana Jones) it feels the worst from a technical standpoint and ill-advised from a stylistic one.
As I've already said you know what to expect from the game. The game re-creates the movie versions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Six major events are taken from each movie and the initial story playthrough will roughly last 3 hours.
Like before the game only accounts for about 25% of the overall package with you only getting your money's worth if you decided to collect of the extras and secrets. So I have to ask this. If this model is so well worn by now, how can such irritating glitches and design flaws still make it through?
The first notable flaw is hit detection. From the first level I noticed several melee attacks swinging through enemies and proved problematic in large scale battles. The combat has also reverted back to the sloppy button mashing seen in the earlier Lego games. While the combat introduced in Pirates of the Caribbean made it too easy with its pre-determined animations ruling the fate of a battle, always getting hit first gets old fast.
There are also some problems from older Lego games that resurface. When a character falls off a cliff or into a deadly pit they are meant to respawn on the last safest place they were standing. Occasionally though the game will spawn so finely on the edge that you will constantly fall back into the same pit, several times, before being able to switch character or manage to break the cycle.
In addition to this in free play (the mode that lets you choose what character to use regardless of where you are in the story) has several game break glitches that requires the player to quit out. They all seem to revolve around changing characters at the wrong point. The most common issue is a character getting stuck at a certain point or object making the level uncompleteable once a puzzle requiring two characters arises.
The introduction of fetch quests are a sideways step. It give players something new but in the end is just an extension of the minkit collection side-quest. It give you more to do but with little substance to make it interesting.
Boss battles on the other hand are a marked improvement. They follow age old boss fighting routines of old 3d video games but after random hack-and-slash battles from the last few games, it flows a lot better.
Following on from Lego Batman 2's lead LOTR features voice acting. Instead of getting the actors to reprise the lines or having sound alikes repeat quotes from the movies the decison was made to use sound bites. So while voice acting does sound slightly artificial we do get the original cast.
The voice acting also does allow the story of LOTR to be told more effectively in its extremely abridged version. On a negative note since this isn't an original story like Batman 2 there is very little wiggle room and the humour present is previous installments is certainly reduced.
Graphically the game is sound, the backgrounds look great and the character models are the same as always. For some reason a few levels have have background blur which can strain the eyes if viewed for too long.
I may sound like I didn't enjoy this game but that would be wrong. For the most part it's the same old Lego fun that has existed since 2005. I'm just annoyed that the game suffers flaws that should be long gone from this series. What should have been a routinely fun Lego game feels like a rushed attempt to cash in on the recent cinematic release of The Hobbit.
If you're a Middle Earth fan or one of the Lego series this will more than likely satisfy you but just expect a slight disappointment. It could have been one of the best Lego games yet but in the end just ends up being the latest model.