The lights are on
I have been a Lord of the Ring fan since early 2003, and after play the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean Lego games, all I could think was that they should make a LOTR Lego game, so having this game come out is a dream come true--Lord of the Rings is my all-time favorite movie and to see it turned into a Lego games is so cool!
First off, I just have to say that this is easily the best Lego game I've played as well as the best LOTR game I've played. The graphics in this game are excellent. The colors are bright and vivid and the scenery looks really realistic. I especially like how not everything is made out of Legos, which helps things look more real. This was especially true in Moria where a lot of the rock structures were regular computer graphics instead of constructed of Legos. The characters all look very much like they do in the movies. I also really like how they kept the original dialogue from the films. Having the characters talk gives the game a much more serious feel than previous Lego games, which I think is very fitting for LOTR. I also really love how many cutscenes the game has, and it's really cool seeing scenes from the movie acted out by Lego figures with the movie soundtrack in the background and the dialogue from the films with these tiny Lego characters speaking with the full force and volume of the actors from the movies.
I was somewhat concerned that the trademark Lego humor would be somewhat over the top and ruin the integrity of LOTR, but instead, it has only enhanced the enjoyability of the game. Whether it's Aragorn smoothing his hair when Arwen shows up, the Nazgul being locked in a restroom at the Prancing Pony, or Merry and Pippin wearing Groucho Marx glasses at the Council of Elrond to disguise themselves, this is the only game I've laughed this hard during.
As far as the actual gameplay goes, you play through pretty much every major area from the movies, such as Hobbiton, Rivendell, Moria, Edoras, Helm's Deep, Minas Tirith, and Mt. Doom, while controlling whichever characters were present in that environment in the movies. One thing I really like is how this game utilizes each of the characters special abilities so that you have to switch back and forth between characters in order to progress through the environments and get past obstacles. I felt I had to switch between characters to use their abilities much more often than in other Lego games which made this game more interesting and challenging. Furthermore, traveling from one area to another in the same order as the movies instead of always starting out from one central point like in other Lego games gives this game a more realistic and immersive feel to it. You can even pull up a map on your screen that looks just like the maps included in the books, so you really feel like you're exploring Middle-earth.
I plowed through the main portion of this game in about 10 hours, which I was disappointed about at first as I didn't want the fun to be over yet (This game is definitely shorter than the other Lego games I've played, but it makes sense seeing as how it's based on only three movies whereas the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean Lego games are each based on four movies). Then my completion percentage popped up and it was only 25% so I realized I had plenty of more to do and enjoy. So far, I've played for about 25 hours and completed about 50% of the game. I can't compare the post-game to that of the other Lego games I've played since this is the only one I've set out to get 100% on, but I can say that it a lot of fun and allows you to explore areas you couldn't get to before.
Once you beat the game, you can replay levels using Free Play, which allows you to play as any character and so you have all the characters' special abilities available for your use which lets you get a number of items that were so tantalizingly hanging just out of your reach during your first play through. There are also lots of quests to complete, which each give you very handy rewards. My favorite part of the post-game, however, is going around purchasing new characters. This can take a while as most of the characters are pretty expensive, but it's worth it. Certain characters, like the Uruk-hai Berserker allow you to get past obstacles no other character can, and other characters, like Eomer, Faramir, and Eowyn are just fun to have in your arsenal. Furthermore, you can purchase characters that were in the books but not in the movies, and as a Tolkien fan, as well as a LOTR fan, I think that's really cool.
There is also a very fun Bonus Level you can unlock later on where you play as two of the villains who are then added to your character roster after you complete the level.
I do have a couple issues with the game that I didn't really notice until I started playing the post-game. The first is that during Free Play, you play as two characters at a time and you can either switch between them or open up your entire catalogue of characters and pick from that. The problem is that both of these actions require pressing the same button. To toggle between the two characters you just click the button whereas to open the character menu, you hold the button down. However, if you don't hold the button down just-so, you end up toggling between the two characters instead of opening up the character menu, which is rather annoying, particularly if one of your characters is high up because toggling causes that character to drop back down to the ground. The other issue I've had is that the camera angle is sometimes very odd. I've had the whole display spin around a couple times and at other times, I can't look around as much as I'd like to. Despite these problems, however, the rest of the gameplay and game controls are very smooth and the game is overall extremely enjoyable.
One of the few non-technical complaints I have (and it's a pretty minor one) is that there are some rather strange inconsistencies when compared to the movie. First, the game can't seem to get the colors of Arwen's outfits right. Everyone else's clothes are fine, but Arwen's clothes are not the colors they are in the movies. The other thing is that in the Rivendell area, the background music is from Lothlorien, even though all of the other music matches the correct area.
These few issues aside, this is an amazing game that I recommend to all LOTR and Lego fans. It has the perfect combination of humor, action, exploration, collecting, and questing, and it is an all-around wonderful game. It is definitely a game I will play again.
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