The lights are on
Quality Lord of the Rings games are hard to come by. Maybe you're in the camp that thinks the game based off of The Two Towers was the best. Maybe you're in the camp that thinks Lord of the Rings Online is the best. Well, my friends, you needn't rummage through the bargain bin at Vintage Stock any longer. There's a game now that stands among those titles...and it's in Lego form.
In a lot of ways,Travellers Tales nailed the open-world aspect of Middle Earth. It may not be up to scale like maybe LOTRO is, but it's simple enough to navigate that you don't have to spend a lot of time scavenging the landscape for mithril bricks or quests. The story is basically how the unextended movies play out: Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, is entrusted with the Ring by Bilbo Baggins, his uncle, and later finds that he has to go on an epic quest to destroy it. After you complete the first part of the story, the characters are split into Frodo and Sam, and Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, and you can go back and forth between them, and it's done in such a way so you can't be in the third movie with Frodo and still be at Helm's Deep with the others. As dark as the book is, TT Games is still able to put in a funny Lego twist on it. It never feels too serious or too silly when necessary. My favorite place to go in the open world is The Shire, maybe because I love the music they play in the background, or how, I'm not mincing words, how awesome the Lego hobbits are. Every other major areas in the movies are incredibly detailed, and stay true to the layouts in the movie.
Gameplay and Graphics
Like most Lego games, Lego Lord of the Rings is a Platformer, but with a certain twist. The twists this time are RPG elements. As the story goes on, the characters get access to better weapons, like Frodo getting mithril armor and Sam getting elven rope. There're also items to be found across the levels. Not just minikits, but actual items that the characters can use to access certain areas in the level or wear to look awesome. An example would be if there was a place that required to be broken by an axe, and Gimli isn't available, you could go through something called "The Treasure Trove", where you can use an item like a bucket, fishing rod, or an axe and put on armor like a chest plate or boots. Unlike the last Lego game, where incentive to get Gold Bricks was to unlock characters, in this one you can take Mithril Bricks to a blacksmith that can smelt them down to make useful items for you. The more useful the more expensive. Aragorn can use Ranger skills and sniff out items, elves can jump higher, and smaller characters can go through small doors. The platforming aspects are easy to master and fun to use. It's not difficult, mind you, but that's not what the game is for. The challenge is in finding everything, possibly with a friend (the drop-in, drop-out co-op is seamless, by the way). Like the last two games, it will take you a while to finish, but it's worth it if you're a completionist. The game is also awesome to look at. The graphics are crisp, the scale doesn't do a disservice to the scale of some of the battles, and there's little to no frame rate chug.
Would I Shelve it After the Story?
Nope. Well, no Lego game is really like that. There's enough incentive to keep going after you beat the story, and I CAN'T go on without mentioning the clever achievements/trophies you can get. There're also quests to do to unlock Mithril Bricks and cheat bricks. Like I said, though, it will take a while to complete, but there's still enough surprises to find along the way to keep it from being too boring or repetitive.
I did experience some slow-down during the more intense sequences, but I kind of expected that. I did experience something in one of the first levels where something couldn't let me progress because of some invisible wall, but that problem seemed to be remedied the next time. I also encountered some character selection problems.
In short, despite some technical problems, Lego Lord of the Rings is a great game. It keeps a tone of epic with Lego charm throughout the game, and makes collecting everything a blast. Lego Lord of the Rings easily stands as one of the best Lego games and best Lord of the Rings game.
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